Ugh, Carl’s Jr.

Until very recently, I was spared having Carl’s Jr. ads pop up on my television during commercial breaks. Even knowing them to be notoriously gross and filled with “meat and female objectification are pretty much the same thing” messages (yes, I know there’s probably an easier way to say that), I didn’t quite realize how much I was being spared.

Now, they’re apparently broadening their market in my area because I can’t seem to go twenty minutes without seeing an ad for their Hawaiian Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich:

Briefly, the ad is some surfer-like guy who is generically attractive, shirtless and in a VW van parked on a beach. He’s got his feet up on the dash and is casually chomping on a chicken sandwich (complete with over the top crunch sound effects) and all the while focusing intently on a Hula dancer bobble doll affixed to the dashboard. He periodically tips her on the head and watches her bounce. The camera lingers a bit on her well-endowed plastic breasts. Chicken-eating surfer alternately leans close and backs away as he takes large bites of his sandwich and wipes his mouth clean with a thumb. The voiceover says, as the above is happening and finishing the commercial, “When a guy can’t get his wahine to put some hala-kahiki all over his moa … then he’s gotta go someplace else. The Hawaiian Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich, with grilled pineapple. New, at Carl’s Jr.”

1) Some people get grossed out by gore and blood and entrails in horror flicks. Those things do not faze me. No, where I get MAJORLY squicked is eating. Gross, disgusting, loud eating. So you can see why that alone would make me hate this commercial. It’s flat-out nauseating to me.

2) The translation of that voiceover is, roughly (because I don’t know Hawaiian and can only rely on online translator tools): “When a guy can’t get his woman to put some pineapple all over his chicken … then he’s gotta go somewhere else…” Which is, y’know, even grosser than the eating issue, wouldn’t you say?

3) I wouldn’t put pineapple on his chicken either, and I feel strangely offended on a small, inanimate figurine’s behalf. It’s bad enough the implication is that if a woman doesn’t do as a man wants, he can take his entitlement (of complete satisfaction) to someone who will (apparently Carl’s Jr., which, ah…), but perving over a Hula doll is just plain ridiculous.

Reactions? Thoughts? Things I missed because I was too busy trying to keep my breakfast down?


  1. says

    It’s gross, on many levels, first and foremost the loud eating (WHICH makes me dry-heave when I hear it). The translation though, I have to say it made me laugh aloud at first. When a girl won’t pineapple your chicken… is that what those kids are calling it these days (lame attempt at a joke, I know, I’m sorry). Don’t get me wrong–it’s just as heave-worthy as the loud eating. But seriously? Some ad exec thought THAT tagline was awesome. Give me a break.

  2. says

    Ugh, Carl’s Jr. indeed. I used to eat there a lot, but ye gods, their commercials are egregious.

    This one also bothers me on grounds of language use. Clearly, they intended the few word-substitutions to be interpreted as something raunchy – and mind you, for people who know snippets of Hawai’ian, “wahine” will be one of the few words they know, so they’ll hear “When a man can’t get his woman to put some ___ all over his ___…” – and using a “foreign” (at least to the market it’s run in) language to camouflage presumed raunch or swearing is such a lazy trick it’s not even funny anymore.

    And the bit with the hula doll…ugh. He has this air of “this is how I like my women, silent objects, hurr hurr.” Plus the doll standing for the exoticizing of Native Hawai’ian women as hula girls, for some extra fail.

  3. Emma says

    Surfer-man can make his own damn sammich if he wants pinapple so badly.

    yeah, I’ve never been to that restaurant and now I don’t think I ever will.

  4. sbg says

    Tina, it is ridiculous. Everything about Carl’s Jr. is ridiculous, IMO. Also, I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who can’t stand mastication noises. I really, truly, honestly can’t eat lunch with several of my coworkers.

    Jadelyn, Carl’s Jr. and Burger King are so blatantly marketing to a specific market (of which I am not a part) that I can’t be legitimately shocked by what they come up with. I know, this begs the question of why I mention them – and you’re totally right. The language thing is a big part of what triggered me on this one. And a giant internet cookie to you for putting a fine point on why the hula doll really bothered me. Exoticizing, yes.

    Emma, I agree completely. If I don’t want to touch pineapple (or chicken), I do not have to. 😉

  5. says

    I agree with what Jadelyn said, I felt like there was connotation of “if those pesky American women won’t sleep with you, then go to Hawaii where the women are all easy.” Especially with the busty bobble-woman who keeps doing exactly what he wants her to.

