There is always a lot of controversy as to what sort of models should be hired by advertising firms and what sort of body types should be promoted by our culture. Fat models are now called “plus-sized models” by the politically incorrect crowd who push their special interest agenda onto the rest of the culture by way of shaming, boycotts, and threats. Such a case occurred recently over an advertisement for a company called “Protein World” selling some sort of weight loss pills or health supplements. The ad featured a thin model whose skin color and hair color was grayed out wearing a yellow bikini swimsuit with a matching yellow background. Some people who were quoted as objecting to the advertisement said that Protein World is making passersby “feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model.”
Apparently those protestors (whose names of course are never given since they don’t really exist as individuals) are color blind, for the color bronze does not appear anywhere in the advertisement and especially not in the flesh of the model whose skin is grey toned, thus proving that the quote or the quoted statement was fictitious and made-up whole cloth from thin air by someone who had not seen the advertisement. Such is the state of activist journalism or incompetent journalism which either writes or refuses to challenge the statements issued by special interest groups today.
The primary objection centered around the model who appears thin and to some people appears to be thin to an unhealthy degree. But what raises suspicions with me is that in some versions of the advertisement which appear online the model’s individual ribs are clearly visible and in others they are not. Conclude what you will from that, but to me it matters very little since photo manipulation (and it is clear the photo has been manipulated for the sake of color if nothing else) is common-place and should not be surprising to anyone at this point in history. There is simply no way of telling how thin the actual model is and so whether her health is at risk is a matter of conjecture for the general public and should only be something for the owner’s of the company to consider as a matter of conscience.
I take a passionate view of free-speech and firmly support the company’s right to run the advertisement in any case. I do not believe that there was anything especially abnormal or offensive about the advertisement to warrant the phony outrage, but that is the modus operandi of the terroristic political left which seeks to enforce its will upon the culture. The advertisement was much more mild in its sexual content than the billboards in Las Vegas and not as grotesque as the images of a dying Bella in the third Twilight movie titled, “Breaking Dawn.”
Although I strongly oppose strange health supplements, diet pills, starvation diets, and steroids (all of which are commonly sold and promoted by people who falsely claim to be health conscious) I take a dispassionate view of the subject of using models of any particular sort in advertisements which promote such products (or for any other purpose for that matter) on moral grounds although I have personal views on the use of certain kinds of models in my own art.
My own views are very nuanced and demand their own post, but as of now I can say that there is simply too much media today to think that any one advertisement is going to affect the culture to any real degree and I am certain that there is space enough in the market for any company to try any model of any body type to selling any product in any forum and that people can decide which companies to support without a phony ground-swell of political pressure from competitors or political opportunists, communist community organizers, misandristic, gender supremacist, feminist, hate-groups.
Free-speech allows the company to display its wares on the open market as they choose to and free-speech allows people to critique and criticize the methods of the advertisers and the company which hired them and customers get to decide for themselves where to spend their money; which is the wonder of capitalism destroyed by mandatory product and service purchases as now required by tax-payer funded subsidies and required purchase of Obamacare compliant health insurance and things like car-insurance, home-owners insurance, and so on which are now required by the government.
To provide an only slightly more free-market solution to the problem of overly thin models some groups have promoted “plus-sized models.” I say that it is only a slightly more free-market solution for the same terroristic tactics are used to pressure companies into using those models as were used against the Protein World company to try to force the removal of their advertisement. If fat models are a good idea the market will reward companies which use fat models and if not then it falls outside of natural law and the natural order of things and is rebellion against the laws of God to pressure companies into their use. I tend to think that the use of fat models will be more successful selling some products than others and will be more useful for targeting some groups of potential customers than others as well-known patterns of successful and failed advertisement campaigns flow along those lines. However I have my doubts as to how well advertisement actually works myself except in the case of advertising reduced price sales or new products.
It has been noted that there is no serious movement to promote the use of fat male models and so the movement to use plus-sized models has a stink of misandry to it and that view appears to have some merit on its face. However if we examine our culture further we see that many types of modeling are not labeled as such, but are modeling of a sort nonetheless. If we use a broader definition of what constitutes a model we find a lot of fat male models.
For example; male comedians are models of a sort, many of whom do not even write their own material. They often star in movies written by people who have no ability in front of a camera and so the fat male comedians are used as “models” of comedy. These more charismatic performers use their comically shaped body to portray a funny character or caricature that we can laugh at.
A lot of those fat male comedians are so overweight that they have died early because of their poor health. They are seen as disposable commodities who have to humiliate themselves for chuckles.
I’ve always felt bad for those performers not because of their weight, but because it is their weight and not their performance at which the majority of the audience is laughing at. Their poor health is the punch line of many of the jokes written for them or which they write themselves to earn a living and they suffer a real detriment both emotionally and physically for living in that state. It is really no different than gawking at a fat woman or dwarf or deformed person inside of a tent at a freak-show carnival. It is a form of exploitation and emotional abuse for material reward. A dwarf however can not change his condition, but a fat man can and therein lies a greater ethical problem for the audience. For while most of those comedians are rather funny even without their excessive weight being taken into consideration their managers have invested in the unlikelihood that they will never lose a significant enough amount of weight that it would change their appearance and because their whole comedic routine is written around fat jokes and self-humiliation they are terrified that losing weight would mean people would view them as less funny thus ending their careers. Being fat then becomes part of their identity to the detriment of their health and the exploitation continues until they die.
