I’ve come to realize sex sells – it’s no secret. The idea is deeply rooted in American culture and the use of human bodies and provocation in advertising results in substantial success in sales. Consider Carls Jr.’s website, it’s just like any other fast food chain restaurant’s – but with a less than subtle misleading, seductive twist. It features sexy commercials plastered all about front page. My personal favorite is a salad commercial depicting a beautiful, thin young woman that finds the salad so delectable that she tosses the fork aside and begins pouring the contents into her mouth, an ejaculation of lettuce and dressing.
A behind-the-scenes extra clip portrays one of the producers exclaiming, “She looks like a beautiful girl, but she eats like a dude!” – as if the message is going to be beneficial to its viewers. Then, I viewed the ad for their breakfast sandwich, depicting another thin, gorgeous woman. In the ad she is wearing an oversized button down; I wonder where she spent the night? She promptly proceeds to seductively consume a breakfast sandwich, acting like she is ready climax (again) at any moment. Following her consumption of the sandwich, Carl’s Jr. finds it necessary to have her eat just the sausage, oral sex? The question we seldom come to terms with is the actuality of the situation. Would these women, breasts bursting and little curves revealed, ever consume the items they’re advertising? Meals from Carl’s Jr.?
Carl’s Jr and its sexualization of food as an advertising strategy is just one single example of the detrimental relationship American’s have with the food.
Body image is one of the many challenges we need to overcome as a country. I researched this topic quite a bit during the six months I was in a Critical Thinking & Writing class. I wrote several essays on the topic of the American male and female body images. I focused greatly on the infamous world of American advertising. Advertisements depict what the average man or woman desires and strives to be – yet the product and image rarely reflect the standard American’s body type. Women are expected to be detrimentally skinny and men are expected to have a toned, muscular build. Ads we are exposed to are not only selling products, but also, “values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy” (Killbourne). A lot more than visual absorption comes with viewing; a mere glance at an ad can result in our self worth deteriorating or send us a strong motivation towards achieving such an idealistic stature – even if it means achieving that through drastic lengths. In one of my surveys my theory was supported when I found that 67% of 113 Santa Clara female students surveyed admitted that out of all body types, thinness was most craved. I also found that 82% of 61 men surveyed confessed that muscularity was most desired. These aren’t the statistics I find to be most shocking, rather it is the extent people go to obtain the body they desire. Nearly 40% of young men that attend the gym regularly and take dietary supplements, and 34% of young women admitted to going long lengths of time without eating with losing weight in mind. Why does our culture feel the need to push people towards something they are not?
The unrealistic bodily expectations we set for ourselves, and that are our culture enforces, can be lethal – especially if you consider that “10 million women are suffering from a clinically significant eating disorders right now in the United States alone” (Eating Disorders Statistics). Women, and some men, are deteriorating their body by ridding it of the fuel we need for vitality. Sufferers of anorexia have such distorted self body-perceptions that they go to all lengths to lose ‘fat’ that is most often non-existent. Slow heart rate, dry brittle bones, kidney failure, hair loss, and overall weakness are just to name a few of the side affects that come along with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Americans, every day, are destroying their bodies with a low scale reading and a deeply rooted fear of weight gain in mind. Eating disorders are nothing to be downplaying – the results can be fatal. If only this were America’s only unsound relationship with food.
Along with the millions of deliberately starved Americans, there are millions more eating themselves to death. Not only are we obsessed with weight loss, we are also just as passionate about foods that often lead to weight gain. Of course it is acceptable to indulge every so often, but American eating habits have degenerated to the point of “obesity, and illness caused by obesity, claiming “850 American lives every day” (American Heart Association). People that fall into obesity can end up with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, or caused strokes – all of which can be fatal. Americans are fully aware of the epidemic, yet little is being done to prevent it from continuing– good thing we have diet pills! It would be no surprise if an ad for diet pills followed Carl’s Jr’s. It is baffling to consider that advertisements can be misleading enough to advocate for both unhealthy eating habits, and body images that reflect clean eating habits and exercise.
America is a ‘Pill over prevention’ advocator. We take a pill to fix all issues – so the prevention, if any, we partake is not pushed to its full potential. You have a headache? Take a pill. You’re fat and want to lose weight? Take a pill. You forgot to wear a condom? Take. A. Pill. The United States and its citizens as a whole aren’t considering what is causing these symptoms and how to prevent them. As a culture, we need to work on health. Under-eating and overeating aren’t healthy, neither is our pill intake. It would be beneficial to Americans if we took our health into our own hands. Not only do we need to begin eating meals that are the correct portion, balanced, healthy and organic, we need to pair it with exercise. The key to this success will not only be changing our lifestyles, but teaching these critical values to our offspring in hopes of reversing our ‘pill over prevention’ culture and its unhealthy relationship with food. This situation does not have permanence.
American Heart Association. “Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease.” American Heart
Association. N.p., 2013. Web. 29 Nov. 2013.
“Eating Disorders Statistics.” National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated
Disorders. ANAD, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2013.
Kilbourne, Jean. “Beauty…and the Beast of Advertising.” Center for Media Literacy.
N.p., 2011. Web. 09 Feb. 2014.
“What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity?” – NHLBI, NIH. N.p., 2012.
Web. 19 Mar. 2014.