My friends, as you know, here at Johnny Outlaw Studios, we take the outlaw concept very seriously. The great themes and archetypes of the romantic, western world are the cornerstone of our approach to games. When some individual, some corporation, attempts to appropriate our symbols, our language, the very means by which we exist, we approach the situation with grave earnestness.
Many of you have been sending us comments about the fast food establishment “Jack in the Box” and what they are calling an “Outlaw Burger”. Yes, you heard right. Just as they stole from us the humble image of a children’s toy which pops at the turn of a crank, they now seek to encroach upon the sacred realm of the cowboy. I had no choice but to investigate more deeply into the situation.
The entire concept of an Outlaw Burger is preposterous. Firstly, we are confronted with the impenetrable ambiguity of the adjectival qualifier “outlaw”. Is this a burger which is an outlaw, or is it a burger designed for outlaws? And which definition of outlaw do we adhere to? The state of outlawry originally meant that a person was declared outside the protection of the law. Now in modern usage, the more common meaning is a person in violation of some law. But are burgers even subject to the laws of man?
Now, Johnny Outlaw fans are entitled to the truth. In that interest, I spoke with several legal experts, and determined that burgers are, in fact, subject to the laws of man. But they are not necessarily subject to the same laws as a man. This is a small, yet important, distinction. If a burger were to physically harm a man, the burger would not be found guilty of assault or battery or even criminal negligence. However, if that burger did not meet FDA standards, then the burger would be in violation of the law. That burger would be… an outlaw.
So is this where our journey has taken us? Is this “Outlaw Burger” a sandwich tainted by time and circumstance, shirking the confines of mankind and its petty laws? Is this a burger who takes every day as it comes, concerning itself not with the subtle artifices of society, and instead choosing to embrace, with great candor, the harsh realities of existence?
No. Further research leads me to the conclusion that this is merely a burger with a particular assortment of toppings and condiments. This burger is not an outlaw, which can only mean one thing. This burger was intended to be eaten by outlaws. Does your typical outlaw often have cravings for barbeque sauce and onion rings? Well, that’s a good question. The age of the cowboy ended in the late 19th century with the closing of the open range and the obsolescence of the cattle drive. Yet, there is no documentation of the existence of the onion ring until the early 20th century. Either Jack in the Box has access to secret knowledge of cowboy history, or they have committed a grievous sin: they have claimed the burger is for outlaws without even taking into account what an outlaw would actually consume.
Some of you may say I am reading too much into this, but mankind has always quibbled over sacredness, be it of objects, persons, places, words, or ideas. If this sacrilege came but out of ignorance, I would excuse it without a second thought. This was not ignorance. I believe there was no fidelity intended towards the meaning of outlaw, and that they merely wanted to profit from the concept of the outlaw. I believe they wanted you, the hapless customer, to take in the word outlaw and all its connotations, and to apply them to the burger and, by logical extension, to yourself. They knew that the label “Outlaw” would evoke what their burger alone never could: real human passion, dreams, ideals, emotions, and fears. And then there, resonating at the heart of it all, is that ever increasingly blurred distinction between the romantic and the repugnant. For now, as I choke on the glut of hubris and cupidity that has lead mankind down the path of the Outlaw Burger, I can only hope that Jack in the Box restaurants will put right these wrongs to conserve the sacredness of the term outlaw, and, perhaps, their own dignity.