A word to the Hamburglar haters: It could be much, much worse

A word to the Hamburglar haters: It could be much, much worse
The 2015 version of McDonald's Hamburglar, left, and a stuffed doll depicting the 1970s version. (From left: McDonald's; Irfan Khan /Los Angeles Times)

The extreme Mcmakeover version of McDonald's Hamburglar, revealed last week -- two parts foodstuff felon in a fedora and one part hot dad -- seemed to sit as well with some folks as a batch of bad burgers.

We're not here to rehash-brown the complaints lodged against the new version of the meat thief -- back in a McDonald's advertising campaign after a 13-year absence -- but to point out that each generation gets the Hamburglar it deserves.

The new incarnation is a live-action character with a five-o'clock shadow, a semi-stylish trench coat over an outfit of horizontal alternating stripes of black and white. His accessories include the fedora (with a wide yellow hat band), a pair of red gloves (symbolizing being caught "red-handed" we have to guess) and a wide red necktie with an all-over print of hamburgers. He holds a finger to almost smirking lips. He's in on the joke, it seems, and any purloining of patties will be done with a strict sense of irony.

His predecessor was much smaller in stature and far younger in age -- more like a cherub-cheeked, buck-toothed, meat-thieving second grader than anything else. (Who knows, given the 13-year span between appearances, maybe the current Hamburglar is simply the grown-up version of that one.) In TV commercials, this red-headed Hamburglar was always portrayed by an actor wearing a cartoonish, child-like costume head with the kind of fixed, wide smile of a meat puppet living blissfully unaware of Morgan Spurlock documentaries or the dangers of cholesterol.

While this version of the meat mascot is probably the one most folks remember, it too was the result of a radical makeover. We know this because we distinctly remember the OG Hamburglar of our youth -- and he was truly terrifying. Introduced in 1971, he was tall and gaunt with sunken, sallow cheeks, a long, almost hook-like nose and gray, stringy hair. He spoke in gibberish and looked like he'd be just as happy dining on your spleen as a McDonald's hamburger.

If anyone should be complaining about their Hamburglar it should be those of us who had to suffer the reign of creepiness by a mascot who came across as one part Freddy Krueger, one part pedophile and one part meth addict.

We bring this up for two reasons: First, all you Hamburglar haters out there don't have a striped leg to stand on with your charges of creepiness. Second, there's a glimmer of hope that this too shall pass. That's because the original version was replaced by the scamp with the Dennis the Menace vibe in 1985 -- 13 years after first being introduced. And 13 years have elapsed since that version of the villain has appeared in ads. So if the swing of the mascot pendulum continues apace, you've only got to put up with Hambuglar 3.0 until 2028.

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