Monday, July 04, 2011

Still think intent doesn't matter ?

If you recall about a month ago I did a post on an ad featuring images of a fat guy being used to sell ad space. Well my problem with the ad was that the images were used in a "hey hurry up and buy this ad space before this fat guy takes all his clothes off" context. (Also check out Renee's chime in on it.) Pretty messed up right? It would seem that others don't think so.

A week or so after I posted on this ad campaign the folks over at Sociological Images weighed in on it. The person that wrote that post seems to recognize the fat hatred (although I think they went through a bit of length to keep it gender neutral, lengths I doubt would have been taken if the featured a fat woman but that's another story) but were a few that thought otherwise:
Traditional attitudes to male and female fatness are not the same (obviously). The male beer belly is a symbol of strength, appetite and self-reliance (because, of course, only unmanly men care about their appearance), and the idea that it is unhealthy and unattractive reinforces that self-reliance message. This model is clearly not supposed to be ashamed of his body.(Emphasis mine.)
If only it were that simple.

Okay while I think its great that that model is not ashamed of his body I think the problem here isn't what he thinks about his body but the manner in which the ad agency chose to use it.

Take Chris Farley. If he were alive today and you asked him if he was ashamed of his size I bet you would get a resounding no. However I dare you to prove that "its funny because he's fat" had nothing to do with the appeal he had with fans during his relatively short career. Let's take someone that current. Kevin James. You really think that his material would be great if he were the same size as say Adam Sandler? Oh he could be but I bet you his material would very different.

And the reason those things work the way they do is because society at large thinks that fat is disgusting and unattractive but can be quite funny when used "properly". If that ad he used an image of a guy that's more conventionally attractive the ad space may have still sold (and possibly still won an award) but I think the reasoning would have been very different. My money says if he were conventionally attractive the tipping point would have been homophobia rather than fat hatred (which may have been counted by an effort to keep the image up by those who are attracted to men). I mean think about it like it were Hooters. More than likely most of the women that work at Hooters restaurants probably don't think they are being objectified but when you really get down to it why do the owners/managers hire those women? To show off their bodies.

Its times like this I believe intent matters and in this case I believe it was the intent of the folks who ran that ad campaign to use that man's image in the sense of, "Come on buy this ad space. You don't want that guy to take all of his clothes off do you?"