How many of these men have to die from poor health before we stop laughing? Just off the top of my head I can think of John Candy, Chris Farley, and John Pinette, who all died because of poor health probably related to their weight at least in part. Worse yet, as we have seen with many musical performers we, also have seen drug use as a major contributing factor in the death of comedians and actors, many of whom were overweight. When drug use is combined with excessive weight the burdens on the body are impossible to overcome. For example; Pinette had lost a lot of weight shortly before he died and was making good progress towards a more healthy body as far as it appeared, but the effects of liver and heart disease appear to have already taken their toll.
Therefore we do have a responsibility not to frequent or contribute to businesses that use models which are unhealthy whether they be too thin or too fat including those businesses that use performers that use harmful drugs but it is not always easy to tell how fat or thin a person really is without seeing the person in person and drug use of celebrities is usually concealed behind many layers of deceit, many lawyers, handlers, Svengalis, and fraudulent prescriptions written by private doctors.
Furthermore the culture, diet, and breeding habits of the population is always changing so that prevailing body-types change making it difficult to know who is naturally fat or thin and who is not. If we want to be just and not discriminate against someone based upon their genetic predispositions in regards to weight we can’t forbid someone from being a model simply because they are naturally thin or especially tall anymore than we could tell a man he can not make us laugh simply because he is fat or short.
In the past fat, or at least plump, female models were often used for portrayal in still art, especially for figure work. My knowledge of art history leads me to believe that it has only been within the past one-hundred and fifty years or so that have thinner models been preferred and even then, not always.
The change in tastes seems to have begun when ballet dancers and professional french models became more common models hired by wealthy painters than the lower class commoners and prostitutes which were more commonly used by struggling artists. As we now know excessive weight can be an indication of poor health just as starvation can be and so the lower classes are more likely to be found at the extreme ends of the weight spectrum than the wealthy are for nutritious, but low-calorie food, is expensive and not as readily found within urban areas as fresh produce is in found in farm country and high priced sub-urban grocery stores.
Still today classical painters and life drawings classes still acquire plump models because of their accessibility (often other students are used) and because the roundness of larger women enhances the strength of the curves that guide the eye across the canvas adding to the beauty of the final piece. Because the larger forms, when overlapped, force more perspective (which is important for the sake of a three dimensional illusion in a two-dimensional medium) fatter models do not detract from the appeal of mediums like charcoal drawings as much as they do for say; color photography or film. Camera work, especially color camera work, and the soft lighting used to light glamor models seems to add weight to model because the soft lighting makes the edges softer and so the definition of the form against the background is less defined. Occasionally black and white photographers, especially those that use dramatic lighting, will prefer a plump model, but even there the effect of a fatter model is not always desirable, especially for nudes, as the camera captures all the wrinkles and folds of the flesh which are ignored by most artists when portraying a person in classical mediums. For the most part photographers prefer young and thinner models with smooth skin rather than models which are old and fat. However thin elderly models are often highly prized for the wrinkles and depressions in their lean faces for photographic portraiture.
Runway models tend to be especially thin and tall because the perspective at which they are viewed is from below so the worm’s eye view perspective is more forced if the model is thin and tall rather than short and wide. For that same reason run-way models usually wear very tall heeled shoes.
And so we can see that the model is chosen for the medium and models of certain body types are more likely to find work in the fields dominated by the mediums that compliment their figures. Plus sized models then would be able to find most of their work in selling clothing to women of like size and that is primarily how they are being used.
However after viewing a number of television commercials featuring plus-sized models I have noted that there is a deception taking place. I have noted that those models are only technically plus-sized because they have large frames, but that they are otherwise healthy and thin. They have curves, but natural ones and not ones due to poor diet.
So then the plus-sized model advocates are STILL preferring thin over fat and are pure hypocrites by the reasoning they espouse which centers around “loving women of all sizes and shapes and types.” They are still not hiring models in poor health with poor diets.
Personally I think it would be irresponsible to promote an unhealthy lifestyle in any sort of advertisement, but I am consistent in saying that people that are excessively thin or fat should not be rewarded with contracts and I say that a balanced healthy lifestyle should be the image promoted by most media in our culture. But as I have already written I take a dispassionate view on the subject of the use of models of one sort of another within reason as long as health of the model is taken into consideration as I feel there is enough media that there is plenty of room for artists with all viewpoints on the subject to choose the model they prefer for their work themselves. And therein is my real objection to the controversy.
It is the artist who chooses his model and his choice should be made based upon what model he thinks will be best for his medium and subject matter with cost and time and sitting or standing ability of the model being only a few of many factors he should consider.
Never should any outside group try to force their world-view upon the artist. Instead it is the artist that is to show his view to the world through the medium and model he has chosen of his own volition.
If anyone feels that more fat women should be portrayed by media in our society (and one could argue that there may be some cause for that in that a larger portion of the world is now well-fed than starving… Thank God for capitalism!) then those groups should learn the discipline of art themselves and make pieces which reflect their world-view freely. But the political and economic pressure of pro-fat-feminist groups should not influence the work of artists which often choose their models for reasons people not trained in art have no understanding of, only one of which includes their own world-view about health, and to which they are entitled, and of which they are entitled of sharing with others through art.