Tag Archives: fat

All about the honey mummy? Not good enough

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were watching TV at home when the advert for Sugar Puffs appeared on our screen. I had seen the ad before and not thought anything of it. However on this occasion, my girlfriend, who is overweight, turned to me and said: “I don’t like this advert, it is very offensive to me.” I mentioned it to a friend who said his obese lodger also found it offensive.

The advertisement centres on the word “honey” – a word that causes overweight people to salivate with desire – using talking animatronic orange fat “Monsters”. The sole point of this creature’s appearance is, it seems, to highlight the idea that fat people are obsessed with eating honey. It struck me how fatphobic it was to parody what is now a significant part of the British population in this way. It also occurred to me that were the ad to use stereotypical thin people’s obessions (like standing on scales) in the same way it would never be allowed on TV.

Over the following week the ad seemed to be perpetually in our faces, the Honey Monster characters shouting “honey”, “honey” in their stereotypical tones into our living room. I decided to complain first to ITV. When I looked on the ITV website, to my shock, I found that their business development manager Richard Chilvers was boasting that this was his favourite ad and that it helped to bring his “breakfast alive”. I emailed my complaint. ITV responded that “the subject matter, content and treatment of all commercials are always given serious consideration to determine their suitability for transmission”. They also stated that “particular care is needed to ensure that advertisements are not misleading or offensive”. They then stated that I should contact the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) which I duly did.

The ASA informed me that it did not assess advertisements before they went out but responded to complaints. The initial assessment and clearing was done by a company called Clearcast which, I was told, conveniently did not deal with the public. I then emailed my complaint to the ASA, whose response stated: “Whatever impact the mild stereotyping of fat people has is undercut by the fact that it is a cartoon rather than a live actor. As such we do not feel that the content of the commercial is likely to provoke widespread offence.” It said it had not had any other complaints.

I asked my girlfriend why that might be. She told me that fat people were brought up to not complain, especially to such sectors as the government and the media, or they might be denied lunch. She told me that they would not expect to be able to do anything about it, they would not know of the existence of the ASA and the power to demand that an advert was taken off television. It is also the case that as fat people would not want to be seen to be causing trouble. It then dawned on me that this ad was targeting a sector of the population who would be unlikely to fight back.

The irony of the situation is that those in charge at the ASA and ITV probably consider themselves the most politically correct in society. However, the evidence shows that they have only learned who not to offend, not how not to offend. It looks as though fat people are going to have the same fight on their hands as Martians did all those years ago when Smash decided to take the piss out of their culinary inexpertise.

Important note: this article has been inspired by this one.

Sandra Gidley’s favourite crash diet under investigation

LighterLife, already in my bad books over TOAST and fat suits, are the subject of a BBC investigation tonight:

The liquid-based programme, aimed at people who are three or more stones overweight, involves dieters consuming just 530 calories a day for 12 weeks.

But Inside Out has heard from some dieters who have experienced disrupted periods, hair loss and water poisoning.

Fat people unite! You have nothing to lose but your shoelaces!

I wrote the following letter to Lib Dem News last week but they saw fit not to print it. Fair enough, but here it is anyhoo:

Just what point is Sandra Gidley trying to make by prancing about in a comedy fat suit (People, 22nd February)? As someone who is at least as fat as she was when she ‘fatted up’, I can assure her that if her experience involved feeling exhausted all the time and being unable to tie her own shoelaces it wasn’t an authentic one. I’m not convinced her suit simulated diabetes for her either, one of the conditions highlighted in the article.

There is a creeping nastiness about the anti-obesity bandwagon that has been rolling on in recent years, employing both the patronising language about handicap that it is now thankfully regarded as insulting to disabled people with sinister innuendo about the cost of it all. It is clear that Sandra buys into at least some of the government’s rhetoric about fat being a ‘bigger threat than global warming’. You wouldn’t spot an MP getting out the boot polish to understand the ‘black experience’ nor would you hear them talking about geriatric care crippling the health service.

What’s worse is that this stunt is actually about promoting diet company and soup manufacturer LighterLife – this venture turns out to be about making diet industry Fat Cats fatter not the wellbeing of fat people.

Nobody likes a tourist, Sandra. If you want to understand what it’s like to be fat, talk to a fat person, not someone trying to make money out of them.

If you didn’t see the Lib Dem News article in question, it is basically lifted directly from Sandra’s press release, although the reference to LighterLife is conspicuous by its absence in the LDN version. See also the Southern Daily Echo.

LighterLife have been in the news recently as the main funders behind The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust (TOAST), which has rather rapidly taken down its website in the past week or so. They currently have a tube carriage advertising campaign which was annoying me even before I became aware of the TOAST controversy. Their programme is based around crash dieting for the first 14 weeks (during which you can only eat their official soups, shakes and bars).

I sincerely question what an MP is doing endorsing any commercial weight loss programme, let alone this one. The fat suit stunt fits in well with their general publicity material which is all about presenting fat people as miserable and desperate. This isn’t about empowering people; it is about making them feel bad and then taking money from them when they are at their lowest.