The Real Reason Why Americans (and Everyone Else Who Watches American-style Mass Media) Are So Fat

Yes, I have a theory about this, too.  You know the usual argument: people (especially women) who watch American-style mass media feel bad about themselves because, as they are watching, they implicitly (or explicitly) compare themselves to the people they see projected on screen and when they don't measure up, they eat out of frustration at not being as beautiful (i.e. skinny) as they wish they were.

Perhaps.  Certainly, if you listen to what the characters in the television shows, movies, and advertisements say to and about each other, you will get the impression that they all think that being thin is better.  Indeed, the thinner the better.  And yet, what are we really seeing when we watch, e.g. Dana Delaney as Dr. Megan Hunt intervening on behalf of the young woman whom her bartender boss is forcing to starve?  Two (or three, actually--Dr. Hunt's boss, even thinner, gets in on the conversation, too) incredibly thin women talking about how one of them needs to eat more.

Our minds may be fooled (maybe), but our bodies aren't.  We may be telling ourselves, "Look, she's so beautiful and thin," but inside our bodies are screaming, "She's starving!  They're all starving!  I had better eat, or I might starve, too."  Just because the skeletons are well-dressed with long hair, rather than shaven and in matching camp uniforms doesn't mean we (our true, inside selves) cannot see that these women are TOO THIN, whatever their mouths are saying, however longingly the men (actors all) look at them.

And so we eat.  I noticed this especially this winter when I was overcome with the need to eat vast quantities of popcorn while watching so many shows on my iPad ABC player: Modern Family, No Ordinary Family, Body of Proof, Castle.  All cast with beautiful, beautifully thin women.  Whom, if we saw on the street, we would immediately recognize as TOO THIN.  I know this, I've seen one of them.  Okay, not Julie Bowen (Claire Dunphy) or Julie Benz (Stephanie Powell) or Dana Delaney (Megan Hunt) or Stana Katic (Kate Beckett).  But I did see Gwyneth Paltrow on campus once, when they were shooting Proof (2005).  And guest what?  She was TINY.  Tiny.  Tiny.  Skinnier than almost anybody I ever see in real life.  Sure, the camera adds a few pounds--but, deep down, our bodies aren't fooled.  We know we're watching walking skeletons, no matter how much we like looking at their smiles.

Here's my theory.  I think that Americans, and everybody else watching our glamorous, oh-so-deceptive media, is eating out of terror for self-preservation, just as we do when we look at images of prisoners from the concentration camps or children dying of famine.  Which is fine if you are selling popcorn at a movie theater or snacks for people to eat while watching television or videos at home.  But wrong, wrong, wrong if what you want is for people to be healthy and fit.


  1. I don't think it's even as complicated as that. It's much simpler: the fattening, bad-for-us food is cheaper and more readily available. It's simply easier to eat badly in this land of plenty we've built for ourselves :/

  2. I agree, it is expensive to eat healthily. But I noticed myself eating more (expensive) popcorn while watching these shows with skinny women than I do when, e.g. reading novels. So it made me think.


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