I chose obesity because it is a significant problem all over the world, but especially in the U.S.  It is becoming increasingly biomedicalized within society.  The Conrad article states, “Most medicalization studies focus on how nonmedical problems become defined as medical problems, usually as illness or disorders.”  This is evident in that obesity is no longer just about being overweight.  The condition itself is not considered an illness, but is commonly linked with other concerns such as diabetes, heart problems and other serious health issues.  These obvious health issues combined with societies ever growing obsession with being thin (and finding an easy fix to get there) are main reasons why obesity has become so biomedicalized.  Add to this the increase in portion sizes and decrease in exercise & general activity that has occurred throughout society over the past decades.  Also factoring in that it is far cheaper to eat processed food than healthy, and often times easier, faster, & cheaper to eat fast food.  Most people, unless provided with access to fitness & meal plans(typically common among upper class individuals), are thus unable to compete with what society says is normal/healthy and seek the easiest most attainable way of achieving this – because looking like celebrities is seen as healthy and therefore symbolizing wealth (seemingly gives higher socioeconomic status), and vice versa. The fact that insurance companies cover such quick fixes as surgery and diet pills, and that advertisers make a profit off of these ideals & desires cemented in our culture have helped to catapult obesity to its biomedicalized status in society.

Nowadays, there are so many things that one can do to aid in weight loss, from surgeries, to medication, to diets & nutrition supplements. And so many different types of weight loss supplements out there, with so many different celebrity sponsorships, its hard to go five minutes without somehow being bombarded with information on how to loose weight and/or get the perfect body (preferably with minimal work or change in routine).  I managed to find a couple advertisements, one from Nutrisystem, the other from Weight Watchers (I know there are many more out there). Both use celebrities, Janet Jackson & Jennifer Hudson (both symbolize strong female role models/idols), as spokespeople, talking about their weight struggles and how they’ve overcome them.  This is done to show that even celebrities, seen as perfect, who we idolize are human, and have their imperfections. These imperfections, which they have ‘struggled’ with allows for a connection to the intended audience, suggesting ‘if I can loose weight so can you’.  Also, both suggest no need to change eating habits or daily routines, which is key in selling diet aids in our culture, filled with busy & lazy people.  Another key point used in both these ads, is that although both women are popular among many, they are both symbols for black women to relate to, expanding audiences, and opening doors for the advertisers to make even more money.  Another example of this expansion of audiences are the recent Weight Watchers commercials starring Charles Barkley, relating to & advertising for mens weight loss (even when dressed in drag – http://youtu.be/Vs57GZYHtdM )

These mention nothing of doctor patient interactions, or any other medical information, but are more focused on self improvement.  This is to be expected with the way obesity is viewed, particularly in our society. Also with our cultural obsession of thinness, which should ideally be on health instead, no matter what size you may be.



2 thoughts on “Obesity

  1. I really enjoyed your analysis regarding the commercials you analyzed. I completely agree with everything you said. I did have a different though, however. I believe both commercial have a sense of sexual attraction to them too. The Janet Jackson commercial and the continual ‘Get on it’ comment connects directly to a sexual ideology in our minds. Not to mention we all want to look sexy, it also helps if we have a sexual sense of connection with the commercial. The Jennifer Hudson commercial mentioned she doesn’t have to suck anything in anymore which would make us all feel sexier.

    The commercials connect so perfectly with what we all want to look like and feel that it causes us to feel attracted to the idea of using their product to loose weight, even if weight does not need to be lost (if you are not overweight).
    Medications hold the most important role in American society. Without medications there would be no ‘quick fix’ for many physical or mental ailments; even if these medications complete more of a placebo affect withing the individual using them. As we are a lazy and extremely busy people, we prefer something that is quick, effective, and easy. Medications are the easiest and quickest fix for any ailment. There is not thinking, doing, or working outside of your normal routine (except just taking the medication) which is what most American’s want.

    This says that we want health, well-being, and success but only when we can get it as easy as possible. We don’t want to work any harder than we have to in order to achieve our goals, our health, and our success. We would greatly prefer to have everything handed to us on a ‘silver platter’ as the saying goes.

    As far as these commercials go, American’s only want to work as hard as an idol has to work, we don’t want to have to go above and beyond the work of any other individual. These weight loss commercials show that you don’t have to do anything outside of your normal life in order to loose weight. The program will work around you.

  2. I really liked reading your post, and I think this is an interesting topic in the media today. I agree with your analysis in that it’s hard to go through the day without hearing about a new product that will help you lose weight and look better (because the two always seem to be linked). I think they also use celebrities in these commercials because they are widely recognized, and it helps the company reach out to a broader range of people. Whether a consumer is a fan of the celebrity or not, just seeing the celebrity’s face makes the consumer pay more attention to the commercial. The ads are interesting also because there is no mention of doctor-patient interactions or any medically researched information. However, the evidence they use is experience-based; they’re using the people who use “Nutrisystem” or “Weight Watchers” (like Jennifer Hudson) as the evidence that the product works.

    Although I would agree that obesity is a problem in the U.S. today, it certainly is highly medicalized and biomedicalized such that even people who are not overweight feel the pressure from advertisements to lose weight. I think this says a great deal about our cultural ideologies. We put emphasis on looking the best, being thin, and being perfect, and that prompts many people to think they are overweight and need to be thinner. Additionally, these commercials are produced such that the consumer feels the only logical thing to do is use the product. This is similar to the birth control example in the lecture materials; they make the consumer feel that using the product just “makes sense” and is the obvious choice.

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