Commercial Break / Eugoogly: Gidget, The Taco Bell Chihuahua
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 22, 2009
Back in the day, Taco Bell was a second-class citizen in the world of fast food. We knew they existed, sure, and occasionally we even patronized their establishment (albeit under duresss), but we never really thought of them as being in the same leagues with the McDonalds, Wendy’s, or even the Subways of the world.The franchise’s primary claim to fame was being the only restaurant available in the post-apoclayptic world of the 1993 Sylvester Stallone classic Demolition Man. Then in 1997, a tiny little chihuahua named Gidget entered the picture, and suddenly, everyone and their mother was running for the border. With a mere four words–“Yo quiero Taco Bell,” which took about an hour to join the ranks of “Where’s the Beef?,” “You Deserve a Break Today” and “Time to Make the Donuts” in the ranks of truly iconic fast food catchpharses–Gidget was a national sensation. Soon she was trapping Godzilla, appearing on late night talk shows and even cameoing in Legally Blonde 2. The campaign was ended in controversy over racial stereotyping in 2000, but in her three years at the top, Gidget was Hallie Eisenberg, Wendy Kaufman and Lil’ Penny rolled into one. And Taco Bell would never be the same.
No doubt the restaurant itself enjoyed greatly prolonged success as a result of the attention Gidget garnered, and is likely in part responsible for the proliferation of the restaurant to all corners of the world–from “one in your general area” status to “you get to choose which of the three you feel like going to on a Wednesday” status. But Gidget’s true influence would be most widely felt in the very medium that she represented. Before Gidget, Taco Bell commercials were mild-mannered, unassuming affairs–or so I’d assume anyway, as I don’t have a single memory of TB advertising in the pre-chihuahua era. But after Gidget, Taco Bell commercials would gradually expand to bigger, louder, more ostentatious affairs, like a horrible stand-up comedian who slowly gains confidence in his shitty jokes as one asshole in the audience keeps laughing at everything he says. It all climaxed in the last few years, where you couldn’t watch a half-hour’s worth of TV without getting slapped in the face by at least three different variants on their obnoxious, catch phrase-spewing excuses for a sales pitch.
Think about all that we would be missing today if it wasn’t for Gidget. There’d be no Italian men announcing “I’M FULL!!!” There’d be no beatboxing rappers demanding “something big….WITH A BUNCH OF BEEF!!” There’d be no just pushing the button. There’d be no real men not owning lap dogs. There’d be no triple steak guys, no guys attracted by the scent of bacon in a purse. There’d be no cruncheweesy. There’d be no checking under the beans. There’d be no going on dates with Carmen Electra. There’d be no saying it sexy like Ricardo Montalbon. There’d be no fourth meal, no thinking outside of the bun, no seventy-nine, eighty-nine, ninety-nine, ay-ay-ine. Most recently, there’d be no hating filling out your time sheets (bom bom bom, bom bom psshssoww) and no being all about the Roosevelts, baby. And that’s just the last couple of years, really. It’s a veritable dynasty of terrible televisiual adverising, and none of it would likely have been possible if not for Gidget.
After a lifetime of living “like a queen, very pampered” (according to owner Karin McElhatton), Gidget suffered a massive stroke on Tuesday night and eventually had to be euthanized, with plans be to cremate the body. “Our deepest sympathies go out to her owners and fans,” said a Taco Bell spokesperson.
R.I.P. Gidget, 1994-2009