When does cultural jamming become fat shaming?

Last week we looked into the role of culture jamming, and its implications within anti-capitalist ideology. For me, I have always considered culture jamming as Harold presents, and the slightly more radical detournement as Debord explains, as an overall positive active force within our social networks. The heavy ties of capitalism have in the past relied on a passive viewer, and for me, this movement towards action is one way to escape that passivity. More and more people become aware of some of the more subtle practices of capitalism through both radical and simple attempts at culture jamming.

However, as I began to look further into the world of culture jamming, I noticed that there is a large target on the fast food industries, and in turn on overweight and obese individuals. The United States has been a global target for fast food related capitalism, and growing rates of childhood obesity. From this, a larger focus of culture jammers like Adbusters, has been on the growing weight and health of the nation.

The above spoofs, although meant to bring light to the reality of the content of most fast foods also put a fair amount of responsibility on to consumers regarding their food choices. In these situations the goal is to scare the consumer into healthier choices. Yet, at the same time these images neglect many of the social and political implications that surround the fast food industry. Fast food is a staple for many low income families who are more concerned with having something to eat, than eating healthy. Instead of acknowledging this reality, these examples of culture jamming only work to over look them.

mcdonalds-adbusters.jpg

Even more offensive (the above) is the use of an individual who is overweight to get a message across that very well could be unrelated. Body weight is far more complex than simply eating fast food or not. In this sense, I think that culture jamming is at times guilty of over simplify the issues surround capitalism, and at the same time shaming individuals who participate. Culture jamming plays an important role, but those who engage in this practice have to be aware of the multiple dimensional networks that surround each issue.

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4 Comments

  1. A great post Emma. You brought to light things that was nagging at me since our unit on cultural jamming and its committment of similar tropes it is subversive against. Cultural jamming as an ideological tool and practice is commiting the same fault of oversimplifying complex issues regarding health and the body. And now I begin to question when cultural jamming can bring about a radical but nuanced engagement with their critique. What do you think? Because looking at the example you gave with regards to McDonalds shows a more imbedded conflict and our misrepresentation of issues surronding health and bodies.

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    1. I think this example shows that radical and nuance are a hard dichotomy to hit. Culture jamming functions out of a “no limits” sort of attack on societies. Radicalism movements in general are problematic in this sense because their is always some facet of the network that is forgotten. Radical movements are often guilty of over simplifying and trivializing issues, which ultimately speaks for the societies overall skepticism towards them.

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  2. I agree with you completely, Emma. I noticed this as well when I stumbled across the McDiabetes spoof. It definitely raises many questions; possibly one of the most being who are you exploiting to benefit your activism? Although activism from our perspective is often intended to counter dominant ideologies, it often further marginalizes oppressed groups. Another example of this is anti-seal clubbing activism. While this seems like an approachable cause to support, it’s underlying motivation targets the lifestyles and traditions of Canada’s indigenous peoples. I think this is something that we need to consider more often when looking at which causes we support and which we dismiss.

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    1. This is definitely one of the constant internal debates I have when I engage with controversial activism and more radical movements. As I mentioned to Coco above, when groups trivialize opposing ideology their overall argument becomes difficult to get on board with. Why should society listen to a group of individuals who are unwilling to listen back? Activism is a two way street, and it is difficult support groups who are unwilling to see this reality.

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