One of the overweight stars of the controversial Georgia anti-obesity ads, Chloe McSwain, told CBS This Morning recently that she has no regrets about doing the commercial and appearing on billboards as the face of a childhood epidemic in Georgia and the nation.
And why should she have regrets? It was an acting job for which she got paid and in which, when you see the real girl in the interview, she proves to the world she’s truly good actress.
McSwain plays a way self-loathing girl in the ad, but she’s super confident in real life, comfortable with herself and getting interviewed on national TV. “I’m very pretty,” she tells reporter Mark Strassman at one point in the interview, a statement that kind of undermines the messages in the obesity ads. “I have a lot of confidence,” she practically condescends to him at the end of the segment, which isn’t supposed to be true, according to the Georgia Children’s Health Alliance, the agency that came up with the campaign.
Strassman doesn’t know what to do with the fact that McSwain is happy in her own skin either, offering us this tautology tinged with the voice of concern: “As Chloe has gotten taller, she’s also gotten bigger.” He’s unaware that that’s how it works? But what he means to say is that she’s gotten heavier, which, by the way, is also a common consequence of accumulating height. The attuned ear knows that what he wants us to understand but hopes to avoid saying is: Chloe’s not growing up to be skinny.
It’s hard for me to believe that anyone believes these message might be effective. Shaming is the worst kind of motivator, in that it’s not motivating at all. The ads don’t even try to offer a solution. They just remind viewers — or possibly inform them — that it sucks to be fat.
I don’t live in Georgia, so I’ve only ever watched these ads on YouTube. I’d love to see just where they come up and on which shows. Do they pop up before ads for Paula Deen’s cooking show? Do they follow spots for those new Philadelphia cream cheese products? Or run between fun, exciting ads about Gushers and Honey Nut Cheerios and Wednesday night wings specials at chain bar-and-grills?
I wonder how much more effective the Georgia Children’s Health Alliance may have been had they spent money on lobbying for tighter regulations on advertisements aimed directly at kids. The obesity ads tap into this idea that’s all too prevalent in this country, that the individual bears the entire responsibility of every problem they encounter. But if obesity really were only the fault of the person bearing too much weight, how could we be calling this an epidemic? Epidemics are typically so widespread because the force of the disease is bigger than any one individual can contain or manage.
Anyway, the star of the Maritza ad, who is neither diabetic nor hypertensive — but who is adorable, capable and, yes, confident — is evidence enough of the ads shortcomings. Looking to advertisements to help solve the obesity problem is a good idea, but creating fat ads isn’t going to do anything. Regulating fattening ones makes more sense.
Here’s the CBS segment [via Jezebel]: