Ask any student on the Penn State campus what their favorite fast food joint is, and their answer, nine times out of ten, will be “Chipotle!” Chipotle, a fan favorite, has become a very popular eatery across the nation. Their famous burritos are so desirable that their food trucks carry signs that read “Drivers Do Not Carry Burritos” to prevent hungry citizens from taking the trucks hostage in order to satisfy their desire for the Mexican cuisine (Luling). Furthermore, their guacamole is shown to be in very high demand, based on the statistic that Chipotle uses over 100,000 avocados per day to serve the fresh, green mixture (Luling). Chipotle, originally founded by Steve Ells, was only meant to serve as a jumpstart for a future, fancier restaurant, but its popularity grew at exponential levels and it is now a national food chain (Luling). Recently, Chipotle has developed two short films, one entitled “Back to the Start” and the other entitled “The Scarecrow,” and the powerful advertisement campaign has been instrumental in building Chipotle’s customer base by focusing on emerging commonplaces of sustainability. Ultimately, through various rhetorical strategies, Chipotle engages the civic to fight for ideologies of food integrity, by exposing the detrimental effects of food processing espoused by profit-seeking companies.
The background music in both short films acts as a form of auditory imagery that appeals to various emotions, demonstrates the important rhetorical messages of the films, and summons a larger audience capable of supporting the food integrity cause. In “Back to the Start,” the music playing is a rendition of Coldplay’s 2003 (US) EP, “The Scientist,” performed by Willie Nelson. The sorrowful piano ballad, carrying themes regarding heartbreak and loss, uses pathos to elicit emotions of guilt and shame in the viewers, ultimately seeking to motivate viewers to make a change. As Willie Nelson sings “questions of science, science of progress/don’t speak as loud as my heart,” there is a connection made between the rapid growth of technology and industrial farming, and the need for humanity to regain control by speaking against the unwarranted growth and allowing the power of heart to defeat the power of money. The final lines of the song, “nobody said it was easy/it’s such a shame for us to part,” empathize with the sense of humiliation and helplessness in the viewers. As the final lyrics approach, the pace of the song accelerates, and the liveliness in Nelson’s voice as he sings “I’m going back to the start,” is meant to inspire viewers by conveying that there remains an opportunity to revitalize life. Nelson, an older country artist, capitalizes on the opportunity to perform a modern piece, and his actions symbolize the abilities of traditional farming practices to regain control. The music in “The Scarecrow” is also purposeful in eliciting emotions in the viewers. Fiona Apple sings “Pure Imagination,” from the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The pathos in the song appeals to a sense of nostalgia in the viewers as they recognize the familiar tune that once embodied their childhood and innocence. However, the version of the song playing is altered to sound more robotic and melancholy and coincides with the frightening dystopian universe presented in the short film. Metaphorically speaking, the song’s deconstruction can be compared to the deconstructions in farming techniques. The bitterness associated with the attack on a beloved childhood song transcends to bitterness against technological farming. Consequently, the bitterness spurs viewers to strive for their once carefree childhood, filled with elements of nature and integrity, rather than the hardened, refined atmosphere of “Crow Foods Incorporated.” In the end, the use of music, as opposed to a voice over, is a vital rhetorical strategy that captivates the viewers and entices them to seek change.
The visual imagery of the short films is purposeful in expressing the hideous sides of industrial farming, while portraying the positives of traditional, sustainable farming. In “Back to the Start,” as the farmer transforms his plentiful hillsides into industrial sites, pigs are caged, pumped with drugs and chemicals, and eventually compressed into box-like shapes, no longer recognizable as the familiar, pink animal they once embodied. Additionally, in “The Scarecrow,” the cows are imprisoned in darkness, and unable to move in the confining boxes that only allow their heads to poke through. The cartoon images convey the idea that industrial farming is responsible for manipulating food products, regardless of the consequences to animal and human health, in order to reap the financial rewards. The colors used in the short films are also instrumental in highlighting the thematic material. In both videos, as the industrial farming techniques are presented, the colors become darker, colder and more sterile. The unfriendliness of the industrial farming contrasts the vibrant greens, reds, oranges and yellows used to present the traditional farming methods. The stark contrast in color presents an argument and the automatic appeal of the brighter colors draws the attention of viewers and persuades them to support traditional techniques.
“Back to the Start” explicitly portrays Chipotle’s message by emphasizing various ideologies and commonplaces in its visual imagery. At the beginning of the short film, the farmer and his wife are shown to have a child. At the end of the film, after years of rebuilding his traditional farm, the farmer is shown with a loving wife, grown up son and a free-roaming pig. In one image, ideologies including the value of family, nature, the outdoors and a love of nature are presented, and this creates a civic enterprise, allowing for viewers to form connections with a larger body, extend beyond the individual, and come together to make a change in the world.
“The Scarecrow” proposes a more complex argument, as it encompasses elements of irony in its visual imagery to criticize large companies and their refusal to maintain sustainability. In “The Scarecrow,” scarecrows are the employees at “Crow Foods Incorporated,” where they work for robotic crows with red eyes. These demonic crows are ironically in control of scarecrows, structures built to frighten crows from farm land and protect crops. The irony presented is vital because it conveys the overarching message that human beings have become subservient to the profits of large corporations, and in the process, have allowed for the dismantling of integrity and sustainability. The message is clear that humans must fight back and stop letting money control every action.
Word choice is another rhetorical strategy used in the films, and it aids in the development of thoughtful branding that extends beyond Chipotle, to instill beliefs in viewers regarding the importance of fighting for food integrity. While there are very few words used, each phrase is equally potent. As phrases like“100% Beefish” and “Crow Food. Feeding the World” travel across the screen, viewers are overcome with embarrassment and anger. Viewers who have happily consumed genetically modified foods are now the targets of a strategic pun, and they regretfully realize that this questionable phenomenon has gained momentum around the world. The makers of the short films capitalize on the vulnerable state of the viewers, by ending each film with “Cultivate a Better World.” “Cultivate,” a word commonly used in the farming sphere, and a word understood across cultures, becomes a branding phrase calling all citizens to eradicate food modification methods. In conclusion, the ideologies of one simple word engage the civic to return to the healthy and sustainable methods that involve natural cultivation.
In the end, through the use of various rhetorical strategies including imagery, pathos and word choice, Chipotle exposes the downsides associated with industrial farming. As viewers recognize the high esteem with which Chipotle regards natural food production, Chipotle is successful in gaining credibility and ethos, and ultimately, a larger customer base. However, when asked about their advertising campaign, Chipotle responds by saying, “It’s not necessarily about selling burritos, but selling ideas,” (Lazauskas). There is no doubt that Chipotle is taking advantage of a major controversy to gain more customers, but they are also attempting to save humanity from itself. As Chipotle questions food ethics and integrity with thought-provoking advertisements, Chipotle forces viewers to reevaluate their choices and work to build a more sustainable future.
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