Over at Discourse, Samantha Thomas has a post up about a nasty little stunt pulled by The Precinct.*
The ad agency has produced an advertisement depicting a woman offering her child a burger as if it is the same as her injecting him with heroin. Which it totes is, of course. A meal containing carbohydrates, protein and fat which can be legally purchased at any number of outlets and is cheap, filling and deemed safe for human consumption is so easily confused with breaking the law to score a highly addictive and sometimes lethal drug and then forcibly injecting it into the arm of a minor. I mean, god, they’re practically the same thing!
Or, um, not.
(For the full horror, you can watch the video at Samantha’s blog or read my description below**.)
There are so many things I could rant about over this but I’ll restrict myself to two related aspects of UTTER JAW-DROPPINGLY CRAP-ASS FAIL.
The first is the complete glossing over of the realities of food production, marketing, availability and consumption by whichever douche-bag came up with this metaphor and thought it was a clever idea. Setting aside for a moment the obvious fact that ‘junk food’ is not illegal, it is also not a recreational drug. It may not provide optimal nutrition but it is still food and it still provides the body with energy – and whilst we arguably don’t need to get high, we certainly do need to eat. Or we die. Simple. Not only that, but we need to eat what is available to us. We need to eat what food producers provide, what is available to us in terms of budget and location and yes, what is palatable and what we want. Even if there was any worth in the burger-as-drug analogy it would pay to remember not to get the dealers and the users mixed up, right?
Which brings me to my second point. The Precinct obviously thinks it’ll gain industry cred for being all edgy and original here but there is nothing at all original about laying the blame squarely at the feet of the mother. This is a blame-the-mother narrative pure and simple. To borrow a Lily Allen line, it’s not big and it’s not clever. A mother who fails to feed her child to whatever standard The Precinct would approve is simply painted as abusive. Never mind the systemic barriers to ‘healthy’ diets that some families face, never mind that a burger is not a lethal drug, never mind that it is just one burger, never mind that her child appears to be otherwise safe and happy because a loving home is not enough, people. A loving home will never be enough when the OMG OBESITY CRISIS BOOGA BOOGA could come and kill us all at any moment.
Sure, mothers have a responsibility to their children. And that means feeding them. And hopefully, educating them about their bodies and encouraging healthful behaviours and even, in a perfect world, teaching them how to cook and shop and even grow their own food. That’s all fabulous, no argument from me there.
But what about fathers? What about other family members? What about food producers and retailers? What about regulators of advertising and marketing to children? What about health policy makers (whose current focus on weight loss promotion instead of lifting barriers to healthful behaviours like eating fresh food and moving around a lot isn’t helping anyone)? The Precinct doesn’t seem to care much about them.
I mean, why take on the multi billion dollar food industry, or government health policy, or men, when you can tackle the really difficult targets — like women who are just trying to feed their children?
- *They say to raise awareness and draw attention to the dire problem of childhood obesity: you don’t have to be a cynic to see it’s more about drawing attention to their agency and yeah, I’m giving them attention for it, so I guess it worked.
- ** Video Transcript: In a darkened and shadowy room, a boy aged about 3 sits at a kitchen table. He has short blond hair and wears a bright blue t-shirt. He has an open colouring book and plenty of crayons and is studiously drawing. A dark-haired, thin woman wearing a white shirt, knee-length printed skirt and over-sized blue jumper enters the room and sits down at the table. Ominous music begins to play. She opens a paper bag and begins to pull things out and line them up on the table. She has a teaspoon, a cotton ball and a syringe. The camera cuts to a shot of her son happily scribbling. She opens a small package of powder, presumably heroin. She uses a lighter and the spoon to prepare it for injection and fills the syringe. She then produces a black strip of cloth and ties a tourniquet around the boy’s upper arm: he looks worriedly at her but says nothing. She then pushes a napkin into the neck of his t-shirt and suddenly the tourniquet and drug paraphenalia are gone and they are both holding hamburgers. The boy looks at his mother as they simultaneously raise burgers to their mouths and take a bite. The screen goes black and white text appears. It reads ‘You wouldn’t inject your children with junk/ so why are you feeding it to them?/CHILDHOOD OBESITY. Break the habit.’ ‘