Follow TV Tropes


Fast-Food Nation

Go To

As seen in many documentaries, The United States sports a unique range of culinary recipes. It is quite common to eat toads in Louisiana, Midwestern states are pretty fond of meat, Southern states love their barbeque, Alaskan and New England cuisine includes many species of sea life (fish, crabs, lobsters), and so on.

But since many authors have low opinion on audience's intelligence, many works tend to oversimplify the standard American diet by using a pretty limited food list: hot dogs, pizza, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, donuts, ice cream, tacos, club sandwiches, candy, chocolate, bacon and Deep-Fried Whatever. (And a Diet Coke.) Needless to say, it's a miracle many of the characters don't suffer from severe obesity (well, not everyone). As you may expect, Don't Try This at Home. It may overlap with Big Eater, Food Porn, Nutritional Nightmare, and rarely, Squick. This is part of Eagleland (Type 2, America the Boorish).


Research done by actuaries from the SOA (Society of Actuaries) claim that increasing portion sizes has exacerbated the U.S. obesity epidemic combined with the ubiquitousness of fast food outlets and modern advances in technology (cars and computers) that promoted a more sedentary, indoors lifestyle. A Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans eat fast food at least once a month, 51% eat it weekly or more and Americans will eat more fast food if their income grows due to increased affordability. African-Americans and Hispanic Americans eat fast food more frequently (in addition to being employed in fast food joints at greater proportions) than both White and Asian Americans. Since the 1950s, food portion sizes grew rapidly in both grocery stores and restaurants because of increased competition in the food and restaurant industry. For example in 1960 McDonald's offered a 1.6 oz cheeseburger at 120 calories but in 2019 they offer a 5.8 ounce cheeseburger at 440 calories (sodas and fries have seen a similar growth in size and calorie count). In 1960, the American man and woman weighed in at an average of 166 and 140 lb respectively but in 2010 they respectively weigh in at 197 and 171 pounds and there hasn't been a significant change in height for either gender. You can read more about it on this page at the SOA website.


While fast food did originate from the United States, this trope isn't limited to only the United States. Matter of fact, there is evidence supporting that since the early 2010s the U.S. is shifting away from this trope while other countries are moving into it. As a means of counteracting decreases in revenue generated by homeland outlets, American fast food chains aggressively saturated Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia with outlets. The United Kingdom, China, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia all saw their own obesity rates rise in the wake of American fast food joints popping up rapidly in their streets.

Part Truth in Television, as a few people may entirely rely on fast-foods to live on (and, as the name implies, it's a faster alternative to a full-course meal for people who can't afford a long enough lunch break). It's often because fast foods are relatively cheaper compared to buying fruits and vegetables at a grocery store nowadays in the United States. Though you may very well end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical and healthcare bills at the hospital if you subsist on a diet of solely junk food and while you're bedridden with a coma (oxygen might have to be supplied to your nose through tubes), your doctor might ask you "Was It Really Worth It?"

Named after Eric Schlosser's bestseller Fast Food Nation.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Axis Powers Hetalia: In America's introductory scene, the other characters are unable to understand what he is saying because he is scarfing down burgers while talking. When England asks him to stop, he switches to drinking cola while talking instead.

    Eastern Animation 
  • In the South-Korean animated series Pucca, the first appearance of recurring villains Texas Lugie and his wife has them open a fast food restaurant with fattening and highly addictive food, causing the villagers to become really fat and out of shape.

