I have nothing against smelling like meat. If you’ve ever dated a professional cook, you come to find a beefy waft extremely sexy. The smell of meat was all I could think about when I watched Twilight, the hit teen vampire movie that the rest of America thought was about abstinence. The male vampire has to resist physical contact with his human girlfriend because if he gets too close, he smells her red-bloodedness and feels a barely controllable desire to chomp on her. But this elision of sexual attraction and eating meat creates the confusing impression that the heroine smells like a hamburger. And as someone who cooks a lot of meat in a small apartment, I really appreciated a sexy female lead who is irresistible because up close, she always kind of smells like a braising Boston butt.
So I was not immediately disgusted when someone gave me a vial of cologne called Flame, introduced this past winter by the fast food chain and burgeoning fashion house Burger King. Flame is obviously a marketing gag. A reviewer in the UK’s Guardian did not quite understand this when she wrote that American men now had “the chance to smell like their favourite meat snack.” This is only true of Flame if your “favorite meat snack” is a strip of pine bark soaked in the anal gland of a territorial male tiger, which is as close as I can come to describing the raw spice emitted by this tiny vial. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember my last Whopper tasting like the track jacket off a pimp’s back. It’s puzzling that Flame has not even the tiniest soupçon of hamburger, since the company that manufactures it, Demeter, built itself on inventing uncannily mimetic scents like Tootsie Roll and Gin and Tonic (smell like your great aunt Pamela without the hangover!). The Guardian reviewer went on to call Flame cost-effective: “Astonishingly, this elixir costs a mere $3.99. By contrast, one of its competitors, Chanel No 5, for example, costs more than $80.” By contrast, Chanel No. 5 will not make birds fall out of the sky—but then, we are in a recession.
The most astonishing thing about Flame is not the price but its media accessories, including a website (firemeetsdesire.com) that provides looping fake-70s sexual background music and a screensaver of what looks to be the corner of a bathtub in a Newark Econo-Lodge, with tin votives flickering and fake flowers collecting dust. “Mmm, spray it,” urges a Barry Whitelike voice. If fast food traditionally has attempted to sell itself as wholesome—talking chihuahuas, Michael Jordan, families bonding over buckets of KFC—then maybe Flame marks a new streak of honesty since its attendant message amounts to “We’re cheap, kind of gross, and inapropriate for kids!” It will, however, keep the vampires (also muggers, mosquitoes, dogs, and friends) away.