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Jack In the Box

Nothing makes workplace harassment palatable like teriyaki sauce.

Jack in the Box, a U.S. fast-food chain based in San Francisco, recently released a commercial that’s receiving a flurry of feedback on Twitter under the hashtag #jacksbowls.

The commercial features a cartoonish mascot representing the company’s CEO Jack, who is presenting a new food item for the menu. The presentation revolves around Jack unveiling the chain’s new teriyaki bowl saying, “While other burger places serve the same old stuff, I’m the only one with the bowls to serve something different.”

Jack compliments several coworkers on their “nice bowls” and a female worker even goes as far as saying, “Everyone’s gonna want to get their hands on Jack’s bowls.” The tone is tongue in cheek when the restaurant’s legal team informs the seemingly oblivious Jack that the wording of his ad campaign will need to be changed.

The commercial closes with the suggestive hashtag #jacksbowls, but Jack in the Box probably never imagined their hashtag would be used as a means to critique their advertisement.

Twitter users responded by relating the use of sexual innuendo in the workplace to the hashtag #MeToo movement, insisting that the normalization of humor used in the commercial directly contributes to normalizing harassment.

Jack in the Box, however, defended their commercial. “As a brand known by its fans for its tongue-in-cheek, playful sense of humor, this ad is simply a creative and humorous expression around the teriyaki bowl product,” the company clarified in a statement.

Similar fast food chains, such as Carl’s Junior, are notorious for their highly sexualized commercials featuring model-figured women eating greasy burgers with sexual fervor. The ads objectify women and at the same time play on very basic human instincts.

Scantily clad women have no more to do with burgers any more than the male anatomy has to do with teriyaki bowls, yet the theme is clear: sex sells and humor is memorable, and although immature, sexual humor makes a stir.

Immature humor is never popular with everyone, and Jack in the Box likely was aware of this in production. The company did address reactions suggesting their commercial opposed the #MeToo movement, “This ad is not diminishing any movement, and we stand firmly against any form of harassment and value those who have the guts to combat it.”

Plenty of the viewers of the #jacksbowls commercial appreciated the playfulness and comedy, but many were also offended, so where is the line drawn? On Twitter, the hashtag #jacksbowls is an explosive mix of amusement, offense and anger at the overreach of political correctness.

The borderlines illustrate a divide in society that emerges over topics far and wide, a distinction that is not exclusive to the #MeToo movement or any movement.

If the situation pictured in the commercial was that of an actual CEO using overt innuendo in a meeting, the clear overstep of workplace boundaries would be an issue.

CEO Jack addressing his own, or any other office member’s “bowls” is harassment in a real world scenario, but the world where a giant cartoon head named Jack is a bumbling CEO is obviously not the real world. The advertisement even has a sort of caveat ending with Jack being reprimanded by the business’ legal team.

In the end, you will have to decide for yourself if the play on words in the #jacksbowls commercial is humor accessible to everyone, or tone-deaf and harmful to a movement spreading awareness about workplace harassment.

And if you’re feeling bowls-y enough, share your opinion under the hashtag #jacksbowls.

Writer Profile

Jamie Lovley

University of Maine
Journalism and Psychology

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