    Films — Animation 
  • Grumpy Bear Vincent's entire stash in Over the Hedge is composed of junk food, with Pringles expy Spuddies regarded as the epitome of foodstuffs. When RJ the raccoon has to replenish this stockpile, he and his friends raid human suburbs, where junk food seems to be their sole staple.
  • In The Triplets of Belleville, the titular city is a caricature of New York City, where the citizens are almost exclusively grossly overweight people eating hamburgers and other junk food.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle spoofs this as an example of how much the world has changed from Rocky and Bullwinkle's world of perpetual reruns from The '60s to Real Life during the Turn of the Millennium in a Running Gag of our heroes passing through the same small midwestern, where all of the establishments are nothing but fast food chains.
  • Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me paints America as obsessed with McDonald's and the titular super-size option, to the point of health risk without care by the corporation. The core of the film is about Spurlock eating only McDonald's food for a month on only McDonalds food, causing significant weight gain, cholesterol increase, and some immediate physical and emotional illness. The significance of these results have been criticized, mostly because Spurlock didn't keep a precise record of what he ate (so one can't tell if the stated 5000 Calories per day came from oversized portions or ordering too many items per day) and his body's reaction was definitely exacerbated by his diet changing so suddenly (he had been on a vegan diet for some time before).
  • In Demolition Man, ever since the Fast Food Wars, Taco Bell is the only place to eat (at least in the US). None of them are fast-food places, though, as junk food has been outlawed — they're just called "Taco Bell" now, having long since become a much fancier dining establishment.
  • The 1995 Disney-distributed comedy Heavyweights takes a jab at the child obesity epidemic in the U.S. in that fast food restaurants have become so ubiquitous that parents have resorted to shelling out thousands of dollars for weight-loss camps to slim down their morbidly obese teenage sons. They resort to cheating on their diets by sneaking in junk food (it wasn't that challenging, the film's fat camp was surrounded by streets of fast food joints) and end up gaining double-digit numbers of pounds before getting their next weigh-in, making the supervisor have a meltdown (it's hilarious, he starts talking to himself loudly then screams at everyone else) and force them to hike for 20 miles in one day alone.
  • Exaggerated and parodied, like so many other elements of American lower-class culture, in Idiocracy. Growing portion sizes went hand-in-hand with the dumbing down of America; the fast food chain Carl's Jr. sells fries and tacos in "extra big-ass" portion sizes, and the sit-down hamburger restaurant chain Fuddruckers has seen its name devolve into a reference to anal sex.

    Live-Action TV 
  • It has been noted that Adam Richman's gross-out fest portraying the very best and worst of American eating, Man v. Food, has succeeded in presenting a not very flattering picture of American eating habits to viewers outside the USA. The insane eating challenges, and even the standard portion sizes Adam explores in his tour of American food, have contributed to the (largely false but generally held) perception outside the USA that all Americans are waddling, obese, three-hundred-pound gutbuckets who habitually eat to excess.
  • Parks and Recreation: Several episodes' plots revolve around the Parks and Rec team attempting to get the citizens of Pawnee to be healthier, though they themselves are constantly tempted into eating terrible fast food. The most popular restaurant in the town of Pawnee is Paunch Burger, a burger joint with comically massive portions (their small drink is essentially a bucket), whose logo is a profile silhouette of a very fat man. Even the main cast regularly comments on how salads are a terrible food item with no redeeming qualities, and they commonly find themselves tempted into eating Paunch Burger food despite their disapproval of its effects on society. Another episode focuses on "nutrition" bars with an absurdly high sugar content, and the team's attempts to prevent them from being sold at parks, though the public loves them... because they're literally addictive.

    Video Games 
  • In the Grand Theft Auto series, most of the places you can get food are fast food places, hot dog vendors, or food trucks. (This makes sense, as most players probably don't want to take a break from unfettered chaos for a fancy meal at a fancy restaurant - the closest thing one can get to a meal, in fact, is at the Well Stacked Pizza.) The only exceptions to this are when the player is on a date or out with friends, then a diner or fancy restaurant is an option. True to form, the games milk this for all it's worth, with ads for these places on radio and TV highlighting their overstuffed portion sizes, the animal cruelty that goes into making the food, how it can be potentially deadly (Burger Shot's specialties have some... suggestive names) and (in the case of the Italian-themed Olive Garden parody Al Dente's) the fact that the "ethnic" cuisine they serve bears no resemblance to anything that people actually eat overseas.
  • Saints Row does this in the first two games with any food the player purchases coming from fast food places like Freckle Bitch's. The food system is done away with in the third game and doesn't return for the fourth, so this doesn't continue.

    Web Original 
  • The Creepypasta Burgrr is about a fast-food chain that... appears in the middle of the protagonist's hometown one day, and he's the only one who notices how disgusting and unhealthy the food is. Everyone, from his nasty old bag of a neighbor to primetime news anchors, eats it except him, with the implication being that it's subsumed across all of America....

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • There is a "Fast Food Boulevard", an entire area filled with fast food restaurants, most notably Krusty Burger.
    • In "Sweets n' Sour Marge", after Springfield is named the "world's fattest town", Marge realizes there's sugar in practically everything the townspeople eat, prompting her to declare war on the sugar industry.
  • Satirized in South Park where in "Ass Burgers", it turns out that the fast food joints of the United States are all a militarized gangster-like organization (they only claim to be rivals in the public image but are actually collaborators) intent on monopolizing America's entire food market and when Cartman's burger stand becomes instantly popular, they try to get Stan to give up the recipe for Cartman Burgers simply for taking away their customers in a small mountain town at most. These major billionaire fast food chains in America do not even sit well with small kiddie stands on the street selling foods.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: