Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Getting Ranty Up In Here

I try not to get ranty on this blog very often. When it's writing related, I can do that over at the Evil League of Evil Writers, so I save my writerly rants. This time though, it isn't about writing. It's about the media and public perception.

I don't watch the Superbowl. Generally speaking, professional sports don't get me excited, so unless I cave and go to a party, the Superbowl passes without much notice around here. However, I do pay attention when people mention commercials that they loved. This one came on my radar Monday morning.

Now, in all fairness, my first thought (after "what a cute dog") was that it was a funny commercial. It didn't take all that long though before the ad started to bug me.

You see, there's an issue in this country (and in other parts of the world) about body image. (Yes, there is also a problem with obesity, which I will touch on as well.) The images portrayed in the media (especially to women, but to men as well) as "good" and "attractive" and "right" are thin. Yes, they might have curves to go with, but they are thin. That's the ideal preached to the masses--including children. And now we're using a dog to do it.

I'm not saying thin is a bad ideal, but it's not the only "good" or "attractive" or "right" body shape. For a lot of people, thin is not attractive. And for a lot, it's not natural. You heard me right. I didn't say it isn't attainable, I said it's not natural. In the whole of humanity, there's a wide array of body shapes and sizes. Being skinny doesn't mean you are necessarily healthy and being big doesn't necessarily mean you're not. (The opposite, obviously, is true as well.) I have friends who are size 0s and 2s who can eat me under the table. (and I'm not talking about when I'm trying to behave, I'm talking ALL the time.) They are naturally thin. This is okay, but it's also okay that I'm not.

Back to the dog though...

Bolt, the star of the Volkswagen commercial is a mixed breed, specifically a St. Bernard/Australian Shepherd mix. A Saint Bernard is a dog that measures (on average for a male) about 31" at the withers and weighs 200 pounds. It is a big, bulky dog and it was bred to be that way. The Australian Shepherd, on the other hand, stand 21-22" (average for a male) and between 55-60 pounds.  Ten inches in height difference and 140 pounds. It was bred to be that way. And both breeds are working breeds. St. Bernards are used to be guard dogs, rescue dogs, herding dogs and draft dogs for farmers in the Alps. Whereas Australian Shepherds were (obviously from the name) bred to herd sheep, which requires a different set of features and skills than the Saint Bernard. Neither one is "wrong" and neither one is "unattractive". They are what they are.

Bolt was put in a doggie fat suit to film the first half of that commercial--a move that made him look much more like his Saint Bernard half. At the end, he's out of it and racing through the street, looking much slimmer... and like an Australian Shepherd. If a person was to starve their long-haired Saint Bernard to make it look like Bolt, people would be up in arms screaming about abuse.

Yet we have no problem at all looking at someone whose genetics built them bigger than the "ideal" and suggesting a similar plan.

I'm not saying obesity is good. However, there are a lot of people out there who DO eat properly and DO exercise but genetics gave them a slower metabolism and a larger body size. Just like there are people out there who do the same things and because of their very rapid metabolism and smaller size, we label them as anorexic and tell them to eat a cookie. This needs to stop.

We need to stop equating size with health. We need to stop with the labels and the judgement. Find whoever you want attractive, but in so doing, you don't need to make others feel "less than". As for Bolt, he's a beautiful dog. But if you look at the pictures up there, so is the Australian Shepherd. And so are the Saint Bernards. And so is a Greyhound, and a Mastiff, and a Vizsla, and a Shar pei, and...


  1. Great topic, Sel. I hate how some people think that everyone should have the same body type.

  2. Yes! Just because someone is thin doesn't mean they are healthy. Likewise, just because someone is... curvy? larger? doesn't mean they are unhealthy.

    Thank you. <3

  3. The part that kills me is it's a commercial for the Volkswagen Beetle. It's not like this is a Ferrari or something. If cars were people, the VW Bug would epitomize the short and chubby among us.


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