Fake News: Alvin’s

National restaurant chain Alvin’s has come under fire following a string of thematic advertisements and promotions that have been called “frighteningly tone-deaf.”

The multi-billion-dollar burger franchise most recently raised eyebrows with a Pride Month ad campaign that CEO Ruben Parham said was designed “to uplift and pronounce support for some of the most targeted and oppressed members of society today: the gays.” While commentators mostly agree with the message, they continue to call Parham “confused.”

The campaign, which consisted of television commercials, billboards, and posters at Alvin’s locations, introduced their controversial new “Pride Platter.” The new promotion is a combo meal comprising of two “Pride Sliders”—which are only a rebranding of their usual hamburger sliders—a chocolate or vanilla “Harvey Milkshake,” “Femme Fries,” and a new fry sauce consisting of ketchup and “Marsha P. Johnson Mayo.” On Sunday, Parham took to Twitter to blast the critics calling the promotion “tasteless name-dropping” and “so confusing.”

“It’s giving hater,” wrote Parham. “Honestly, it’s giving homophobe. I may be a straight man with a straight wife and two straight sons, but I’ve always been one of the girls. If the journalists attacking the Pride Platter can’t see that, then they’re part of the problem, and that’s on periodt.”

“I don’t even know where to begin with you,” shot back LGBTQ+ rights activist Simone Abiola. In a series of tweets that have since garnered over one hundred thousand likes, Abiola criticized Parham’s comments as “offensive,” “grotesque,” and “everything wrong with the way corporations view Pride Month,” among other things.

“Really, I don’t know what’s worse,” she continued, “the fact that you spent ten minutes researching slang in an attempt to prove your shallow allyship, or that you inexplicably believe that your restaurants are saving the world by attaching Marsha P. Johnson’s name to literal mayonnaise. I ask this not just as a deeply offended queer woman, an organizer, and a thinking individual, but as a concerned citizen: what the hell is wrong with you?”

Alvin’s gaffe follows a number of similar incidents from earlier in the year, beginning with a Black History Month promotion that caused the company’s stock to drop forty-seven percent in just one week. Even Parham admitted after the fact that the “Slap Yo Momma Meal” was “an unfortunate oversight.”

For the month of February, a select forty-two Alvin’s locations—a number chosen to celebrate Jackie Robinson—not only began offering the meal, but had their interiors renovated to resemble a backyard cookout, complete with artificial grass, a grill, folding tables, a boombox set to the local throwback station, and Black families paid to engage in hostile spades matches in the corner. One Twitter user wrote that their visit was “like stepping into a racialized fever dream.”

In May, the chain contributed to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by issuing fortune cookies with every order, making their employees wear kimonos, and playing a mix of K-pop music and Bollywood soundtracks over the store speakers. An anonymous whistleblower from Alvin’s reported that Parham regularly dubbed the move the “All-Asian Package” in meetings.

“I’d never seen him more excited,” they wrote. “With virtually every chance he got, he’d go on and on waxing poetic about how we were doing what no company had ever dared to do, how we were bridging gaps between people and cultures that those people and cultures didn’t even know existed. He said we were ‘reprising Pangea,’ and thereby doing what even God Himself was too scared to do more than once. That was when I knew I truly feared him.”

In response to the many critics and commentators wondering how Parham has managed to keep his job, the whistleblower revealed that the CEO made himself “president for life” in honor of Russian American History Month. “That was all we did for April,” they wrote.

In spite of Alvin’s constantly growing pool of critics, Parham and the company haven’t issued any formal apologies or admitted wrongdoing since February. When asked on Twitter if he planned to apologize, Parham replied testily. “For what?” he wrote, “You expect me to apologize for ushering in a new era of equity and inclusion in the fast-food industry, the likes of which have never been seen? Chile please.” Many users replying to the tweet noted that Parham seemed unsure of what month it was.

While the fury of their critics rages on, Alvin’s have already found themselves in hot water again after a new whistleblower leaked a preview of the company’s forthcoming Hispanic Heritage Month promotion. “When Ruben decided that we were going to convert our entire menu to Mexican cuisine, one of the senior managers actually got on his knees and begged him not to,” said the whistleblower. “Ruben just laughed at him and said, ‘No way, José.’”

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