All of us that enjoy commercials that have shred of originality and a dash of creepiness and a large dose of insanity are grieving today, as Burger King as announced that they are officially retiring their mascot The King. Yes, the bearded, crowned maniac that will break in to your home and stare at you as you sleep, and all in an attempt to give you a meat sandwich, will no longer grace our airwaves.
The King represented a new wave of televised advertising by offering us a character that was, by all rights, a goddamn lunatic that possibly posed a threat to mankind. And that’s what made The King commercials truly great. For so long commercials were dull and lifeless. Everyone that both watched and created television programing understood that commercials were an awful waste of time, but they were a necessary awful waste of time. Without them, your favorite shows wouldn’t have the funding to stay on the air. So, in a sort of subliminal act of taking a hit for the common good of our favorite shows, we all sucked it up and sat through dreadfully boring 15 or 30 second morsels of pandering and product schilling.
And then, in 2003, Burger King introduced a new mascot that broke the biggest rule in the world of mascot-based advertising: they created a mascot that was really, really creepy, and kind of disturbing. But it was funny. And weird. For far too long mascots were all bland, family friendly losers that were always far too happy to be considered sane. And then, all of a sudden, Burger King breaks new ground with a mascot that looked trespassing laws in the eye and told them to go to hell. This mascot completely understood how terrifying it is to open a window and find someone staring directly into your eyes first thing in the morning. This mascot wasn’t a “bad boy” or any such idiotic label. He was a goddamn danger to everyone around him, and the commercials took no strides in hiding this fact – and they were brilliant for it.
In the age of absurdest comedy, both online and on TV with the type of programing that can be found on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, The King was a mascot for a new century. He was genuinely funny. He didn’t just sell burgers and breakfast sandwiches; he was a full-fledged character that wouldn’t be at all out of place in a Monty Python or Kids in the Hall sketch. He was bizarre, a little grotesque, and he wanted you to eat food that he just handed you. He used marketing tactics usually reserved for only Hollywood’s craziest of slasher film villains, like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. He was silent, he could gain entry in to any compound, regardless of security level, and he would risk life and limb…just to give you a burger. A certain clown-faced burger mascot wouldn’t go that far to make you happy. But The King, that was just another day at the office.