When this big metal M hung over some McDonald’s franchise restaurant in its heyday, there was a secondary companion sign with “cDonald’s” in smaller letters that sat beneath the middle and right legs. Alone, the M cannot stand upright.
Forced on its side, the image lends itself to one of disrepair of abandon. It reminded me of the famous ending from 1968’s Planet of the Apes, when the astronaut Taylor came upon the Statue of Liberty, half-buried in the sand, realizing that the savage world around him had been his own world all along.
Growing up, McDonald’s was a big part of my world; it was a somewhat regular experience as desired as going to a friend’s house or the park, playing in ball pits or sandboxes. Happy Meals were a big part of my childhood, with a little hamburger, fries, soda, and toy.
For big companies producing food considered “fast” or disposable, brands like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola have made quite a permanent impact on American culture. Like Elvis or Superman or Chevrolet, these items represent the United States to the rest of the world. They are symbols of the empire that this country has become in the 20th century, for better or worse.
But now, in the 21st century, McDonald’s (and the type of Big American Corporation it represents) has become the villain. The former symbol of our nation’s strength has become part of the identity that we seek to shed, leaving it behind us and buried as we move towards the sustainable, the organic, the authentic. The movement to becoming something more substantial is a noble one, but just like the massive yellow M in the sandbox, is it too large of an elephant in the room to ignore?
“Mighty, and Despair” is intended to consider this, recalling another great monument in the sand by Percy Shelley: the famous Ozymandias, of Shelley’s eponymous poem. After the inevitable decline of the world’s leaders and the empires they build, will the plaques and pedestals be the only memorials that remain? Or is the cycle of building, breaking, and rebuilding simply the sign of the times?