It's easy to see the good that will come from McDonald's decision to post calorie counts on their menus. More education about the nutritional content of a Big Mac will, no doubt, force a certain percentage of customers to think twice before Supersizing it. That will lead to less ingestion of terrible foods, leading to less obesity, leading to a healthier society in general. All and all, it's a socially responsible act that really has no negatives.
Except one very important downside: It shames me.
When I walk into a McDonald's, my behavior has already been decided, and that behavior is to put terrible things into my body. For whatever reason -- be it lack of funds, or poor planning, or the need to rush from one place to the next, or simply because I've had a bad day and deep emotional triggers from my youth tell me there's nothing a six-piece of Chicken McNuggets can't fix -- I've decided this will be a day I throw down a very modest amount of money on the counter, and take my self-approved prescription of factory-farmed meats, processed cheeses, and the salt, my god the salt, enough to wipe out a Duggar-sized family of snails.
As it is, I already feel bad enough about giving in to my cravings. (Especially in my role as a food ranter here at KCET; catch me in a Mickey D's and I'll probably be wearing sunglasses and a ball cap like Brad Pitt heading out for groceries.) But now, since the introduction of the calorie counter, there's an even greater level of shaming associated with the simple act of picking up some cheap food.
To enjoy eating McDonald's -- and this also goes for most any fast food of any kind -- there's a certain willful ignorance that has to be allowed to roam free, the same kind of brain machinations that allow us to watch Christian Bale soar through the air with super-thin fabric and not immediately question why he's not plummeting to his death. The answer, of course: He's Batman. And that's answer enough. (Meanwhile, what can Batman not do, at least according to the criticism of The Dark Knight Rises: Get a passport.) Once that self-taught mechanism is broken, though, and the truth's exposed for what it is -- a magician explaining where they hid the strings they used to make that red ball dance -- then the fun's over. And what's the point in going there at all?
(Note: There is also a type of person who goes to McDonald's to buy a salad. This type of person makes no sense to me, and really has no place in this rant.)
So yes, the new calorie count information is good. It will make people healthier. It will have a benefit to society. But that benefit won't reach me: I'm just going to have to go across the street to Burger King.