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Offensive Slim-Fast Ad

November 29, 2010


I’ve seen this ad in wedding and fashion magazines targeted at adult women. I feel that it promotes the ‘thin ideal’ for women in our society, in this case brides.

Dear editors of wedding magazines,

As a plus-sized female growing up in America, it’s sad to think that the happiest event in a woman’s life–her wedding–should be dominated by the conception that all women have to wear the same size dress. Truly, though the phrase may be tired out, everyone has a different body, and women are not being encouraged to love what they have when they see ads such as the above.

The suggestion that this ad makes is that the bridal topper is so heavy that she falls through the cake. The little figure’s day, if not her life, is completely ruined. She has shamed herself and it’s all because she’s ‘fat’. In order to avoid such a fate, the ad warns, brides-to-be should drink Slim-Fast, so they can get slim fast enough to be beautiful for their wedding.

Looking around on the internet, there are a lot of different reactions to this ad campaign (all of which involve bridal toppers that have gotten ‘too fat’), but most women seem to feel similarly: this is demoting the beauty of a plus-size bride. It would seem that a bridal magazine, in an effort to increase popularity and profit, would appeal to as many different types of bride as possible. By displaying an ad like this, a bridal magazine risks losing subscribers. More importantly, though, this makes plus-sized brides ashamed of themselves. As someone who has struggled to lose weight herself, this ad makes me feel that my body simply isn’t good enough.

I would suggest that in the future, bridal magazine embrace the diversity among women’s body types. The show Say Yes to The Dress has an entire segment devoted to plus-sized bridal fittings and designs. While magazines certainly don’t need to swing completely the other way and not feature slimmer women at all, every body type needs fair representation. Ads such as the above are discriminatory and tasteless, and many readers of bridal magazines find them unappealing.

Thank you very much,



Fixing Lindsay’s Image

November 29, 2010

 Lindsay Lohan. She was once an adorable child star, but her name is now synonymous with hard partying and drunk driving. She’s at the Betty Ford Center seeking treatment and has been called too high of a risk for a movie role she was supposed to be in. Her own mother has gone public with her drug issues,and L.Lo looks like a mess that can’t be cleaned up. But with the right P.R. campaign, Lindsay’s career could be put back on track.

First thing first: Lindsay should complete treatment, making public statements relating to her progress and encouraging others recovering from drugs and alcohol to get help. She should hold a press conference explaining how treatment has helped her and what she’s done to get and stay sober. By using her struggle as a learning experience, she can portray herself as a winner rather than a victim.

For her potential community service, Lindsay could do things that are helpful to the public but don’t seem fake. By rolling up her sleeves and involving herself in some honestly hard work, such as Habitat for Humanity, Lindsay could win the public over. The paparazzi would be all over the starlet, and positive pictures would begin showing up in the magazines.

Lindsay could then consider taking on some movie roles. This is risky territory (I Know Who Killed Me was reportedly beyond terrible) and her reputation for being a drugged-out brat will make getting scripts and wooing back fans hard. And since she’s been a target for tabloids for such a long time, and has given them so much to talk about, she’s not going to break away from the negative press so quickly. Lindsay is going to have to grin and bear it, and give frequent, polite statements dispelling any rumors. More importantly, she’s going to have to prove it.

Finally, Lindsay needs to examine the movies that her fans actually like and try and publicize those. Any actor or actress is going to want to pursue new adventures, but now isn’t the time for her. She needs to get back to making funny movies that teenage girls will want to watch. By responding to what her fans like, her fans will see that she cares about who and what made her famous in the first place.

Once she’s a little more stable, financially and mentally, Lindsay might hold a contest in which fans could win a prize seeing her behind the scenes, signed copies of their favorite movies, or a shopping trip. If she can get to a point of trustworthiness with the public (who wants their daughter going to see a crackhead?), she can make such a contest really work to her advantage and pull her career back together.

Advertising with Coca-Cola

November 29, 2010

The thing about Coca-Cola is that it’s not too specialized. Unless you’re under the age of five or diabetic, you drink soda. It’s not a product just for women, or for little boys, or for older people, or for men, or for teenagers. Everybody likes Coke.

This makes advertising Coca-Cola and Coke products an interesting job. The advertisers have to focus on everybody, from kids to the elderly. And they do a good job of it.

As with almost everything these days, Coke has a Facebook page. With over 19 million fans, people are paying attention. The page gives the history of the soft drink and all kinds of photos submitted by fans, old and young, male and female. This creates a family atmosphere, a sort of solidarity between all Coke-drinkers. Following the link on the Facebook page to Coke’s website, one can visit the store, where all kinds of mugs and clothing items are for sale. There’s even a Coca-Cola Monopoly game!

