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What's Wrong With the New Chipotle Commercial and Why Good Intentions Can Hurt

Posted by thethousandmarch on October 23, 2013 at 9:25 PM

If you haven’t seen it yet take a moment to check out this new Chipotle commercial


I first saw this commercial on the Facebook page of a man I greatly respect – Michael Frost. He wrote:


Watch this. It's a lesson in communicating ideas simply. Chipotle wanted to highlight the differences between sustainable and industrialized foods so instead of an earnest message on the evils of agribusiness, they made a music video featuring beautiful animation and a version of Pure Imagination sung by Fiona Apple. Brilliant!


I like the commercial. I do think it is brilliantly crafted and it certainly makes me feel bad for all the poor abused animals. There are certainly many problems with agribusiness which need to be addressed. However this commercial in no way points to a solution. If you’re really paying attention to it you should be able to spot in its own narrative why this is not a solution. What does the scarecrow put his food into to transport it to town – a very inefficient gas guzzling old pickup (which I would love to own). If this was how all our food was grown and transported we would be in very big trouble (never mind that this is nothing like the actual supply chain of Chipotle, of course neither were they founded by a scarecrow). This commercial works because instead of actually addressing the issues honestly it plays upon our emotions and panders to our misconceptions.


Actually educating people, trying to motivate meaningful change and putting that into a thirty second commercial would certainly not be easy. So instead this commercial furthers a focus upon the wrong thing, because that solution seems easy and makes us feel good. All we have to do is eat at Chipotle and we can then allow ourselves to feel the warm glow of believing we are good people. Bonus, we can also feel good about being seen eating at Chipotle – it’s not evil fast food; it’s saving the world. (By the way I do enjoy eating at Chipotle).


Many people, and many Christians, allow themselves to be taken in by certain movements because we are more concerned about how we feel and what we look like to others than about actually learning about real practical ways to help others and promote positive change in society. In regards to food I would recommend that anyone who has read this blog this far, and has yet to click away because you think I’m stupid and don’t know what I’m talking about (or at least I haven’t made you mad enough), listen to the two part Freakenomics blog linked below You Eat What You Are. There’s lots of great info, but one point I’d like to highlight in relation to the Chipotle commercial is this – locavorism, though it has benefits, is not a solution to our food problems. Also, if you really want to reduce your carbon footprint just give up eating beef and dairy one day a week and that will have a greater impact than buying everything locally (so order the chicken). There’s also another very important economic principle called specialization that they talk about in the podcast, which is another reason we should not buy everything locally.




I appreciate and agree with the desire to live in a world where we all can eat healthy and ethically/sustainably raised food. I am also glad that there is an increased awareness amongst Christians that God really cares about justice for weak and vulnerable people; and that God even cares about animals and the way we treat the land. But for me this Chipotle commercial highlights the ways in which well-intentioned people pursue solutions that don’t actually help accomplish what we really want to accomplish. I’ve been interested in political issues at least since I was in high school. I don’t think my values have changed at all since those days but my understanding of how to actually accomplish the application of those values has changed immensely because I’ve tried to think rationally, be practical, pay attention to real life outcomes, and admit when I’m wrong. And I’m sure there are still many things I’m still wrong about.


Categories: pop-culture, The Emerging Church , Basic Christian Belief