Can I Take Your Order?

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When you think of a fast food worker, what do you see? Probably something along the lines of a teenager that may not be too bright. The portrayal of fast food workers in pop culture has largely remained the same over the years. What you usually see is an uneducated teenager who is constantly messing up. While these portrayals are often used to incite laughter, it has become a classic stereotype. When something in pop culture or the media is constantly repeated, it can be easy to start thinking that it is the truth. Through shows like Mr. Meaty and movies like Good Burger, the image of a fast food worker has been made to resemble an uneducated teen that messes up on the job. However, trends in the fast food workforce show that the current stereotype isn’t completely accurate.

Mr. Meaty

Mr. Meaty is a show centered around two teenagers, Josh Redgrove and Parker Dinkleman. Each episode is focused on the two as they work at a burger joint called Mr. Meaty and get into some wild situations. In one episode, Josh and Parker are forced to get inside a buffalo costume to advertise a new item on the menu. It’s pretty obvious at this point that something bad is going to happen. Shortly after getting in the costume, Parker farts in the costume and chaos ensues. Josh tries to get out of the costume, but in doing so, he just keeps ramming into customers causing a huge mess. This scene depicted a few common stereotypes of fast food workers. The first is that they depict both of the workers as pretty dim-witted. You would think that they would have been able to handle the situation better than going on a rampage and knocking customers over. The second is closely related to the first in that they are messing up to the dissatisfaction of the customer. Their inability to rationally deal with the problem caused them to make such a huge mess. As a whole, the show also chooses to center around two teenagers, another common stereotype among fast food workers.

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Good Burger

Good Burger is a movie about two teenagers, Ed and Dexter Reed, as they try to help their restaurant from going out of business due to the competition across the street. One scene that I found both funny and very over-the-top was during an interaction between Ed and a customer. In the movie, all of the items on the menu at the Good Burger restaurant begins with the word “Good.” The scene begins with a customer asking Ed for a Good Shake. Ed responds with “OK,” and proceeds to vigorously shake the customer thinking that the customer wanted a literal “good shake.” I think most people would agree that fast food workers or people in general wouldn’t be that dense. Still, Good Burger depicts fast food workers as brainless employees that can’t do their job right.

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Fast Food Workforce Statistics

Contrary to what is shown in pop culture, not all fast food workers are teenagers. John Schmitt and Janelle Jones, a Senior Economist and Research associate, respectively, conducted an analysis of government data on the fast food workforce from 2010 to 2012. Their research showed that just 30 percent of fast food workers were teenagers. Furthermore, they found that over 40 percent of fast food workers were at least 25 or older (Schmitt & Jones). The classic teenage fast food worker that is shown in pop culture no longer an accurate representation. When over two thirds of the workforce is comprised of people 20 or older, using teenagers to depict the average fast food worker isn’t fair. Another stereotype or trait that is commonly associated with fast food workers is that they are either uneducated or not very smart. Using the same set of data, the analysis showed that over 70 percent of the workforce has at least a high school diploma or the equivalent. It also showed that almost a third of the workforce has some college education. With the majority of the workforce having a high school diploma (or the equivalent) and nearly a third having some college education, the stereotypical dim-witted fast food employee is a poor representation.

Conclusion

From the two artifacts that I examined, the overall representation of a fast food worker was that of a dim-witted teenager. Pop culture seems to do this more as a way to get laughs than to make fun of fast food workers and that is understandable. It just becomes a problem when it is perceived as a fact. However, data suggests that these depictions aren’t accurate. The large majority of the workforce is comprised of people 20 or older, not teenagers. They also have at least a high school education or higher. Even though the depictions of fast food workers aren’t entirely accurate, I can understand why some of the stereotypes have stuck around. Where I work, I’m considered one of the older workers at just 20 years old with the majority of the employees being teenagers.

Learning Moments

One learning moment for me was Week 9’s blog topic. Media literacy is extremely important now more than ever considering how readily available information is for everyone. One google search can lead to millions of results, but not all of them are reliable or trustworthy. It’s important to be able to distinguish between what is reliable and what may be skewed in a way that is limiting some of the information.

Another learning moment was breaking down advertisements. Looking at ads critically and breaking them down to understand what they are doing and why was both informative and fun. It helped me understand why some companies choose to portray products a certain way and why other companies choose a different direction. It was interesting seeing the ways companies would try to get you to remember their products.

Works Cited

Good Burger. Dir. Brian Robbins. Perf. Keenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. Paramount Pictures, n.d. 1997

Lenz, Jack, prod. Mr. Meaty. Nickelodeon. 30 Dec. 2005. Television.

Schmitt, Josh, and Janelle Jones. “Slow Progress for Fast-Food Workers.” The Center for Economic and Policy Research. N.p., 6 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

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This entry was posted in Fall 2016 by thomas25pdx. Bookmark the permalink.

