Sunday, June 15, 2008

WTF at our advertising

When I was a junior in college I took a Communications class with a professor named Robin Andersen.

There are certain teachers who one will have the pleasure of encountering over the course of a lifetime, whether it’s the third grade teacher with long brown hair and a taste for gold pins attached to her lapel, or the woman whose lecture you sincerely anticipated, despite the start time of 10:00 a.m. Dr. Andersen was this latter professor, who never could recall my name, even though I had taken a total of three of her classes over two years, who once asked a student in the front row for a pen because she couldn’t find hers in her bag.

Her classes on media studies truly gave my eager undergrad eyes a perspective upon the world that I hadn’t thought of before—and what student does not wish for this precise thing in a professor?

Before this one specific class called “History and the Culture of Advertising,” I had looked upon billboards and magazine ads with a fleeting shrug. But when I was able to take a more thorough examination of what we are subjected to each and every day, and its subconscious ramifications, I feel as though my perspective of our American culture and everything that comes along with it did shift.

When I was in Ireland, I saw the billboard posted here. Now, this may not look like anything major, but when I saw it, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, that I did the clich├ęd “stop and gawk with a wide eyed-expression look.” Now, why?

Because I would never, ever have seen this billboard in America. I don’t know much about advertising in Europe, but I feel confident that I do know advertising in this country.

In the U.S., this woman would be a “plus-sized” model. But in Ireland, this woman, whom I would venture to say is perfectly normal-sized, is a spokesperson for a diet regiment.

And then there's the ad of the diet plan, in the U.S., posted below.

Now, I really don’t want to get overly political, or talk about any specific interest group (cough, young American women who develop eating disorders and who are constantly being shown images in magazines, t.v shows, and commercials of skinny 96 pound women with the cursory tagline of how desirable they are and with instructions on how to become just like them.)

I really don’t want to.

But when I saw this billboard, I immediately saw how a woman of her—what? Curviness? Size? Proportions?— would not have gotten her picture up there if she were living over here (New York? Forget about it).

Also, I just love this guy staring hungrily at the stick woman in her apartment...because, unless we're all on The Special K Diet, where is our allure, really?

I do know that the notion of my food blog and this particular post paired together are quite amusing. It's been in the back of my mind as I've written this whole post. But the more important thing on my mind is the question of why the f*ck the second ad is even shown here, even in existence, something that that is being broadcast to women as something to aspire to, and why the Irish ad is not shown here, the one that makes my head hurt so much less than the American one.

Sadly, I know the answer is not simple, and it's something that one girl in Brooklyn will not be able to answer or to change the circumstances of, though she might desperately want to.

Maybe I should have just written an email to, but I'm riding on the hope that this is an appropriate vehicle of outrage, as well.

If not, please do let me know.

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