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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > January 2017 > Motherland and apple pie

Motherland and apple pie

America hates to love McDonald’s, even though its restaurants do exactly what they promise— and double np as outposts in a ciiltnral empire

I know it’s become a dogma that McDonald’s is the fount of all ill-health, but I can’t help but remain a fan. I am very fond of aquarter-pounder with cheese. It once restored me from heat-stroke while reporting on a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Theres nothing more welcome than a pair of golden arches when you are four hours into a long road trip. And, seriously, is there anythingbetter for quelling a hangover?

The day after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I went to eure my political hangover at a preview screening of The Founder, a biopic about Raymond “Ray” Kroc, the mastermind behind McDonald’s. Kroc, born in Chicago in 1902 to Czech parents, begins the movie as a down-on-his-luck hero, a struggling middle-aged salesman humping a heavy multi-spindle milkshake mixer around out-of-the-way diners. “Increase supply and demand follows!” exhorts Kroc in the film to the nay-saying diner owners who shake their heads at him. Michael Keaton plays Kroc with a shom head and a grinning, thrusting attitude; abrasive, impatient, ambitious. It’s a classic rags-to-riches American success story.

But at another level, especially in the second half, the film transforms into a very different—though equally Hollywood— story. From hero-entrepreneur, Kroc tums into the villain of American cinema: an evil Corporation. McDonald’s has long veered between the sweet and the bitter, convenient and yummy but bad-for-you; the film reflects the wider dichotomy inherent in capitalism and globalisation. The McDonald’s story may have begun with a heroic ambition, but its successful world domination has turned it into an object of derision.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s January issue: Adam Tooze and Francis Fukuyama examine the “American Century.” Tooze says that the 1917 opened the door to the future because the US seized the chance to lead, rather than for the Russian Revolution. Fukuyama says that the US has fallen from its perch, a change embodied by the election of Donald Trump. Anna Blundy puts Samuel Pepys on the couch and uses his diaries to psychoanalyse the Restoration’s chronicler. Also in this issue: Chris Bickerton examines the rise of populist parties across Europe, Peter Tatchell and Malcolm Rifkind debate whether the Uk should stop pretending Trump’s US can be its best friend, Philip Collins reviews a collection of Brexit books and DJ Taylor examines Alan Bennett’s diaries.
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