About thomas25pdx

I'm a Portland State Computer Science major. If I'm passionate about anything, it's the Portland Trail Blazers. I could talk about them for hours. Some of my favorite shows right now include Rick and Morty, Atlanta, and The Flash. Music wise, I'm a fan of J Cole, Chance the Rapper, Wale, and Kendrick Lamar.

9 thoughts on “Can I Take Your Order?

  1. Hi Thomas,
    Great blog! I also notice that a fast food worker in the movies are mostly teenagers. However, I often see 20 or older as a fast food worker more than teenagers. I see teenagers work at restaurants or cafe more than fast food places. I notice that many scenes in fast food restaurant, they are made to be funny. I see it very often that it seems realistic to me. Back to the real world, it doesn’t seem like it at all. From my personal experience, I don’t have the greatest experience at fast food restaurants. However, I don’t really understand why people would look down on people who have a job. It’s great for them to have a job no matter where it is.

  2. Now that I’ve thought about it, it really is the “average teenager” always being depicted as a fast food worker. I think because of this, some people view fast food workers in a different light, and tend to look down on them, which is not right at all. My mom says that there is not such thing as a bad job, just a a bad person, and I think it translates very well to the work environment. What you do at your job reflects who you are. If you have a job, take pride in it, because you signed up for it, so you might as well do a great job in the process.

  3. Hi Thomas,

    I really like your blog! I’ve never thought about the representation of young workers in the fast food industry, but this was interesting to read about. I work at a Papa Murphy’s, and I am also 20. I am one of the four supervisors at the store, and there are a lot of teenagers that are all 18 to 16 that work at the store I work at. We may get off task and joke around once and a while, but we are all capable of doing our job.

  4. Hi Thomas !
    I really enjoyed your topic and found it both interesting and funny. It was interesting because it is a topic I would not have thought about. It was funny because you’re incorporation of GIFs and examples were entertaining. Your post captured my eye. Overall I think you did a good job at explaining your point and proving your claim with statistics. I think the only thing I was wondering is examples other than statistics of how teens are bright and examples that prove to be against the stereotype. Since your examples only prove the stereotypes to be true. Other than that great work! I really enjoyed reading your piece.

  5. Hey Thomas!
    Great Blog! I really never thought about how fast food coworkers are a stereotype. But now that you mention it, you’re totally right! All of the popular culture elements you introduced were on point. I was able to go back and really think about those shows and connect with what you were saying. Reading your blog made me think as well as laugh to myself because I always hear customers complaining about how teenagers are running the fast food restaurants. Great stuff!

  6. Hi Tom,

    I really liked how you looked into the stereotypes of the fast food industry. I myself also wrote my blog post on the inaccuracies of stereotypes within popular culture, so I can definitely relate to how there are so many inaccuracies out there that carry no statistical weight. I think the most interesting fact you listed was how 40% of fast food workers are 25 or older. That was something that even took me by surprise. Just furthers my belief that stereotypes should be discouraged at every opportunity, even if its only for the sake of comedy. Overall, really great post!

  7. Hi Thomas!

    Really great blog post. It caught my attention very quickly. I grew up laughing at Good Burger. So I had to read this post because I enjoyed that movie. I agree that the strereotype of fast food restaurant workers being uneducated is an unfounded one, do you think that the people who make these movies previously worked in the field and wanted to poke fun at some of the experiences they had? Also, while the stat that over 40% of them are over 20 years old, could you not agree that it is an entry level job where you are suppose to learn to make mistakes and correct them?
    Anyways, great blog post!

  8. Hi Thomas,
    Great blog post! This stereotype and representation in popular culture that you did your blog on intrigued me. I think that you make a great point that there is a stigma surrounding fast food workers being uneducated. It was really cool to see that only 30% of fast food workers were teenagers, and also that 70% had a high school diploma or higher. Although fast food jobs are usually entry level positions, this is has no correlation to the workers being uneducated or not very smart. Even the biggest lion in the jungle has to be the smallest at one point in time. Also you didn’t mention it in your paper but I have seen customers give fast food employees hard times, usually giving attitude or making smart remarks. I think this could be because some customers see the employees as being lesser. I really dislike when I see people give fast food workers a hard time, its never that serious. Great post by the way! I enjoyed reading your post!

  9. Hey, Thomas!

    Firstly, great use of the “Multi-media” concept – that GIF at the beginning of your post immediately caught my eye. Its funny, in an indirect sense, that such depictions put out by the media are some blatantly refuted statistically; someone actually believes this is realistic? I know plenty of people who are very hardworking individuals that are putting forth effort to work a job, any job, to earn money for school, living expenses, and dare I say future goals. And these jobs include fast food. The media, it would seem from your research, finds this laughable in some way. Reality isn’t so funny, and I have the upmost respect for anyone working a job in a fast food restaurant. Great read, very enlightening!

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