  6. scarlett says

    You know, apparantly there’s a lot of pineapple plantations is Queensland, Australia (similar climate from what I understand, although never having been to either place, don’t quote me on either the climate or the plantations), but I guess it’s just not as funny inserting random words from a culture that speaks Emglish.

  7. Lysse says

    Additionally, this is a cultural appropriation of the language of a conquered nation AND ethnic minority. And sexualized portrayals of said minority. White (male) privilege AND colonization!

  8. says

    This ad is seriously just appalling for all the reasons you guys have compiled here.

    And “Me Three” on the issue of eating noises = GROSS. Does anyone actually find that noise enticing?

  9. Robin says

    Surfer-man can make his own damn sammich if he wants pinapple so badly.

    Sing it, sister! ::hee:: (I will admit that said sammich does sound kinda tasty, but there are non-offensive places where I can get an equivalent concoction.)

    And count me among the number of people squicked out by the pig-pile of fail in that one little ad. Yeesh.

  10. Izzy says

    Yeah. I’m *generally* a big proponent of the view that anyone has a right to try and get their desires fulfilled–that there’s nothing wrong with leaving someone who won’t do Thing You Really Want and finding someone else who will–but this…ew, no. Racism, cultural appropriation, *and* icky chewing noises, which…seriously? Is there anyone who doesn’t find that gross?

    And do I really want to know someone who doesn’t? I’m leaning toward not.

  11. MJG says

    The implications of this particular Carl Jr’s Ad is gross and rather offensive overall, to say the least. At first it appears to be humerous (not knowing the Hawaiian language). However, the more I think about the ad and after reading responses from others, I feel that this particular ad indeed should be pulled from the market. I work and have worked in the food and beverage industry for more than twelve (12) years and feel that there are far better slogans and ideas which real honest marketeers can master . . . This ad is rather offensive towards the overall general public, whether it be of male or female persuasion. Therefore, I request the removal of this particular ad at once and be replaced by another ad which will relate the entire general public, which should leave a satisfying and good palatable effect and one which will honestly pull the diner into the fast food chain and enjoy a delicious with the sense of returning again and again for their dining pleasure. I enjoy the Green Burrito (at some Carl Jr’s, but somehow I have not recently had the pleasure of eating a basic meal there). Good Luck with your new and sound approach towards bring the general public into your restaurants – SOON!

  12. says

    Dude, gross doesn’t even come close to describing it. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to avoid people like that guy, and, uh, ‘Carl’s Jr’.

  13. Jenny Islander says

    I’m not even in the ad industry and I can think of a far less noxious remix using the same elements in 30 seconds.

    Sound of touristy Hawaiian music and surf. Man enthusiastically eating hamburger, bobbling hula doll. Pan to woman in passenger seat also enthusiastically eating hamburger, reading tourist brochure. He looks at his watch, they sigh, he turns off the music and surf on the DVD player, she puts the tourist brochure back behind the sun visor, they toss their trash into a curbside can and drive off through a definitely not-Hawaiian landscape. Announcer: “If your Hawaiian vacation won’t be happening anytime soon, you can still enjoy a [give the burger a Hawaiian name that means Delicious Pineapple and put it on all of the advertising] at Carl’s Jr.”

    There. You’ve gotten the demographic that wants something nice even though money is tight and set up associations with (ahhhh) Hawaii.

  14. says

    Jenny, that’s great! Especially in this economy with everyone taking “staycations.”

    In other news, I just realized something else wrong with this commercial – I think. Is the voiceover basically saying “When a woman won’t sexually satisfy her man, he’s entitled to find a woman who will?”

  15. WOH says

    I’m a guy (who lived in Hawaii for 16 years)and I agree with all of you! Generically attractive is exactly it – there are 3 or 4 of these “Brad Pittish” type on every block of Hollywood Blvd. The message is downright insulting AND sexist. And finally, it seems that every couple of years, food advertisers hop on the “chewing” bandwagon that entails holding a mike to their mouth while we have to listen to a deafening crunching sound (i.e. cereal ads). Extremely offensive and abrasive to all… in my opinion.

  16. Kawika Kolomona Kamakeeaina says

    Members of the Hawaiian community are outraged at this commercial and feel it is mocking our culture and our customs. We invite anyone who would like to stand up to Carl’s Jr. and companies like them, to sign the online petition to get this commercial pulled and an official apology rendered from Carl’s Jr. to the Hawaiian community along with other actions within their company to ensure that such overt usurping and mocking of our culture never ever happens again.

