Before we get to the story, it’s our duty to inform the five of you who have yet to see The Avengers that the following text may contain spoilers for the film. Not massive plot-based spoilers, mind you, but certainly information that you would likely rather witness in the movie itself. You’ve been warned.
Those of you still reading will likely recall Tony Stark’s fascination with shawarma toward the end of the film. During the climactic battle, Stark suggests the team adjourn to a nearby restaurant to try the dish, which Wikipedia describes as “a pita bread sandwich or wrap” filled with spit-roasted meat (commonly lamb, goat, chicken or a mixture of various meats). At the very, very end of the film, after the credits have rolled, we witness the superhero team sitting at a table, silently eating their shawarma for a surprisingly long amount of time.
Now, based on that short in-joke, TMZ claims that the Los Angeles shawarma industry has seen a massive spike in popularity since the release of the film. “At Ro Ro’s Chicken — a famed Lebanese joint in Hollywood — the manager says shawarma sales jumped 80% in the days after the movie opened,” the gossip site claims, while saying that a number of other Lebanese restaurants offered similar results. Likewise, TMZ found that a throwaway joke in the 2008 Adam Sandler film You Don’t Mess With The Zohan generated a similar boost in sales for baba ghanouj.
While it seems unlikely that director Joss Whedon had any tangible motivation to promote a relatively obscure Middle Eastern flat bread sandwich, this news does seem to bolster the idea that product placement in films can be very effective, given the right circumstances. It certainly helps that The Avengers is a genuinely good movie, and that people readily idolize the bigger-than-life characters it contains, but imagine if, say, Taco Bell had ponied up the cash to have Iron Man suggest the team try the new Doritos Locos Taco. The optimistic part of your mind is hoping that people are cynical/intelligent enough to see right through that kind of pandering, but the more realistic part of your mind knows that a fair number of people would have left theaters craving the unholy union of faux cheese-laden chips and bottom-rung tacos that the fast food joint is pushing on an increasingly bloated, gullible public.
At least shawarma is sorta healthy, right?