Christmastime is a big time for Coke, since they use polar bears and Santa Claus on their cans from mid-November until the end of winter. Now that the holiday is approaching and the bears are back in business, the website gives a link to the polar bear support fund, which appeals to the environmentalists among us. Who wants to see those cuddly creatures disappear?

Getting off the internet and turning on the TV, Coke still holds sway. There are dozens of ads for Coke at any time, though the World Cup was a huge place to advertise this year. The slogan, ‘Open Happiness’, perfectly represents how simple and generic their strategy can be. Everybody wants to be happy. Like Coke-drinkers, happiness is universally appealing.

Even when I turn to my iPod, where I think the advertisers can’t get me, Coke’s there. I bought a song called ‘Open Happiness’, performed by a bunch of my favorite artists. Yep–it’s for Coca-Cola. Watch the video and see how many strategically placed Cokes you can find.

Coke’s also everywhere at the movies. Before the film starts, a trip to the snack bar is in order. If you’re at a Regal or AMC theater, you’re going to be drinking Coke products. You’ll also be seeing a helpful ad right before the movie begins informing you of all the great Coke products you might have missed out on.

When You Are Engulfed in Greatness

November 22, 2010

In my junior year of high school, I took  back-to-back journalism and creative writing classes. They weren’t related classes; I just wanted to take them both. The same young woman taught both classes, a recent college graduate. She was stylish, sweet, not much older than us, and loved writing of all kinds. She helped establish a school paper, which we sold for 25 cents during lunchtime, and encouraged her students to read whatever they could get their hands on.

She was the one who lent me When You Are Engulfed in Flames, which was David Sedaris’s most recent book at the time. I read it in less than 24 hours and loved every word. This was the book that taught me how engaging and funny non-fiction could be. I would come to read it dozens of times, return it to her, then read it a dozen more after my best friend gave it to me for Christmas. I reviewed it for The Towerlight and recommended it to almost everyone I talked to.

This is a book of memoirs, stories from David Sedaris’s childhood in North Carolina and adult years spent traveling the world with his partner Hugh. What interested me most was, as a teenager interested in film and book critique, the engaging and personal tone of a telling of a real event. Non-fiction didn’t have to be like reading a textbook. People reading about real events could be amused by clever descriptions and good dialogue. These are real stories about being a homosexual in America, about recovering from addiction, about competing with siblings. Naturally, journalism isn’t the same–one is expected to be neutral, rather than put their own spin on things. But if there was a place for one’s opinion in a newspaper or news blog, it’s in a critique.

Not only that, as a writer, it made me want to improve in all ways. I write fiction, non-fiction, dorky little screenplays of this fake soap opera that my friend and I have been working on since we were thirteen. I write the way other people smoke. It calms me down. When I see really good writing, it drives me to want to practice, to get better. Every time I pick it up, it urges me on.

 And last, but certainly not least, it’s a funny book. A really, really funny book. Sedaris isn’t afraid to look bad, which I think is the problem with a lot of memoirs. The narrators always cast themselves as the victim or the hero, but Sedaris isn’t afraid to be the bad guy, or, more often, the dope. The reality of it makes you like him more, not less. It’s the book that has caused me to follow my family and friends around while reading aloud, even as they’re trying to do other things. It’s a supremely enjoyable, smart, dark and hilarious collection. It’s worth every minute you spend on it.

Blog 5: Non-Princesses Need Not Apply

October 18, 2010

Where would my childhood have been without Disney? I loved The Lion King best, but I watched pretty much any movie that came my way. My mother ran an at-home daycare for about six years, and often I’d pop in a Disney movie to keep the kids quiet when I was trying to do homework.

But looking back now, I realize that ‘Disney Princess’ is a phrase that has entered American culture for a reason. It’s like saying ‘pizza with crusts’ or ‘book with pages’; of course a princess is from Disney. in a country with very little royal blood (I haven’t forgotten about your monarchy, Hawaii), princesses are like beautiful, perfect aliens from another planet. It might be different in places like England and France, where the dark side of being on the throne is common knowledge. (The one movie that does touch on a real-life tragic royal, Anastasia, was made by 20th Century Fox,not Disney, and even then the fact that her entire family died isn’t mentioned.)

I recently read an article by Peggy Orenstein that talks about the rapid princess-ification of young girls in America. Drawing from what I read there, it seems like Disney culture has a much deeper impact on girls than boys, if only because the princesses are starring players and the princes have only recently stopped being passive. While their heroics are impressive, the films weren’t meant for boys to watch to learn how to defend and respect women. They are much more likely to be watched by girls, who learn that, if one is in a pickle, a man can be counted on to help them out. The divorce rate of Americans certainly cannot be blamed on the fact that people learned the wrong skills from Disney movies, but perhaps body image among young girls and the raised importance of material objects can.