  17. Casey says

    ARGH, I always had a love/hate relationship with Carl’s Jr. ads. Love because the burgers made me hungry (except for the ones with peppers on them, ick) and obvious hate for all the blatant chauvinism/misogyny that gets bandied about.
    On a slightly less depressing note, Carl’s Jr. has a fairly recent ad campaign (that I’ve only seen on Blip.TV ads) for a Philly cheese steak burger wherein various famous moments from Philly history are reinacted with Legos. The burger looks atrocious but the actual commercials aren’t bad at all (I wish their mainstream ads were just as good) .

  18. GetReal says

    I, too, despise this commercial and all Carl’s Jr. commercials. However, I took it a slightly different way. “If a guy can’t get a real girlfriend (because he’s too poor, too lazy, too much of a jerk), he can always go off alone in his beat-up old pickup truck and…….eat fast food. Yeah, that’s right. Food.” This is a masturbation commercial, as are most of the CJ’s, and I found that more disgusting that the other points you mentioned. I was also disgusted by the suggestive Hawaiian voice-over, which could have sounded like anything to a Hauli like me. I actually emailed Carl’s Jr. about this particular commercial and complained vociferously, and they wrote back, not denying anything I said, but defending their position because it attracted big, macho men with large appetites. I guess they don’t care what appeals to hungry women.

  19. says

    GetReal: because it attracted big, macho men with large appetites. I guess they don’t care what appeals to hungry women.

    I’d love to see their “proof” for this. They’d be stunned someone was asking. It is SO ACCEPTED as Obvious Common Sense Traditional Wisdom Needing No Proof that marketing with a certain theme will attract certain customers. When this data is actually tested, it’s less a rigorous statistical test and more a filling out of a spreadsheet to make clients happy. Same thing William Goldman talks about with film: no one really knows why some things work and others don’t, but if you let the financiers hear that, they’ll never invest again, so make something up.

    I’ve lived on the west coast (where C-jr is) for the better part of 2 decades, and have yet to meet anyone who eats at Carls Jr. You never hear about this place. No one ever mentions them. There are never any cars parked at the location near me, which I’ve never stepped foot inside. It’s just like they don’t exist. And yes, between film, life and various jobs, I’ve known a lot of “macho men” in manly occupations who like burgers. They prefer In and Out and Fatburger – who, to my knowledge, don’t even advertise on TV.

    So if that’s who C-jr is targeting, they might want to drop their assumptions and try another method. It doesn’t seem to be working.

  20. Casey says

    Jennifer Kesler: I’ve lived on the west coast (where C-jr is) for the better part of 2 decades, and have yet to meet anyone who eats at Carls Jr. You never hear about this place. No one ever mentions them. There are never any cars parked at the location near me, which I’ve never stepped foot inside. It’s just like they don’t exist.

    Um…I eat at Carl’s Jr. sometimes.[/slightly embarrassed] We have two in my town but yeah, ever since I was little they’ve been pretty much DEAD in terms of patronage (plus the one I frequent more often than not screws up our orders).

    We don’t have an In-N-Out or a Fatburger in the region where I live though, even though they’re extremely popular. I tried In-N-Out for the first time a summer or two ago down in California and even though the food was good, the bare-bones menu, clean-cut service staff and apparent covert Christian agenda of the company weirded me out.

  21. says


    Casey, I did NOT mean to imply that it was wrong or bad to eat at C-jr! So sorry if it came off that way. I’m just saying, I have known a lot of their target audience, and many other people as well, and there’s a strange dearth of patrons, so obviously their marketing isn’t doing the trick they claimed it was to GetReal. At least not in Los Angeles, and this is a pretty huge market to fail with. 15 million people.

    I actually keep meaning to try them sometimes, but then it always slips my mind, and they’re never just, you know, conveniently around when I’m looking for something to eat. Better marketing MIGHT make them stay in mind longer.

  22. says

    There’s a Carl’s Jr in our town, in a plaza with a bunch of other fast food type joints, a TJ Maxx, a Michaels, a grocery store, pet store, etc etc etc and there’s a high school down the street. It almost always has cars parked at it, or going through the drive through, or it’s got high school students in it. The central location helps, I think. I’ve been to it, too, but not in a long time, partly when the new campaign started (the guy with the bouncing hula girl toy) and also when both my kids told me they didn’t like the food there. Actually, except for In & Out, we hardly go to fast food burger joints anymore. Pizza? Is a different matter!

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