Monday, October 23, 2006

Playing Fast and Loose

I love fast food. Anyone who sees my gut leading the way when I walk can probably surmise that for themselves. But one of the things that fascinates me is the behind-the-scenes innovation that goes on when one of these corporate behemoths puts something new on the menu. I think the fact that they are these giant megalocompanies feeds directly into the innovations, because you know that a bottom-line focussed CEO isn't really gonna allot money and/or resources to fix what ain't broken.

In my mind's eye, I picture a scene right out of Apollo 13: A dozen guys in lab coats with the entire array of McDonald's offerings there on the table. A stern white man with a buzz cut walks in and says, "We need something new on the menu. This is what's in every franchise 'restuarant' [he even puts air quotes around restaurant because he knows the truth]. We've never lost an appetite and we're not gonna start on my watch!"

And this is how we get things like McDonald's SnackWrap (chicken selects + lettuce + tortilla + cheese + ranch dressing), or Taco Bell's CrunchWrap (tortilla + ground beef + lettuce + tomato + sour cream + mexican pizza corn crunchy thing + cheese), or—my personal favorite—Pizza Hut's CinnaStix (they took the same dough as their bread sticks and just invented some buttery, cinnamony spread to slather on it instead of garlic). All made from stuff that was already being used to make other stuff.

I'm sure there's a lesson to be found somewhere in here for those of us who fancy ourselves as writers. Something about learning how to look at the same old hoary storytelling conventions with fresh eyes. Or how to tackle a rewrite by inventing something new and yummy out of what's already on the table. And there's probably a challenge in there (give me 5 cliches and I'll figure out a way to make 'em sizzle).

But I just got myself too damned hungry to concentrate.

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