Fast Food Morality
Image via Fast Food FAILS Ads vs Reality
Appetizing, right? This image comes from one of several websites devoted to examining the differences between fast food as-advertised and as-is. These sites make the same argument: the ads promise fresh, attractive food, but what you get when you buy it fulfills the worst fears of the fast-food consumer. These photographs are the equivalent of showing how images of cover models are photoshopped for magazines. They imply that the companies who push such disappointing food are dishonest cheats.
The distortions of ads ties into a larger complex of concerns surrounding the marketing and consumption of fast food. San Fransisco, for instance, recently banned McDonald's from selling its Happy Meals to protect children ("Won't somebody think of the children?") from the pernicious effects of the toy-waving, high calorie junk food. The toy always rides on other heavily-marketed children's fare, mostly movies. The accumulated force is, many argue, too much for kids or parents to withstand. The child-consumer, like the adult duped by unrealistic ads, is a mindless, uncritical consumer of media and food, drawn in by doodads, bright colors, and that clown. Our mission, then, should be to teach the young how to parse marketing.
Picture of a McDonald's Happy Meal via "The War on Happiness: Leave Happy Meals Alone", The Atlantic
Screenshot of happymeal.com
Instead, we shame them. As other viz bloggers have noted (see Bodies of Evidence, Bodies vs Behavior: The Problems with Childhood Obesity Campaigns, and Lee Price and Exposed Eating), conversations about eating and ways to combat obesity often impute some moral defect to the subjects because of their bodies. The obese, such arguments go, blindly follow the dictates of ads and yet also rational agents whom we should blame for their unhealthy bodies. Even if PSAs don't verbally blame and shame the child, images of fat kids are held up for warning and mockery. Commentary often vocally does blame the parents for their moral failings and poor parenting.
Image via McDonalds Sued Over Happy Meals
Globe cover via Miss Plump Universenet
Several recent books imply that obesity is not only unhealthy, but a sin (e.g., Dieting for God and I Prayed Myself Slim). The correspondence between body and soul is easy and clear. If you do good works (i.e., eat healthy and exercise), your body will reflect it. If you sin by giving in to the deceiver and overeat, your "crime" will out as fat.
But like the habits these ideologies attack, the equivalence of body with soul is temporarily satisfying, ultimately unhealthy, and too convenient.