The Nation's Pulse

Two Fries Shy of a Happy Meal

A do-gooder Californian doesn't like her little daughter's appetite for toys and so is suing McDonald's.

By 4.26.11

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Who would you guess is more likely to sue you, all other things being equal: Monet Parham-Lee or Margie Moore?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it gets more shaky and volatile around people with exotic first names and hyphenated surnames.

It probably has to do with their alienation from the dominant culture, and coming up with names that show they're not succumbing to a vanilla ethos.

In any case, what happens to these people after the first generation of the double last names? Lelage Isis Blinder-Plath is fine, for example, but what happens after she marries Galen Whitcome-Harrington? Their kid is Dionysus Blinder-Whitcome-Plath-Harrington? And then when he hooks up with another 5-namer, what's their kid's name, 85 letters and adding?

Well, it is Monet Parham-Lee, not Margie Moore, who is suing McDonald's in California for putting toys in Happy Meals.

Parham-Lee's lawsuit accuses McDonald's of unethically and unfairly using toys to lure little children into their restaurants, not unlike how a striped bass is enticed with a shiny lure.

"The Happy Meal has been a huge hit for McDonald's -- making the company one of the world's largest toy distributors -- and spawning me-too offerings at most other fast-food chains," reported Dan Levine at Reuters. "One recent and very successful Happy Meal promotion was a tie-in with the popular DreamWorks film 'Shrek Forever After.' The meals included toy watches fashioned after the movie's characters Shrek, Donkey, Gingy and Puss in Boots."

Parham-Lee is represented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition-advocacy group that seems more perpetually aggrieved than scientific. They're the ones who warned that movie theater popcorn was the Godzilla of toxic snacks.

When she's not suing, Parham-Lee is paid by the taxpayers as an employee of the California Department of Public Health, working as a regional program manager at the federally funded, pro-vegetable Champions for Change, a project of the Network for a Healthy California. Being billions in the red, can't California eliminate such programs and let people pick their own lunch items?

Prior to her current task of pushing zucchini and championing change, Parham-Lee worked with various taxpayer-funded nutrition groups and the Greater Sacramento Urban League. Don't any of these people ever actually produce anything concrete, like a shirt or a gyro, or work for a capitalist enterprise?

Parham-Lee filed her lawsuit because of the allegedly nerve-racking requests for Happy Meals from her 6-year-old daughter, Maya. Note that the daughter isn't named anything as American as Donna.

There's also a 2-year-old daughter waiting in the wings at the Parham-Lee household, most likely ready to throw herself on the floor if she can't super-size her fries.

"I don't think it's OK to entice children with Happy Meals with the promise of a toy," Parham-Lee told reporters, posing as a victim.

She said she tries to hold visits to McDonald's to once a month, but the toys of Puss, Gingy, etc., were offered weekly.

"Needless to say, my answer was no," explained Parham-Lee, regarding her daughter's requests for visits to McDonald's more often than monthly. "And, as usual, pouting ensued and a little disagreement between us. This doesn't stop with one request. It's truly a litany of requests."

And so, God knows, no American should have to put up with the litany of a 6-year-old whining for Happy Meals! Call 1-800-SueTheRich.

"What kids see as a fun toy, I now realize is a sophisticated, high-tech marketing scheme that's designed to put McDonald's between me and my daughters," charged Parham-Lee. "For the sake of other parents and their children, I want McDonald's to stop interfering with my family." So for "the sake of other parents," make it a class action case, overflowing with victimized parents from sea to sea.

Parham-Lee's attorney, Stephen Gardner, seeking to cash in while making the Parham-Lee household, as they say, "whole," contends that Parham-Lee should not be "forced to force her daughters to ignore the onslaught of McDonald's marketing messages."

The 6-year-olds I know fall on the floor if their ice cream has the wrongly colored sprinkles and jimmies. The potential lawsuits are endless.

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About the Author
Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise and an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.