Everyday Heroes

Debbie says:

I had a lovely vacation in the Florida Keys, with some of my oldest and dearest friends. As Laurie mentioned, I stayed pretty much completely off the Internet, which is where I usually get most of my information, much of my entertainment, and the vast bulk of my daily dose of advertising.

Last week was different. We got a newspaper every day, and read it. We had broadcast TV on every morning to check the weather, and for a couple of hours most evenings, after it got too dark to birdwatch. We watched movies, sports, The Daily Show, the things my friends watch while I’m reading or hanging out on the Internet. And the remote in our rental house, for some unknown reason, did not have a “mute” button.

It was like being thrown into the way deep end of the pool. Intellectually, I know how much Americans are bombarded with the “you’re ugly” message. Knowing it intellectually is vastly different from spending a week with it. Watching the ads shift from exercise machine to diet pill to diet-pill-that-is-also-a-sleep-aid to hair-thinning cure, was simultaneously horrifying and enlightening.
At one point, I started counting advertisements to see how many of them were about anything “real,” i.e., anything a person could do with their time or buy and then still have. There were some furniture ads. There were a very few around-the-house project ads. There were exercise machines, which are apparently all about getting to watch more TV instead of *gasp* taking a walk. There was one travel ad, which repeatedly stressed how women traveling to Italy are more interested in the high-heeled shoes than the historical or natural wonders. And lots of food and restaurant ads: pizza, fast food, occasionally a higher-end restaurant.
While I literally wasn’t watching, TV advertising appears to have shifted to focus almost entirely on what you can do to change your appearance for the “better,” while exhorting you to keep eating junk and never, ever, use your body for any kind of pleasurable movement except on an exercise bike in front of the TV. Or maybe it was always that bad, and I just don’t remember. (I think I remember more ads for clothes, or housewares, or activities.)

Aside from being alternately frustrated, enraged, and fascinated by what I saw, I came away a little chastened: I think one of the reasons that it’s easy (well, easier) for me to maintain my basic satisfaction with my own body is that I’ve cut dozens if not hundreds, of negative messages a day out of my life.

The effort to push that crap out of our heads is significant, and endless. And that takes us to the title of the post: those of you who are watching TV and still staying positive about your bodies? You’re heroes. I say, keep up the good work, give yourselves breaks when you can, and use that “mute” button!

television, advertising, diet, body image, size acceptance, Body Impolitic

4 thoughts on “Everyday Heroes

  1. This mostly matches my experience of TV advertising — recently I watch up to five or six hours a week, so I’m decidedly sub-par, but at least I get a sampling. The one thing that surprises me in your litany of what is advertised: you saw no car ads? In my experience, cars and beer seem to be the two most-advertised specific categories, particularly on cable channels like Comedy Central and SciFi.

  2. TiVo has changed my life in so many ways, and this post illustrates one of them for me. I fast-forward through 98% of commercials and I always have the option to pause the tv and then fast-forward through commercials if I’m watching live tv. It’s kind of amazing to me what an affect not being exposed to all that advertising has had on the quality of my life.

    I’ve also stopped watching or reading the news. The fear and doom and gloom is hard to take and my friends usually let me know if something major is going on.

  3. I’ll catch a little of cable and network news if I’m traveling, that stuff is crazy, and it repeats until you’re ready to gnaw off a limb.

  4. Hmmm, that’s interesting… I don’t watch tv either, and have seen TV ads about twice in the last 5 years while in other people’s houses as they watch the superbowl. I don’t read magazines either. So I’m free of a lot of negative crap.

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