Burger King’s inaugural commercial for the Impossible Whopper, the plant-based burger it launched internationally in November, is dominated by burly men biting down and experiencing aggressive disbelief. In a hidden-camera scenario, loyal consumers of the Whopper are deceived, receiving an otherwise-identical burger whose patty has been forged from soy by the company Impossible Foods. True to the brand name, the men appear incredulous. Two are only able to process their emotions by swearing.
“This is a [bleep] cow,” one man splutters. (It’s censored, but he clearly says fucking.)
Not to be outdone, the baritone narrator replies, “No [bleep] cow.”
The tension in the commercial derives from the divide between fast-food consumer bases, which skew male, and vegan consumer bases, which skew decidedly less so. Yet the manly Burger King customers ultimately come away open-minded—if not altogether converted—and say they’re more inclined to order an Impossible option tomorrow. Though it’s never addressed head-on in the ad, there’s a clear subtext of sexual stigma: Are they really man enough to eat a soy burger?
Among at least some vegan-curious men, plant-based proteins are inextricably tied to gender. Thought-leading bros like the podcast guru Joe Rogan and the pop/clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson have turned to all-meat diets, fueling an eating trend that appeals to a sense of purity or natural order, despite knowing the burden of their choices on the planet. Taken to an extreme, some men believe that the primary ingredient in the Impossible Whopper and countless other vegan products will literally turn them into women.