Come check out Zel McCarthy’s breakdown of the representation of gay men in reality television. He breaks down the stereotypes, the sidelining and the lack of central “roles” for gay men in the reality sphere.
There has been much (rightful) celebration of the news that Yoplait has pulled their eating-disorder promoting and normalizing commercial that showed a woman agonizing over whether or not she should consume a piece of cheesecake and how many ways she would punish herself for doing so. You can watch the commercial below, but these reasons include: a day of shoving nothing else but celery down her throat, jogging after eating the cake, jogging while eating the cheesecake (what about cramps!?) - had the commercial continued I wouldn’t have been surprised if the next thought was “or I could just vomit after eating the cheesecake.” (Watch the video here.)
Interestingly, another ad had caught my eye this past week. This would be the teaser for the Miss USA pageant which aired last night, using footage from last year’s event. In the short, we are treated to shots of women’s derrieres in bikinis, sauntering around the stage in evening gowns, and taking to the microphone to tell us all how they’d like to change the world. While this is happening, we have a narrator who guides us through the 10 - 15 second sequence with questions that, to be honest, I don’t remember, save for the last one. I think they are something along the lines of “Who is she?” “What will she do next?” and so forth. But he punctuates this with what I’m assuming Mr. Trump (Master of Misogyny as I have noted before in this blog) thought was hilaaaaaarious: “When will she ever eat?” as we see the winner get crowned. As she accepts her bouquet, sash, and tiara, the host says: “How do you feel!?”
She responds: “Ask me after I’ve had a pizza!” (I do worry a bit that she will tip over as the tiara is placed on her head.)
Then everyone has a good chuckle. Ho ho ho, so so amusing to poke fun at a woman who never eats, even though we are rewarding her lack of eating with a cash prize, a diamond tiara, a TV special, and a national title. Is it possible that the man who thought he was going to run for President has such a weak grasp of irony?
Ok, while I didn’t originally want to link to the Miss USA pageant website, I just noticed that Richard Simmons is in one of the rotating pictures on the main page, and I think that is hilarious and amazing - if anyone can find out why, or a shot of him actually at the pageant, I’d love it.
Not only can these ads act as triggers for people who have suffered from eating disorders, but as the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) noted specifically in regards to the Yoplait ad (but which also applies to the Miss USA ad), it normalizes very harmful and problematic behaviors, making the line between eating disorder and what one thinks are totally normal eating habits pretty blurry. The foundation of behaviorial science and developmental psychology is the Social-Cognitive Theory, which posits that people learn to act by watching the behaviors of others who are not only in their social network, but also behaviors that are promoted in their culture and society. Other theories also note that repetition of messages further normalizes them, making individuals, particularly those at more vulnerable developmental stages, feel included in what is considered “normal” if they participate in these behaviors. One the other hand, dangerously and sadly, it makes them feel ostracized if they do not participate in these behaviors. Unfortunately, for those watching this commercial, that means it teaches young women that obsessing over their body size and weight is a normal rite of passage, and if they don’t do this, they are the abnormal ones. In terms of the Miss USA prompt, not only is media the medium for promoting the behavior, but the women doing the actual promoting are marketed as the ultimate ideal; the be-all, end-all of female beauty. (I watched snippets of the pageant last night, and my favorite moment was when one of the women said her most noteworthy characteristic was “offering people hope” and she did this by “complimenting a woman on her earrings.” Spreading hope to all by commenting on one’s accessories! I had no idea it was so simple.)
The NEDA also said they were sure Yoplait meant no harm in making and promoting this ad, and I agree, I don’t think Yoplait was malicious, or that they produced this thinking they would reignite eating disorders in recovering women or encourage young girls to calculate and barter with themselves over what they can and cannot eat. But what that shows is that the internal debate of this woman is already so normalized that it seemed like a way to reflect back onto women behavior that they would recognize as their own and identify with, making them want to buy the yogurt - the decision the woman ultimately makes at the end of the commercial. (I also worried about the “reward” aspect of the commercial, when the woman says “I’ve been good today, so I can have cake.” What kind of behavior is “good” behavior that warrants cake - eating a minimal number of calories? I don’t think she meant “good” in the sense of “I was a good samaritan today, so I can have a treat.”)
Last word - I get tired of people commenting on others’ weight. Even if they think they’re complimenting someone on losing it. At the end of the Yoplait commercial the agonized woman turns to her co-worker and says “and you’ve lost weight,” somewhat disappointingly. All in all, the less attention we pay to other peoples’ fluctuating weights and how they make us feel, the less likely we are to be unhappy with ourselves and think there’s need for some kind of improvement. Perhaps at the end of the commercial she could have said “what a healthy choice - yogurt! Maybe I’ll have some of that, and also a little cake which looks delicious and not at all like it’s going to ruin my life and destroy any potential for future happiness.”