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Google's Burger Emoji: Why Can't We All Just Get Along?


To those who would deny the Google burger because it's messy, I say, get a napkin and get over it.

In response to the internet's apoplexy over its new cheeseburger emoji, Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted, "Will drop everything else we are doing and address on Monday :) if folks can agree on the correct way to do this!" The furor is over Google's placement of the cheese between the meat and the bottom bun. Literally every other cheeseburger emoji on any other platform places the cheese on top of the meat. At the risk of iconoclasm, let me ask a basic question: Is this because placing cheese on top of meat is actually correct, or simply that this is the way it's always been done in the past?

Tradition is no kind of argument; we didn't put a person on the moon, until we did. Perhaps one day our grandchildren's children will be eating cheeseburgers on the moon, marveling at how stupid we Earthlings were for not putting our cheese on the bottom bun. I'm willing to defend Google's decision, as well as to go on the offense against the constellation of other equally idiotic cheeseburger emojis out there.

There are many things the Google burger is doing well: their ten sesame seeds on the bun are neither too few nor too many; their lettuce is a ruffled edge that indicates it's both crisp and fresh; their meat has a less pointy but similarly wobbly edge that indicates the patty has been formed by hand instead of pulled from a freezer; their tomato has a somewhat smaller circumference than their meat so that there is no confusion amongst the colorblind as to which is which; their bun is a golden brown instead of a jaundiced yellow; their cheese somewhat overhangs the bottom bun in order to indicate that the cheese is melted.

People are gripping about this problem of the melty cheese. They say that you can't put the cheese directly on the bottom bun because as the cheese melts, it wilts the bottom bun into mush and also gets cheese all over your hands or face. Personally, I find that the best burgers I've had in my lifetime are those that transcend their handheld status into something that necessarily does get all over my hands or face, as well as maybe the plate or table and my clothes. A good burger can be a drippy; chunks of it can fall out the back side when you bite into the front side; a really fresh sandwich is always going to slide around a little bit because the ingredients haven't been congealing together under a heat lamp for 30 minutes. To those who would deny the Google burger because it's messy, I say, get a napkin and get over it. Also, let me remind you that this is a digital burger, meaning it cannot actually make a mess. It's just a bunch of pixels. There's no reason why it must conform to the standards of a reality-based cheeseburger.

Nevertheless, I will also answer for the problem of a mushy bottom bun. Most obviously, some people like a mushy burger. Burgers made with brioche or challah or even doughnuts (as in Atlanta's famous Luther Vandross burger) are so great precisely because they employ some squish. Isn't this also the general idea behind a puffy top bun? The top bun is usually thicker than the bottom bun because it's meant to get squashed and to work as a minor form of shock absorption when you take a bite. If the mushy bun complaint is about texture, that's nothing more than personal preference and not an argument against Google's interpretation.

Moreover, Google's cheeseburger is but one interpretation. Other extremely prolific cheeseburger emojis include Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, LG, HTC, Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp. We have not seen any kind of commensurate furor over these eight other interpretations even though they suffer from a cornucopia of problems, many of which are just as obviously questionable or as dumb as people have made Google's out to be. Allow me to enumerate.

Apple's cheeseburger goes bottom bun, lettuce, meat, cheese, tomato, top bun. Why on earth would you separate the lettuce from the tomato? Why would you put the tomato against the top bun, when that would make the bun soggy? Their meat patty is too brown; why would you eat a burger cooked well-done? Their sesame seeds are too long; they look more like sprinkles. Microsoft's cheeseburger is trapped inside of a thick black outline, like somebody ran a permanent marker all around it. It has a comic, flattening effect that is in no way appetizing or realistic.

Samsung's cheeseburger is presented with kind of an aerial view so that it looks mildly three-dimensional, but the real effect is that it doesn't look like it's as tall and delicious a stack as the majority of its competitors. Their burger runs bottom bun, meat, lettuce, cheese, tomato, top bun. Again, separating lettuce from tomato is clearly an abomination. And how is the cheese going to melt in the first place when it's sandwiched between two pieces of cold salad?

LG's cheeseburger has no tomato at all. Not only does HTC's cheeseburger have no tomato, it has two meat patties. That's an offense to our health and to our wallets. The HTC burger is only sporting four sesame seeds, all grouped tight and symmetrical in the center of the top bun; why bother including them at all? It's both half-hearted and too formalist. Don't even get me started on the problems wrought by the WhatsApp interpretation. Their cheeseburger appears to include bacon and a ring of white onion, in addition to putting lettuce and tomato underneath the meat, as well as entirely foregoing the sesame seeds.

Twitter and Facebook both built their cheeseburgers using an anemic, unappetizing shade of light brown. Twitter's top bun has eight sesame seeds and Facebook's has 12. In the rush to be distinctive, each design team clearly got it wrong by plus or minus two. Twitter thinks the correct order of ingredients is top bun, tomato, lettuce, while Facebook thinks it ought to be top bun, lettuce, tomato. I'm waiting for a violent outburst between the tomato-first people and the lettuce-first people. Both are arguably wet, bun-destroying, anti-cheese-melting ingredients, though a leaf of lettuce also has somewhat of a prophylactic quality that a slice of tomato does not.

What about the people who don't like any toppings on their cheeseburger at all? Why should a cheeseburger get the nod of ultimate American iconography, instead of a plain old hamburger? Look, at least Google has the nerve to try something different. Google is officially the first and only platform to put cheese on the bottom of an emoji burger. Perhaps they are simply so far advanced that they are anticipating the needs of future generations who will eat their cheeseburgers on the moon, where gravity is not so much a thing and the cheese might indeed fare better when it can be pinned down by the meat. Maybe Google has designed the ideal cheeseburger of the future and we're just not forward-thinking enough to get on board.

Whatever else it is, it's distinctive. Love it or hate it, you're still haunted by the prospect of it. I don't think the internet handed Google a beating; I think Google beat the internet. My favorite thing about Pichai's response is that he appears to say Google will make a change to their cheeseburger configuration if crowdsourcing yields clear results as to what configuration is correct. Yeah, sure it will. The internet is a great place where people come to agree.






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