A Greasy Graduation

11 Dec
"This heavy act with heavy heart release"

“This heavy act with heavy heart release”

In order to graduate with Honors, a College of Charleston senior has a capstone “bachelor’s essay” project to be completed over the course of two semesters under the supervision of a faculty adviser. When I was a sophomore, I had senior friends losing sleep over the research, the back and forth with frustrating professors, and the 30-plus pages the final work represented. It was a prospect that terrified me from day one: What if I picked a research topic I hated? What if nothing would strike my academic eyes and ears?

Two years ago, I was watching television with my friend Adrian, and a commercial came on for the McRib. It was a spectacle. With all of the close up shots of finely diced onions and this-can’t-be-barbecue-sauce oozing out of the bread, I got to thinking: “why do these ads work?” The slo-mo pickles and music riffs seemed to turn food into an action movie and less of a nourishment, certainly in the case of the McRib, which doesn’t contain bones but has a cult following that ads have likened to the Gratfeul Dead. It’s bizarre that we’ll not only buy something we know is bad for us, something we know isn’t all that it says it is, but we will stand in line for it. We’ll drop our evening plans for studying to go buy one.

Because eating inorganic food sounds much better than studying organic chemistry. Photo by Tommy Werner.

Because eating inorganic food sounds much better than studying organic chemistry. Photo by Tommy Werner.

Given the public’s obsession with healthful eating and the localism trends, how is McDonald’s, one of the largest food producers comporting itself? The fast food giant forms a cornerstone for how Americans eat and shop for food. I don’t even remember what we watched after that. I had my topic.

I spent the next year researching, watching commercials, and interviewing current and former executives from the McDonald’s corporation. Most were kind enough to indulge not only my research, but also allowed their names to be included. I also had a wonderful resource in Amanda Ruth-McSwain, who inspired a lot of my questions and still corresponded with me during her maternity leave. I can’t really say how much I appreciate her.

Receiving awards during graduation was a great honor, but I was especially floored to hear my work was going to be published in Chrestomathy, the College of Charleston’s undergraduate journal. After edits and some serious trimming (a big thank you to Michael Duvall, professor of English and an excellent editor), I’m happy to say all of this work is now online and available for viewing via this PDF link.

werner(2)

Check out the other essays: the Chrestomathy’s table of contents has something from just about every department, and the authors are all spectacular classmates and good friends of mine.

And yes, I did eat a McRib during the work on this project.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: