Beach body ready
In April, an advertisement began to appear on the London underground, depicting a very trim and toned blonde woman in a bikini, with the slogan ‘Are you beach body ready?’ At first glance, it didn’t look much different to many other adverts. But it seems people were offended to see such mainstream advertising which spoke directly to anyone who was not as thin and attractive as the lady in the poster. The ads were selling a weight-loss product, Protein World, but people’s weren’t happy and took the following action: amusing and imaginative graffiti appeared on the adverts; women protested in their bikinis, stating they were already ‘beach body ready’; lots of petition signatures; an Advertising Standards Authority enquiry and the Chief Executive of Protein World likening feminists to terrorists. Of course now, since the adverts were taken down, the whole thing has died down.
The only mistake they really made was to misjudge their audience, and probably also being a bit out-dated idea. These days, adverts are increasingly selling us a value system – they include Feminist messages or depict racial equality. People expect more from their advertising these days. They want to be entertained, or want to be told something meaningful or profound, or taken on a magical journey. So unsurprisingly, instead of meekly surrendering, London’s women were righteous and up-in-arms. They weren’t going to be told what to do or how they should be looking.
The Protein World adverts don’t really represent anything new. The vast majority of the time, products are sold by attractive or quirky-looking people. If you’re going to get annoyed with Protein World, you might as well get annoyed with the whole rest of the diet industry and perhaps also with any company using thin, attractive people to sell a product.
Okay so yes, the body in question was not the most healthy of bodies, but then neither is an overweight one. The images we are presented with in the media satisfy some appetite, or they would not prevail so. It’s like women complaining about the portrayal of women in women’s magazines – yet they buy and look at those magazines themselves. We always have choice; it’s still down to us whether we believe in the superficial things in life, or gentle, subtle and meaningful things.
We are offended by the portrayal of thin, attractive people in media because somehow, these images mean something to us. This is the awkward truth. In a sense, I’m saying that deep-down, all those offended just wish that they looked more thin and attractive; in essence, that they are jealous. But that would be missing the point. The offended individuals are having a battle with themselves. Because while they know, intellectually, that there is more to life than being thin and beautiful; emotionally, the images make them feel inadequate. And they cannot quite reconcile the two and find a way to be immune or indifferent. I have every sympathy with their plight. It’s frustrating when you can’t find equilibrium and the world just seems bad and you are one of its victims. We all feel that way sometimes. But there are ways to work through this – to locate your vulnerability and patch it up; to gain a deeper and more realistic understanding of life, where you can feel more in control.
We admire beautiful bodies. This is why adverts like Protein World attract our attention. It is perfectly O.K. to admire another person’s body but we should not admire a body without remembering that there is a person inside of it. By placing myself, first and foremost, as a person among people, I gain a richer and more harmonious view of the world. You could be the most stunning human being ever to walk the earth but if you aren’t able to see and know what really matters -what’s on the inside, not the outside- you are at a loss. Life is precious. Yes, we were each given life on its own terms. We may have to face all kinds of challenges that others do not. But it is a sin to ourselves to sink into superficiality; to judge ourselves by such cruel standards. Why not be kinder? Kindness is really something to be proud of.