A Question of Image

The fight against obesity is a theme that provokes passionate debates in the United States. The country wants to fight against this epidemic using preventative campaigns; at the same time, obese people themselves have formed a powerful lobby to fight against the discrimination to which they are subjected.

It is therefore a real conundrum trying to encourage children to not become obese while simultaneously communicating to them that being fat should not evince ridicule. It’s the serpent that bites its own tail, especially when it comes to designing these anti-obesity campaigns.

The latest mini-scandal was incited on the other side of the Atlantic. Previous campaigns utilized images of children that were actually obese, which caused problems in their daily lives, as they became subject to all types of ridicule. This time, however, the problem is entirely different. The creators of the new anti-obesity campaign decided to use the image of a “normal” child with an image of that same child next to it — but obese. To make this miracle happen, the original photo of the little girl was touched up using world-renowned software, in order to avoid the abuse provoked by the last campaign. They hoped to ensure that the child would not become subject to insult or mockery, since she is not obese in reality. The idea seemed innocent enough: Look at what this child could become if she continues to drink too much soda.

The women depicted in magazines also get touched up, but we find less to say about that. We gaze at glossy images that lead us to believe that a woman is a perfect being — thin, often too thin. A completely false ideal of beauty, completely inaccessible, has somehow become a sort of norm. This obsession with being thin at all costs should also be a scandal. But the fashion industry undoubtedly carries more influence than the public health sector, which just aims to spread awareness among children and their parents of the need to eat healthier.

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