So the nice Prime News anchorperson just popped up on the telly to let us know that tonight’s broadcast is going to include something described as “doctors call for graphic advertising to combat the obesity epidemic”.*
Initial disclaimer: I have no intention of watching the broadcast involved because (a) I do not expect it to contain any original thought and (b) I choose not to subject myself voluntarily to baseless fat-hate and (c) I’m not allowed to throw the television out the window.
So. “Graphic advertising” designed to “combat” the “obesity epidemic”.**
Let’s just leave aside the eternal “no such animal” debate for the moment. “Graphic advertising”. Wonder what that could be based on?
Well, we have graphic advertising about speeding / driving while drunk. Moral of the story? Speeding/drunk driving = bad/gross.
And we have graphic advertising about smoking. Morale of story? Smoking = bad/gross.
So how do you reckon these “anti-obesity” ads are going to run? Oh right. Eating the [current] Bad Foods as judged by society and a massive industry premised on body-hating and failure = bad/gross. It’s a totally new and creative riff on the good ol’ this is how the bad food looks when it’s in your stomach bogeyman.
Because a low-fat chicken Caesar salad would look so appetizing when blended into a smoothie.
And because of course the “being fat = gross” message isn’t already broadcast loud and clear on a daily basis (hence the panic when studies show that moderately-not-thin women “don’t realise” they’re “overweight”).***
But none of that is actually the point.
The point is that these ads are part of a bigger, wider problem: our complete fucking disconnect in the wonderful totes-secular West from the fact that we are biological beings and we’re all going to die some day.
This is something that’s a several-posts-long thing to unpack, but for now, let’s consider: we do actually need food to live. Eating is actually a good thing. Consuming foods is not some lesser-of-two-evils moral conflict for which we must eternally self-flagellate. We don’t have to feel bad for lacking the willpower just to starve to death instead of letting filthy biomatter pass our lips.
Given this, it’s not some kind of massive leap of faith to assume that eating food might be something we, as breathing bloody meaty entities, might find enjoyable.
It’s also a bit childish to act like you can tell what’s “bad” for you by how it physically appears after being chewed, mixed with saliva, and bathed in stomach acid for a while, and whether it looks “gross”. (See Caesar salad note above.) But it ties nicely into our fear of acknowledging that we’re made of meat and that once something comes off a beautifully-presented plate into our mouths it’s literally a fairly visceral process. One which literally does not care whether the calories it’s burning are being pulled out of a crunchy fresh lettuce leaf or a buttery pie shell.
This proposed ad “campaign” can only be premised on us finding our very existences icky, and by association the food we nom on. Diet culture tries to spin us the illusion that by limiting ourselves to Good Foods – and hating every mouthful for being a necessary evil in the continuance of our wretched mortal existences – we can ignore the “gross” bits, the meaty bits, the stomachy bits, the crapping bits.
Well, sorry, y’all, but we’re humans. We eat food, we enjoy it, we crap it out when our bodies are done with it and that’s how we keep on living. It all looks gross in the end. Any ad which ignores that and is based on making us hate a vital part of our lives and will almost directly put money into the pockets of a global industry which exists to spread hatred and prejudice and low self-esteem? Probably not actually working for the forces of good. Or “health.”
*Complete with grossed-out looking guy drinking a “shake” apparently made of liquified pies.
***I swear I’m going to wear out my sarcasm-quotes on this one.