Food commercials typically prey on our lowest impulses and emotions. The worst ones exploit our desires and feed off of our insecurities. It's nothing new that food advertising -- particularly and most dangerously fast food and junk food -- unfairly targets children and women. But a recent look at the evolution of yogurt from health food to dessert product reminded us just how bad it's gotten. We'd like to think we've come a long way from this vintage Grape Nuts ad, in which a woman holds up a little dress and winks, under the tag line, "Any protein cereal helps you keep the right size ... as long as it's Post Grape-Nuts." We're not sure how far we've come at all, however.
These predatory food commercials are a kind of fat shaming, employing food as the villain and pinning people, particularly women, as the helpless victims. Food is portrayed as an evil temptation for which only the weak fall. It might be as seemingly harmless as an escape from daily life (hello, Dove Chocolate), and gets as bad as fat-shaming women into eating disorders. In 2011, Yoplait ran an ad so explicit that the yogurt company had to pull the commercial and apologize.
Food commercials also sexualize food, likening it to a lewd pastime that could replace sex altogether. At face value it's insulting and demeaning -- advertisers shouldn't equate food with something illicit, nor should they equate a woman's sexual drive with something off-limits or obscene. Moreover, are these ads suggesting that women who give in to the temptation of food don't need to worry about sex because they won't be thin enough to get it? It's a twisted perspective that food commercials need to stop promoting.
Women should not feel guilty about eating the food they want to eat -- and it's high time advertisers stop making us feel like they should. From visual artists to comedians, the world over seems to be fed up with food-shaming messages. Artist Lee Price recognizes the complex relationship between women and food and challenges the customary food-shaming in a series of self portraits. "Price's subjects don't ask to be pitied or judged. Their enjoyment of junk food, rather, is equated with a joy of life, and a grand 'screw you' to all who attempt to censor their needs and desires," explains HuffPost Arts & Culture editor Priscilla Frank.
Last month Amy Schumer made a hilarious sketch about women food-shaming themselves and confessing to friends. "I'm so bad," was the repeated refrain. It's important to laugh at the ridiculousness of food-shaming -- but it's equally important to realize it's gotten out of hand, and to recognize the corporate interests at play.
Here are seven of our least favorite food-shaming commercials. Be prepared to get mad.