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Misplacing Dystopia in Chipotle’s ‘The Scarecrow’

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Popular Mexican food chain Chipotle has made waves with its new animated short, in which a modest scarecrow flees the hustle and bustle of an over-industrialized dystopia in search of a slower, greener, earthier existence.

“Dreaming of something better,” Chipotle explains, “a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory.”

The whole thing is quite well done, with stunning visuals and effective storyboarding, all propelled by a soundtrack of Fiona Apple, meandering about at her spooky-crooning best. Check, check, check.

Unfortunately, the caricatured villain is most typically a caricature, and just so happens to be feeding hungry mouths across the globe, not to mention employing swaths of scarecrows in the process. One man’s dystopia is another man’s employer, who’s yet another man’s cheap-yet-juicy cheeseburger supplier (that’d be me).

Over at The Federalist, David Harsanyi helps dissect some of the fantasy:

The Chipotle Scarecrow slogs to his miserable job at a smoke-spewing factory where nothing grows but caged chickens and cows. For some strange reason, in this imaginary world, government subsidized Big Agriculture chooses to leave massive swaths of land fallow or desolate, when, in fact, where food actually comes from, farm productivity has increased dramatically over the past decades and the resources required to keep production high has declined. Not exactly the stuff of dystopia…

…The local farm movement might make urban Millennials (who are, strangely enough, according to the company, “skeptical of brands that perpetuate themselves”) feel better about their fast food, but it is a bad idea environmentally and a terrible idea for those struggling to pay for food. Many Americans can drop ten bucks on a burrito lunch, many others can’t. Maybe the latter group makes a calculation to buy a “dollar meal” rather than a ten-dollar meal for their family, despite the level of free ranging their meat may have enjoyed during its lifetime. Maybe, and this may seem radical to some readers, others prefer the taste of salty fast food. But what agribusiness and food farming entails is more complicated than critics (and really, most of the leading advocates in this area will never be satisfied) would have us believe.

What we do know is that we’re producing lots of moderately priced nutrition for lots of people. That should be a lot more morally concerning to us than a chicken’s comfort level.

I have no tolerance for the bloated Big-Ag bankrolling behind the majority of today’s food production, and I’m sincerely grateful for much that the slow-and-local food movement has brought to public attention, kale chips aside.

 

But if the entire food world was to all of a sudden run according to the ideals that Chipotle suggests, sucking up land and emptying stomachs like those hungry agrarian paradises of yore, dystopia would just be getting warmed up.

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Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The Christian Post, The Stream, Intellectual Takeout, Foundation for Economic Education, Patheos, LifeSiteNews, The City, Charisma News, The Green Room, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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