 Let’s look at these princesses (a Google search of ‘Disney Princesses’ will consistently give you Belle, Jasmine, Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty). All of them have thin waists, most of them have long hair, and two are baring their midriffs. I’m not the kind of person who freaks at the sight of a belly button, but it’s kind of depressing that these girls are considered the pinnacle of beauty, and I look nothing like them. The princesses always have a happy ending, always do what is right and good, always get the pity, and are always rescued. By the time a girl is old enough to watch non-princess Disney characters such as Elizabeth Swann, she’s already a tween, and the less swashbuckling characters have already gone at her.

Though not featured as often, the other Disney women are often princesses in some way. Tiana, Disney’s only African-American princess, starts off as a waitress in New Orleans but marries the prince in the end. Mulan earns the title of the emperor’s successor, which would make her a princess as well. As daughter of the chief, Pocahontas has some princess status. Even Nala, who is a lion and doesn’t wear clothes, have breasts, or act particularly dainty, is technically royal upon becoming Simba’s mate.

Why is being a princess so important? It connotes power, of course, but in a little girl’s mind, it means being able to always wear dresses and jewelry and buy whatever she wants. It’s the ultimate girly dream. And frankly, there’s a lot of money to be made off playing the archetype. Orenstein points out that ‘princess’ merchandise drew in 3 billion dollars globally in 2006.

Is there an upside? Often, the princesses that girls idolize have traits that parents encourage in their children. Belle is an avid reader and learns to see past appearances. Mulan proves that women are just as tough as men, and Pocahontas is not swayed by racism or superiority. Snow White teaches the dwarves to be tidy and helpful, though perhaps the breaking and entering part is something girls should skip. But then again, I remember ‘Whistle While You Work’ when I’m cleaning, and don’t get a subliminal urge to go into the houses of others.

Blog 4: Humor Blogs

October 12, 2010

The internet is amazing. People can communicate instantly, find out news in a heartbeat and post photos and videos of sights and wonders they might have never seen otherwise. Yes, the internet is an incredible tool–as well as a showcase for some incredible tools.

Humor blogs and sites are huge. If you’re on Youtube, you could probably spend several weeks perusing funny videos and internet memes nonstop, but now there are hundreds of specialty humor blogs where internet users can go get their dose of daily laughter. Here are three that I personally frequent.

 First up is Fail Blog. Not all of it is suitable for polite company (so, you know, minimize the screen when grandma comes visiting) but nor is it as raunchy or shocking as many other sites (one has the option of showing only fails that are deemed PG, such as the one to the left). The site is a collection of pictures that people submit of things that ‘fail’, be it a blatant sexual innuendos, bad spelling, people getting into ridiculous accidents or ironic product juxtaposition.

Fail Blog is a little different from other blogs since the submissions are voted on by the readers before making it to the front page. It’s very little actual reading (unless the fail involves a block of text) and is  lightweight, simple humor that just about everyone will understand. The blog’s democratic nature and picture-post style makes it more of a gallery than a diary, and, as with mostly everything on the internet, commenters are welcome to share their two cents. It’s typical ‘guy-humor’, in the same vein as Jackass, in which people getting hurt is funny and the more creative it is, the better. There’s not much to debate in terms of credibility, since the site manager rarely posts his her or personal opinion. It’s more of a simple, “Look! This is funny because it fails!”

The other blogs I follow have much more vocal creators, such as Jen Yates. She and her husband John run a blog called Cake Wrecks. Ever see a cake at the grocery store that looked like it was decorated in the dark, or ask for someone’s name only to find it miserably misspelled? Jen and John are determined to find the ugliest, goofiest, sloppiest and laziest cakes out there. Unlike Fail Blog, which is seen and not heard, Jen provides playful narration and often makes up silly stories to accompany the cake photos. And if you want to see well-done designer cakes, the site has you covered as well with their ‘Sunday Sweets’, in which they display beautiful cakes every Sunday.

Cake Wrecks is done in more of a diary-style, providing the reader with information about the blogger’s personality and sense of humor. Though the focus is not on the blogger’s life, it’s much more personal. As with all the other blogs in this review, comments are displayed, giving the reader a feeling of connectivity.It would strike me that more women than men would read Cake Wrecks if only because it’s about cake, but this isn’t the Lifetime Network. I can see a lot of guys finding the gooey atrocities featured on the site pretty damn funny.

