Advertising in the alternative reality

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Posted by HSG on January 09, 2005 at 20:27:53:

Below is a faithful reproduction of a weight-related advertisement which is, in many ways, reminiscent of any modern diet ad (right down to the naming of a medical "authority").

However, there is one all-important distinction between this, and any run-of-the-mill starvation promo: this ad promotes a product to fight emaciation, and encourages the development of curves.

But this is not an advertisement from an "alternative reality" of the imagination. Rather, this is a real-life promotion . . . from 1890.

Before the 20th century, before the media amassed itself into a brainwashing machine, this ad reflected the reality of what men and women genuinely desired (and, deep in their hearts, still do); i.e., the timeless ideal of full-figured femininity.

The promotion is blunt and inelegant (and in that way, nothing has changed in the intervening century), but consider this excerpt from the ad copy:

Don't look like the poor unfortunate on the left above, who, shorn of her artificial inflationary devices & pads, must, in the confines of her bedroom, through shame, try to cover her poor thin figure from the gaze of her beloved spouse . . . when it is possible within weeks of taking these Patented Foods to walk gaily and confidently through your bed chambers, conscious of YOUR PERFECTION of FORM!

Note that in this reality, "perfection of form" is defined as a voluptuous shape, and a "poor thin figure" is something that needs to be concealed. Note also that this ideal was so dominant, that women who failed to live up to it felt the need to resort to artificial enhancements, in the form of padding.

So is this really an ad from an "alternative reality"? Not at all. It is we who are living in the alternative world--a world in which mainstream tastes and marginal tastes have reversed positions, through the power of media propaganda.

Without modern media distortions, men and women would still revere the Classical ideal that this advertisement reflects. But over the past century, the out-of-the-mainstream press has imposed its fringe tastes as the dominant standard, to the suppression of all others.

But the desperation with which the press is currently attempting to re-entrench that underweight standard reflects the fact that their aesthetic hegemony is threatened. Women are again resorting to "artificial inflationary devices" (albeit in the form of silicone and plastic) to enhance their figures, as the Classical ideal slowly returns.

Let us hope, however, that in the future, more women pay heed to the subtext of this century-old advertisement, and realize that food is a better cultivator of curves than any inorganic matter.

As one modern advertising slogan famously puts it . . . Sexy girls have dessert.

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