We have run out of cinematic heroes. All we have left are entrepreneurs. Tired of watching movies about Steve Jobs? This time you can see one about Ray Kroc.
Who is Ray Kroc? Ray Kroc is nobody. He’s an idea. A Placeholder. How do we know this? His character is plastic. He has misgivings, but they are only intimations. He drinks too much, he tramples his fellow man, he estranges his wife. Does he lament these qualities? We do not know. Does he desire like a man desires? Surely not. His are the desires of capital: expansion, accumulation, domination – never demonstrated within the experience of his person, but only suggested in the rabidity of Keaton’s eyes, the frenetics of his motion: skewed bites of burger, zigzagging approaches to golf partners, quasi-humping of the hood of the McDonald brothers’ car.
BJ Novak tells him delphically: you must own land. And Ray Kroc proceeds to. He goes to franchise plot after franchise plot and picks up the soil. He runs it through his fingers. Why? Because he must hold the land. Does he own the land? Is he a God, we wonder? Does the land quake for him or does he quake for the land? He trembles before it, but it’s his dominion. He loves two women, maybe one, but the dirt is his only orgasm.
Ray Kroc is a homesteader. His franchises, family farms. They populate the Heart, or perhaps the Gut. Des Plaines, Dayton, Minneapolis. This, we see, can be the only real seat of desire. There grows. And is there more joy than that? To have no boss and no father and to grow.
There is no father, but is Kroc religious? It’s hard to say. He has no Passion, but many Gods. Dick McDonald is the zealot, clear. He believes that capital has a birth, a home, a name. He’s the ideologue. We learn Kroc became large because he was not so deceived.
What does Ray Kroc desire? Only to have a name. To have an American name. To be a McDonald. He only wants to become a man. An American man. And he does so in the only way he knows how: to be the master of land and capital. Kroc tells McDonald as much. All he wanted was to be him. Growth was his only means of transference. Growth made him someone else. Becoming someone else made him himself. And that’s what it means to be an American man.