Remind me again why I’m supposed to hate Starbucks. Because I think the reason has changed over time. There’s a scene in Christopher Guest’s comedy Best In Show (2000) where a status-obsessed overachieving yuppie married couple played by Michael Hitchcock and Parker Posey tell the story of how they met: he was sitting in the window of a Starbucks working on his Mac when he saw her sitting working on her Mac in the window of the Starbucks across the street. (Maybe they were on the corner of Robson and Thurlow in Vancouver, B.C., which really does have Starbucks franchises catty-corner from one another.) Okay: Starbucks is a purveyor of shallow elitist luxuries. (So, apparently, is Apple.) Also, my wife’s friend calls Starbucks “Fourbucks”, which I think is pretty hilarious. I get it.
But just a few years later, in the aftermath of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election there was a briefly viral YouTube clip of then-still-governor Sarah Palin giving an interview to a local television crew outside a turkey farm. The gag is that she has just returned from the ritual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey but is oblivious to the guy behind her decapitating another one. For my money this clip is a non-event that’s only funny if you really have it in for Palin, but what I want to call attention to here is the paper Starbucks cup visible in her hand. I contend that its logo was part of what made this video a brief sensation. Now Starbucks signifies crass populism (or a politician cynically aligning herself with crass populism), which is the exact opposite of yuppie elitism, right?
(Or am I the last guy in the United States to still use the word “yuppie”?)
So which is it? Is Starbucks bad because it’s highfalutin or because it’s the favored coffee spot of the proles? I’m totally willing to play along, but you have to tell me which one.