For my film analysis I chose to analyze the Nickelodeon classic Goodburger from a Marx’s conflict perspective.

In Goodburger there is a character named Dexter. He is your average high school student, and is excited for summer. When he gets out of class he starts driving home in a very nice car. He reveals to his friend that his mother is out of town so he is borrowing the car without her knowing. On the drive home a young man rollerblades in front of him so he loses his control of the car and ends up crashing into his schoolteacher, Mister Wheat. Dexter is terrified and explains that he doesn’t have his driver’s license. Mister Bailey explains to Dexter that he has get a summer job to pay for the damage on his car or he will report the accident to the police and tell his mother.

Dexter then finds himself sitting in a local fast food restaurant lamenting the fact that he needs to find a job and his summer is intrinsically ruined. One of the employees at the restaurant delivers Dexter his milkshake and asks him what is wrong, Dexter explains his problem and Ed then suggests that Dexter work there at Goodburger. Dexter takes the job.

On Dexter’s first day at work he meets all of the different employees. They each have different jobs. Otis makes the fries, Spatch flips burgers, Fizz works the drive-thru, Ed works the front cashier, etc. This is where the Marx comes in. At one point a customer comes to the front and Fizz explains that he can not help him because that is Ed’s job. Ed is late for work. The customer gets frustrated and starts counting to 10 saying he is going to leave afterwards and even though other employees aren’t busy they don’t do anything and feel they can not do any job other than their own. They are truly mechanized cogs within their business. They don’t recognize their ultimate goal as creating a finished product and delivering it to the customer, instead they only work towards their own specific jobs. This is a defining factor found in what Marx calls “alienation,” the workers have little to no control of the final product, but simply do their job to create their individual pieces. This can lead workers to feel the only product they are creating is the money they receive in exchange (Edels and Appelrouth p. 23). What is unique about this situation is that while the other employees (specifically Dexter) get lost in the alienation, Ed does not. Ed loves his job and embraces all aspects of it. He is very creative in how he does everything… from attempting to fix the strawberry milkshake machine by getting inside, to creating his own “special sauce” for Goodburger’s food. Ed’s special sauce turns out to be a saving grace for Goodburger when they come head to head with their new rival, Mondo Burger.

Mondo Burger is a large chain fast food restaurant. Dexter originally applies to Mondo Burger before he goes to Goodburger. During Dexter’s training we see the inside of Mondo Burger and how it operates. The alienation is much more extreme at Mondo Burger than at Goodburger. The Mondo Burger production process is literally a factory line. The patties are sent out on a conveyor belt and the employees add the toppings they came by. All of the employees are expect to make identical perfect burgers. Dexter does not produce as well as the other employees at Mondo Burger. Kurt (the manager) makes fun of him for this. When Dexter talks back to him, Kurt does not hesitate to fire Dexter because he was replaceable. At Mondo Burger the employees are only as good as the time they can put in and the product they produce. Because Dexter was not producing fast and efficiently he did not allow them to have as large of a surplus. According to Marx’s theory of value a product is as valuable as the time it takes to make it (Edles and Appelrouth p.50). Mondo Burger’s goal is to maximize production so that they are able to make more burgers in an allotted amount of time than is normal so that they can make more of a profit.

Mondo Burger is much larger, fancier, and has exponentially larger burgers than Goodburger. Goodburger begins to panic and are afraid they are going to have to close down. Dexter then tries some of Ed’s “special sauce” and realizes the potential that it holds. They choose to market it and Goodburger becomes a big success, even to the point where it rivals Mondo Burger. This is because they are able to create a product that Mondo Burger did not have. While there is some, they did not experience alienation to the degree that the employees at Mondo Burger do and therefore are able to excel creatively. At Goodburger the employees have some control over the means of production (especially Ed in the creation of the special sauce), while at Mondo Burger they had little to no knowledge of exactly what goes into their product. Mondo Burger puts an additive in their burgers to make them so large (as opposed to using more meat). As we later find out, this additive can be quite dangerous.

Mondo Burger feels so threatened by Goodburger that they come up with a plan to destroy their business. Employees at Mondo Burger break into the Goodburger facilities and attempted to plant shark poison into the Goodburger meat. While the employees are there they are caught by Otis the fry cook. Otis is old and frail and so the intruders kidnap him and have him sent to a mental facility so that he will not be a threat to their plan. Dexter and Ed find out however, and in their attempt to stop Mondo Burger they too are captured and sent to the facility. They escape just in time to warn the first customer not to eat the burgers. They then seek to get revenge on Mondo Burger, and this is where they discover that they are putting steroids in their meat. Ed, in a moment of brilliance, empties all of the containers of the additive into their meat supply which causes them to grow to the point where the entire Mondo Burger facility explodes. Kurt and his henchmen are arrested and with Mondo Burger gone and Ed’s special sauce, Goodburger thrives.

Mondo Burger is an example of what Marx is afraid can exist in a capitalist society. The bourgeoisie (who control the means of production) (Edles and Appelrouth p.20) is represented by Kurt. The proletariat (Edles and Appelrouth p.24) are the fast food workers who have no control over how the product is produced. Because the proletariat do not have a say or knowledge of the means of production at Mondo Burger Kurt is able to abuse his power and use sheisty means to succeed. He is also so blinded by his desire for success and power that he puts other people in danger and his employees become apathetic to what they are creating and simply do whatever they are told to do in exchange for their paychecks. Because of the amount of power he holds he is able to have his business thrive (at least for a while) over a business with more honest means and treatment of its employees (Goodburger).

1 Response to “Film Analysis”

  1. 1 km Dec 14th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    This is a fun application of Marx. Your film description is a bit lengthy in comparison with the analysis. Need more discussion of Marx and more illustration–more analysis.

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