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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Igorots and McDonald's: A Semiotical Sketch

Igorots and McDonald's



Igorot & McDonald's 2

More than being "cute" advertisements, these framed drawings posted in one of the McDonald's outlets in Baguio City can be texts for an extended semiological reading (i.e., signs to be studied or interpreted). For now, however, I shall content myself with a brief analysis of their possible signification.


The first photo clearly tells us that McDonald's is a place for everyone -- women and men, young and old, students and professionals, blue-collar and white-collar workers, cowboys and cagers, highlanders and lowlanders. All customers are depicted as having their backs turned to the viewer, aptly dramatizing the drawing power of easily prepared, nicely packaged, quickly served,  and delightfully devoured repast. McDonald's is simply irresistible, and makes our world look absolutely delightful and spankingly neat.


The Igorot couple are shown in their native or primitive attire perhaps to impress upon us the absorption or mainstreaming of traditional culture into McWorld. The second photo says as much (note especially the thumbs up sign).


On a more critical note, one can parse the fastfood ads this way:


1. That of the nine customers in the first photo only two are in native attire is a fitting portrayal of the fact that not too many full-blooded Igorots  find fastfood stuff attractive for long (see pt. # 4). Or of the  continuing minoritization of Indigenous Peoples at the advent of globalization. That the Igorot couple are in traditional garb in the midst of "regularly dressed" people in a modern facility perfectly encapsulates the alienation of the Igorot in modernity -- they are simply out of place in an artificial world created by the McDonaldization of their environment.  And there seems to be no way out of this predicament.


3. Photo # 2 can remind us of the camera-loving Igorots serving as come-ons to local and foreign tourists at some heritage sites in the Cordillera (read: commodification of culture).


4. The lone Igorot doesn't look healthy; he seems  emaciated. He looks a bit excited, but not totally happy.  To an Igorot who grew up with a daily fare of carbo, protein and fiber-rich diet, a marshmallow-soft hamburger and a handful of thinly sliced fried potatoes could not be much of a meal.  That is why most of the time, a lot of Igorots still prefer GoodTaste, Jack's, or Marosan's over McDonald's, Jollibee or Chowking.  No, you simply cannot make natives who have been feasting on rice, meat,  and vegetables robust with processed food.


So there goes the signification of two signs (of the times).

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