Burning Man is getting parodied for its increasingly techy and corporate reputation by an unexpected source: Quiznos.
Last week, the sandwich chain released a parody video ad in which the teen protagonists from the movie 'The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails' end up on the playa of Black Rock Desert in Nevada for Burning Man. The young heroes encounter all the tribulations of a modern burner: choosing the right Instagram filter, a Google executive fire-jousting Diddy and omnipresent, subtle corporate exposure.
"They lied to us," says the protagonist, covered in dust and striding amongst scantily-clad burners wearing absurd hats. "They said it was an anti-establishment society based in radical self-expression, but it's become a place for rich people to check off their bucket list."
Burning Man, an annual festival described on its website as "A city in the desert. A culture of possibility. A network of dreamers and doers," unsurprisingly did not agree with this assessment. Reno Gazette-Journal reports that Burning Man is considering taking legal action against the sandwich chain due to the video. The reasoning: not because Quiznos was wrong exactly, but due to the organization's approach to intellectual property.
Despite Quiznos joking about the corporate underpinnings of Burning Man, the organization behind the festival says it takes its stance on "decommonification" very seriously. The company's website lays out the law of the land (or Playa): While self-expression is encouraged, Burning Man images, video and audio cannot be used to promote any products, brands or services. In the past, Burning Man sued the producers of "Girls Gone Wild" to prevent the distribution of nude footage shot at the event. While it is unlikely that Quiznos actually filmed the video at Burning Man, the ad openly references the annual festival.
"We are not apps, we are not code, we are not commodities," reads a Burning Man blog post on decommodification. "Nothing that we are can truly be bought or sold, and we are more important than things."
While Quiznos may have an intellectual lawsuit battle on their hands, it's hard to say the sandwich chain has many of its facts about Burning Man's tech industry connections wrong. Big names in tech, like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, are known for attending the festival. Apparently, Eric Schmidt even decided to take the job as Google CEO after attending Burning Man with Sergey Brin and Larry Page in the early 2000s. Tech millionaires and other wealthy burners can spend thousands of dollars on travel, classy "camping" setups and even personal chefs.
The festival may be counter-capitalist in theory. However, as the Quiznos ad says, the impulse only lasts until next week when many burners return to their desk jobs creating apps, writing code and saving up vacation days for next year's festival.
Also factual in the video: Diddy did attend Burning Man year, as did countless models, Katy Perry and Susan Sarandon. There is, however, no proof that Diddy fire-jousted with any Google executives.