Category Archives: advertising

Deengate and twinkie pie

First, the good news: Americans are eating less meat, even if it’s still contingent on geography; in some places, this Onion bit may still be indistinguishable from reality. And depending upon your schadenfreude-ometer, Hostess’ bankruptcy and even Paula Deen’s diabeetus might be cause for celebration. Whatever else it is, though, it’s definitely some kind of teachable moment, and you know you’re in trouble when even the Fox News op-ed feed is berating you.

Deen, creator of the twinkie pie and the donut-encased bacon-egg-cheeseduckenburger, recently announced that she has type 2 diabetes, and the internets have not been kind. Jane Black sees a big missed opportunity in Deen’s decision to forego a transition to a saner and kinder diet–instead, she’s partnering with a costly drug endorsement, and preventive medicine be damned.

And this should all segue nicely into the upcoming Intelligence Squared debate, which will focus on whether the obesity crisis is an issue of personal responsibility or market manipulation. As always, it’s both, but here’s to hoping that the reigning queen of food porn can lead by example, even if the example in this case is a cautionary tale of a lesson not learned.

Food, identity, and gender

Okay, so this ad is as much about Latin chauvinism and machismo as it is about gender–I imagine you can get the point even if you don’t speak Spanish. Another ad I saw at the gym recently is less overtly offensive, but it plays on one of America’s foundational food-and-gender stereotypes: the meat-grilling men. For a broader selection, Sociological Images has compiled quite an assortment. (And see here for more, on ‘suicide foods’) This last one is, well, ludicrous.

This recent NYT profile of Simon Doonan’s Gay Men Don’t Get Fat got me thinking about the topic…Doonan acknowledges that his gay/straight food distinction is a sweeping generalization, but I think this kind of essentializing is unnecessary and damaging, if obviously tempting to advertisers.

(edit, 2/7/12: So apparently Snickers has ads like this in English, too, or so my Food Politics students tell me – this is what I get for not having a TV at home…)

Epic Meal Time: the personal and the political

 I’m reluctant to post this, for a number of reasons: first, I don’t want to give them money or traffic; second, I don’t want to be “unpardonably lacking in humor“; third, the gendering going on here is so in your face that it’s farcical; and fourth, bacon fetishism really bothers me. But I can’t help it: one of my students posted this last class, and I’ve been mulling on it.

One of my first thoughts was that this would be a good exercise for implementing Walzer’s communitarian complex egalitarianism: just as money shouldn’t be able to buy unlimited political power, nor should one have license to waste so much for so little reason (whatever your friendly industry shills over at CCF might tell you). Another thought: this is among the strongest arguments I’ve seen that we need an ethic of care, and that our gender stereotypes are killing us (and, literally, killing others) with structural violence.

But many of my students didn’t see it this way–it was “just fun”, in a way that issues concerning, say, universal suffrage or child labor wouldn’t be (pace Gingrich). Or maybe food is different? Or maybe the norms I’m discussing are in cascade, and haven’t yet been internalized.

I don’t know, but I did almost hurl when watching this in class.

Food fight: free to choose?

This picture was featured in an ad purchased by the Washington Legal Foundation in today’s print NYT. Fat taxes are causing a stir. Junk food marketing is coming under fire. It’s getting easier to track our food, at least in theory. So what does the industry shill formerly known as a Phillip Morris front do? Attack “platernalistic plaintiffs’ lawyers, government officials, and professional activists [who] are pecking away at consumers’ freedom of choice. They think we can’t manage our own lives, and through lawsuits, regulations, and taxes, they want to make our food choices for us.” There’s actually something to this argument from personal responsibility, but real choice would require much less imperfect information and an absence of manipulation verging on coercion…I don’t see the WLF pushing that level of deliberative democracy anytime soon. To paraphrase Nader: when all you’ve got to choose from is the evil of two lessers, you don’t have much of a choice.

In other news – I just got back from a trip to DC, where I ran a workshop on agriculture and animal welfare at the Public Philosophy Network’s conference on publicly engaged philosophy. It was great fun: after the opening talk by E.J. Dionne, Bill Galston, Hanna Rosen , and others, I participated in a workshop on social media ethics that helped clarify some things for me (about this blog, about my wikis, about FB and school, etc.), and there were some fascinating paper presentations on topics ranging from farm animals to climate change to bioethics to public policy. If anyone’s interested in getting involved, I’d recommend requesting access to the PPN wiki.

Material girl

So apparently the Humane Society International (HSI) has appointed Ke$ha as its first global ambassador. One blogger writes that “her music is seen to have an underlying message of acceptance of all living creatures” – funny, I must have missed that part.

I’ve thought a lot about whether the identification of animal protection as a ‘hollywood issue’ is a net benefit or liability. On the one hand, we live in a culture of celebrity fetishization – when in Rome, and all that. On the other hand, this allows almost everyone else to dismiss animal advocacy as frivolous moral fluff.

This isn’t to say that a lot of celebrities don’t do very helpful work protecting animals. I just don’t know why capitalist-marketing-behemoth-engineered-sex-and-drug-youth-brainnumbing-blathering-machine Ke$ha’s advocacy would do more good than Pam Anderson’s boobs in reducing the commodification and objectification of sentient living beings.

(I was going to write about Contagion, regulatory policy, and the reach of the state – but I didn’t.)

Autophagy and alienation

Justin E.H. Smith has a good new post on the advertising history of animals eating themselves. There’s even a whole blog dedicated to this macabre-fest: Suicide Food. So where does alienation enter in? I broached the topic of in vitro meat to my students last week, and while we were parsing the pros (health, environment, animal pain) and cons (feasibility, disgust), one of the bigger shortcomings seemed to be that such a food production transition would be yet another step in our alienation from the forces of production (in this case: the food we eat). Either way, the phenomenon of food offering itself up for our consumption is all kinds of messed up. ‘Yuck factor’ indeed.

“Cage-free”

Why is the USDA helping to hype Perdue chicken indeed? “Always raised cage-free…we’re trying to make a better chicken.” A few thoughts: first, this is a form of greenwashing similar to Shaving cream, etc. cans advertising that they’re “CFC-free” —  it’s completely irrelevant. In the case of CFCs and other ODSs, it would be illegal for a company to use them, so all its advertising is compliance with the law. In the case of ‘cage-free’ meat chickens, broiler chickens are never kept in cages; this only applies to egg-laying hens. The real issues when it comes to broilers are stocking density and various forms of enrichment.

On the second point: it’s important to note that the guy in the video (a Perdue scientist, presumably) said “we’re trying to make a better chicken”, not “we’re trying to raise a better chicken.” This gets us into the important bioethical questions about biotechnology, animal genetics, and animal ethics. These aren’t your grandpappy’s backyard birds.

And they even managed to riff on the gendered ethic of care: “she talks to them more than I do”…