This is something of a follow-up to last week’s post regarding jokes about dads shooting their daughter’s boyfriends. Such “jokes” are so prevalent that I come across instances of them almost daily, and in a variety of different formats. For this entry, I’m looking at a recent commercial for Taco Bell’s “Grilled Stuft Nachos” (their spelling, not mine)—possibly one of the most incomprehensible versions of this “joke” that I’ve ever seen.
Taco Bell’s ad starts with a shot of a teenage boy running up a street toward the camera, Grilled Stuft Nacho thing in hand, as we hear Portugal. The Man’s (yes the band is “Portugal. The Man”—I don’t claim to understand the punctuation or the high concept name) “Evil Friends,” with the lyrics, “Your mama’s got nothing on me. Your daddy’s got nothing on me.”
A voiceover says “Why would you ever need to eat nachos on the go? Let’s say her parents came home early. That’s one reason.” The boy looks over his shoulder, then turns to face forward again, and takes a bite of the Grilled Stuft Nacho thing, smile/smirk flitting across his face. We then see an adult male (apparently the father of “her”) burst out the front door of the house the boy has just come from, and chase the boy up the street, with a maniacally angry expression on his face, dog in tow. There are some product shots, and a brief product description, then the commercial cuts back to the chase scene, as the voiceover says, “Take the nachos and run.”
Now, just try to construct a narrative where the elements of this scene make sense. Sure, I get the parents coming home early to find the boy engaged in some form of kissing/heavy petting/sex with the daughter. (As he is running up the street, the boy is fully dressed, except for a jacket, which he is carrying. So either he had time to get dressed or he wasn’t undressed—we don’t know about “her” state of dress or undress.) So the boy runs away. And the dad goes chasing after him with—by the look on dad’s face—the intent to beat the living piss out of the boy if he catches him. Ha ha ha!! Hilarious!!
But just how does the Grilled Stuft Nacho get into this scene? Did the boy bring over Taco Bell food, knowing that the girl in question is such a big fan of Taco Bell that it would be her undoing—that she wouldn’t be able to resist him once she got a wiff of that Taco Bell stink? And if so, how long has that Grilled Stuft Nacho thing been sitting in the girl’s house? Aren’t the red, curly chip strips inside it all soggy by now?
Or, in a different scenario maybe dad came home, bag of Taco Bell food in hand, and the boy grabbed out a Grilled Stuft Nacho thing and ran away—and it’s really the Grilled Stuft Nacho that dad’s mad about. Of course, for this re-imagined scenario we need an alternate voiceover: “Why would you ever need to eat nachos on the go? Let’s say you stole them from your girlfriend’s dad. That’s one reason.”
Or if you want to keep it in the realm of sex, why not, “Why would you ever need to eat nachos on the go? Let’s say her husband came home early. That’s one reason”? At least in this version, the man’s anger makes a bit more sense, and we still get an inappropriate message about sexual behavior.
And keeping it in the realm of sex was apparently the real motivation Taco Bell had. I’m guessing it’s because of a number of factors, but most immediately, the appearance of the Grilled Stuft Taco, which we’ll just say bears a strong resemblance to…
well, the cover of The Black Crowes’ “Amorica”—which was actually lifted from a Hustler magazine cover.
In this case, Taco Bell, or rather Taco Bell’s ad agency, decided to keep the commercial in the realm of sex because of the appeal to its target audience of young males, who (Taco Bell execs are hoping) won’t recognize that Taco Bell is just trying to sell another version of the same, old crap with an exciting new price point and the suggestion that the product is essentially the same as sex, or a vagina that can conveniently be eaten while running away from the vagina owner’s dad? Okay, the analogy fell apart there. But the real point is that the marketing strategy is as lazy as the whole idea of the “joke” of dads wanting to kill their daughter’s boyfriends.
If you don’t believe the visual evidence, or the other elements of the argument, just think for a few seconds of the kinds of things you can come up with that could have been used as the basis for a commercial about eating on the go (the alleged reason for the existence of the product in the first place)–late for a math test…caught in the running of the bulls…told a group of Republicans that Ronald Reagan really isn’t all that great. Essentially anything on Earth that you might be running to or from could have been the basis of the commercial.
So why use the dads-killing-daughter’s-boyfriends joke? Because it’s a pre-existing narrative that, in this case, doesn’t even have to make any goddamn sense. It is such an accepted part of our culture that teen boys are constantly trying to have sex with teen girls, and that dads are trying to catch and kill them for trying, that people don’t even think about how little sense it makes to attach Grilled Stuft Nachos to that storyline, or to want to advertise anything at all by using that storyline.
–It’s the product for teen boys who want to piss off their girlfriend’s parents (or the parents of some random “her”) by eating on the run after…well, who knows what? I guess the intended teen audience is supposed to think it’s something super-cool, like whatever teen male virgins imagine happens when you take Taco Bell food to a girl’s house when her parents aren’t there.
I can’t help but think that this ‘appeal’ should alienate consumers who actually think about the message being conveyed. I mean, aside from teen boys who think it would be really cool to, as Beavis and Butthead would say, “score” while eating tortilla-wrapped nachos, (nachos! nachos!) I’m not sure who else is supposed to want to buy this product. Hey parents—this is the kind of thing disrespectful teen boys eat. Hey girls—this is the kind of thing horny teen boys think they should bring over to your house in an attempt to get you to have sex with them. Hey teen boys—if you’re the kind of stupid dick who would fall for this, here’s the product for you.
Given that a portion of my work is with sex offenders, and that the scene inside the house is never shown, and that the dad is so angry, you don’t even want to think about the dark places my mind readily goes. I already deleted multiple…ahem…”jokes” about what might have been in the house for fear that I would be sued for causing readers’ hair to turn white, or otherwise traumatizing them. (The above ‘husband comes home early’ line was the tamest thing I could lay out here, and even that involves a sexual crime).
The question, then, is what is it we as a culture want to convey in, uh, Taco Bell ads? That teen boys need to sneak around trying to have sex with girls whose families see violence as a legitimate means to try and control those sexual behaviors? That teens are never to be trusted, and when they stray from our demands, we should physically attack them? That we were all asshole teens who couldn’t be trusted, and were beat up because of that, so we should keep that cycle going? Oh yeah, and nachos!!
So, how about this tagline: Grilled Stuft Nachos—because teen sex is always better with threats of violence, seasoned beef, and chemically-softened cheese product.