If you’re looking for something a little less sweet,though, try Regretsy. The virtual crafting market Etsy is a place where crafters with vast talent go to sell their wares. Unfortunately, it’s inhabited by many crafters who demand big bucks for crafts so offensive, odd, ugly and poorly made, there just had to be a blog poking fun at them. April Winchell, who operates the blog under the alias ‘Helen Killer’, sniffs out the very worst and provides the kind of sarcastic commentary that makes your drink shoot out your nose. But before you think this all cyberbullying, being featured on the site has actually raised sales for the crafters in question, and numerous charities are supported by the site.

 This, like Cake Wrecks, is more like a diary because it includes commentary from a specific person, though the blog is not about the the person’s day-to-day life (with blogs as well-maintained as these, though, it kind of is their day-to-day life, or at least part of it). Neutrality and objectivity are words not in Killer’s vocabulary. Anything and everything is free for the criticizing, though she acknowledges and applauds a good sport crafter. This blog’s audience is any adult who appreciates the no-frills wisecracks of a slightly pirate-mouthed comedienne, and I’ve got to say, I’m definitely one of those people.

Of the three blogs, I’d have to say Regretsy is my favorite. It combines the edginess and abject stupidity of Fail Blog with a recognizable personality and smart, snappy humor. It allows people to mock one another and then help their fellow man in ways that really count (saying a hat is ugly on a web site isn’t really the same level of impact as donating to Toys for Tots), and it really does provide a good laugh.

Blog 3: Utopia, Dystopia

October 4, 2010

2035. I’ll be 42 then, almost as old as my parents are now. My mother can barely change the channels on the TV (granted, there are close to a hundred buttons between our two remotes) and the thought of falling behind in that way by the time I’m that age is a bleak future in itself. But as someone who has grown up adjusting to a constant shift in technology, hopefully that won’t happen, and technology will be something I can still participate in.

Let’s say that by the year 2035, technology has improved the world in ways beyond today’s comprehension. Smart boards, e-readers and more interactive teaching tools (I’m still rooting for virtual reality helmets to teach history lessons) improve the lietracy and global understanding of the world’s students. As the technology becomes more widespread and affordable, even inner city schools gain access to these wealths of information. With better students going out into the world, more of them will go to college, where the hands-on learning continues.

 As education improves, more solutions to other problems can be resolved, and these can be broadcast over TV and radio. News, weather, traffic and sports will be further in-depth, and TV and radio will be merged into small, handy, iPod-like devices that will become as widespread as the television or radio before it did. A variety of sizes and styles will allow people to carry them in their purse, on a watchband, or clipped to a briefcase or pocket. Narrowcasting will become even more narrow, breaking down information by level of comprehension. For instance, each news company will have a channel for children, one for teens, and one for adults. The information will be at a level each group can understand, allowing everyone to understand the information being put out into the world and creating a society of more global people.

Hopefully, the instant ability for knowledgable people to spread information and opinions can lead to a stop or at least reduction of wars in the world. As more and more people of earth understand each other’s culture through the availabilty of education and technology, bonds can be created and arguments settled. If terrorists can create a campaign through mass media, so can those opposed to terrorism and in support of peace. As education throughout the world inmproves, people can break out of the cycles of poverty that cause hatred and rebellion, and maybe everyone can at last get along. Imagine a world where the biggest problem the United States has with the Middle East is that some of the tourists who visited got a sunburn. It’s possible.

But there’s a dark side to the technology-filled future, and it’s a theme horror movies love to visit. Remember the 2002 movie ‘The Ring’? It was about a cursed video tape. Anybody who watched the tape died seven days later. But there was a way out. If the person who watched the tape made a copy of it before the seven days was up, and forced someone else to watch it, they would be spared in favor of the second person. Here’s the thing–the first tape, the one that was copied, still existed. And if the second person made a copy and showed a third person, then there would be three copies. Three copies anybody could watch, and copy, and rec-copy, and re-copy. This was the very first viral video, and the virus was deadly.

Now imagine  The Ring Tape, being played on the big screen in Times Square. Imagine millions dying seven days later. Imagine the tape making it to Youtube, where anyone can watch it. Curious kids or teenagers who were dared watching this one piece of mass media that has become a plague. Frightened people must try and shut themselves off from all of it, but, as the last blog shows, it is much, much easier said than done. Eventually, our technological creations that brought the human race so much pride eats the world alive. Only the mole-people, hiding in their caves without any cell reception or cable access, will survive.

There have since been other movies and stories about diseases and curses travelling through mass media outlets. It’s a fear that has accompanied the era. Ghost stories in earlier centuries involved aliens and creatures of the unknown, as it was a time of travel and exploration. These days, as the world has been for the most part conquered, people are content to sit back and watch a TV screen or use a computer. The monsters have followed suit.