Burger King, the fast food establishment, isn't all that trope-worthy on its own. It’s the second-largest burger chain in the United States by number of locations after McDonald's (although Wendy’s currently surpasses them in sales), it has a global presence, and it’s subject to several stock parodies, along with their major competitors.
That said, it’s also created an advertising icon — "The" Burger King. And he's a whole other story entirely...
The Burger King started off humbly enough. He was Burger King's answer to Ronald McDonald in the Seventies, and he appeared in both live-action and animated forms. He came off as a bit of a Cloud Cuckoolander, but was otherwise benign. However, he was quite forgettable and faded into obscurity during the Eighties.
Fast forward a few decades to 2004, and Burger King decided to bring their mascot out of mothballs. This time, though, he became... much more disturbing and adult. Now a guy in an obviously plastic mask right out of kigurumi and royal finery, he started appearing in ads aimed at adults. By appearing where you probably weren't expecting him. Like at a construction site. Or pole dancing. Or, most famously, in your bedroom. Simultaneously disturbing and amusing, the ads took off.
How much so? The Burger King managed to work his way into three different video games (granted, made specifically as an in-store promotion, but still). He's also managed to become a pop culture icon, of sorts—you can buy the mask. He's had the occasional Youtube Poop appearance, too. There's also his... interesting... video about SpongeBob SquarePants. Disturbing, hilarious, or some combination thereof, he's certainly memorable.
As of 2011, Burger King decided to retire the mascot in favor of something a little more mass-market-friendly. However, he quietly returned in 2015; his weirdness in the new ads has been toned down but isn't completely gone.
The Burger King gives examples of:
- Abandoned Mascot: The original King was phased out in the Eighties. Subverted with the "Creepy King", which came back after a 10-Minute Retirement.
- Ascended Meme: In 2020 an ad featuring The King features a remixed cover of the “Ding Fries are Done” song.
- Characterization Marches On: Compare the early versions of him to the current one.
- Dada Ad: Some of the weirder ads of his can certainly cross into this territory.
- Double Entendre:
- Meat... on top of meat... on top of meat!
- One of the post-hiatus ads promotes a sourdough-bun burger with "Touch the King's buns!"
- E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: As part of a Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen tie in, with a Cybertronian King who gave the secret to delicious hamburgers to Burger King founders Keith J. Kramer and Matthew Burns in 1953 in exchange for a place to live. Naturally, he transforms into a broiler.
- Forced Transformation: One commercial advertising a tie-in to The Simpsons had him - along with Kang and Kodos - turn everyone into characters from the cartoon. (This was an animated version of the King.)
- Gender Equals Breed: In one commercial, he is shown with a human wife and daughter, and a son who has a mask for a face.
- I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: One of the UK adverts has a man craving burgers, after being offered one by the King, making the King look like a drug dealer on top of everything else that is wrong with the mascot.
- Literal Genie: This is from the original version of The Burger King. An old animated ad featured a BK wizard (replete with pointy hat and magic wand) who granted the kids' requests:Kid 1: Make me a hamburger!
Kid 2: And me a shake!
Wizard: Okay, (waves wand at Kid 1) You're a hamburger, and (waves wand at Kid 2) You're a shake!
The Burger King: No no no, they meant give them, not make them!
The Burger King: Now give me a bill (he was working the restaurant counter after all).
- And after the magician restored the kids and procured the requested menu items...
Wizard: All right. (waves wand at The BK) You've got a bill (as in, a facial feature).
The Burger King: (Tagline, in a duck-like voice) Burger King. Where kids are king.
- Mars Needs Women: Happens in the Star Trek (2009) tie-in commercial: "My Star Trek collector cups! Why don't you just take my girlfriend, too? ...Great."
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Various movie tie-ins have given us Kingons, a Deceptiking (or maybe an Autoking, we can't tell), and an Iron King.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: An ad where The Burger King steals the blueprint of the Egg McMuffin from McDonald's HQ has him wearing a hoodie and a literal paper mask (that looks identical to his regular face).
- Really Gets Around: Men, women, sponges... Is there anything he hasn't made overtures towards?
- Requisite Royal Regalia: With his robe and Cool Crown, he's clearly someone of high rank.
- Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Kingons!◊
- Slogans: Wake up with The King! (But don't go to bed before him!)
- Spiritual Successor: Sneak King has gameplay mechanics VERY similar to Rockstar's Manhunt video game series, just change 'violently murdering convicts' to 'surprising hungry folks with lunch'.
- Take That!: When advertising a grilled chicken sandwich in 2019, the King takes a shot at rival chain Kentucky Fried Chicken by dressing up in Colonel Sanders' white suit while the narration states that "A King always outranks a Colonel!"
- The "The" Title Confusion: Inverted; the "the" is used to differentiate the King and his namesake franchise. Thus, Burger King is represented by the Burger King.
- Uncanny Valley: The older incarnations avoid this, but the latest version seems to be invoking this intentionally.
- The Voiceless: The "Creepy King" version never makes a peep. He's as quiet as a church mouse.