19 January, 2006

Rhinocrisy Guide to Being Evil, part I

Judging by our comment history, some of our readership are sadly underdeveloped in the range of skills required to be evil. This might become a problem for them in a hypothetical post-apocalyptic future where they will need to be willing to backstab comrades for those precious six gallons of 93-octane unleaded, or administer some effective eye-gouges in the middle of a knife-fight. We thus present this (possibly) continuing series, hoping to contribute to your greater degeneracy. No need to thank us! That wouldn't be evil.

So, a coalition of parents is suing Kellogg's and Nickelodeon because they are apparently running commercial advertisements for "junk food" targeted at children. Both Nickelodeon and Kellogg's deny this vehemently:
A Nickelodeon spokesman said the network has led young viewers to be more active and eat healthier--and has pushed sponsors for more balance in their offerings. And a Kellogg spokeswoman declared that the breakfast-staple maker is proud of its contributions to healthy diets, and its efforts to educate people about nutrition and exercise.
Let us learn from this example. First of all, you will note the use of official spokespersons. VERY evil. If you have an official spokesperson, you're probably already well on your way to being a horrible bastard. Ideally, your official spokesperson should brazenly refuse to apologize for your crimes and conclude their sentences with an appropriate maniacal cackle, like the favored "Muahahaha!" or possibly a clangorous "Wahahahaha!"

If that proves impossible, though, it's nearly AS evil to insist you're being good when it's clear to all and sundry that you are, in fact, some sort of cacodaemon. Observe the picture to the right, which combines the Kellogg's product "Wild Bubbleberry Pop-Tarts" with the popular Nickelodeon character Sponge-Bob Squarepants. Now, let's establish some facts. Although I haven't consulted with a botanist, I am fairly certain that there is no such actual berry known as "bubbleberry", although I have been able to determine that it is the name of a breed of cannabis plant. (I attribute this to coincidence. But those of you at home, note: marketing cannabis-filled Pop-Tarts to children would be AMAZINGLY evil.) For those of you who only consume Müëslïx, I will tell you that a Pop-Tart is a device containing a fruit-facsimile covered with a thin sheen of petroglaze, possibly studded with radioactive nubbins composed of Strontium, Iridium and the especially flavorful Rubidium. They were created as an emergency mechanism to prevent the stomachs of starving college students from collapsing while the damn cafeteria was closed on weekends.

It should be abundantly clear that encouraging kids to consume such a beast is NOT THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Neither Buddha, Jesus, Sgt. Slaughter, or any of the other Good Guys would approve of such a move. Yet not only did Kellogg's and Nickelodeon team up to do this, they afterwards insisted that they care about the health of children and are proud of what they have done to contribute to it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is evil you can take to the bank and smoke.


That's not the world's most clear description of pop tarts. If I weren't familiar with the product in question, I'd've assumed they were a lot more three dimensional than they actually are.

Um. I am, of course, aware that your primary intention was a completely factual description. *cough cough* Yes. 

Posted by Sandry

I found the official pop-tarts website astonishingly overwrought and uninformative, but a venture into the real world for some antibiotics yesterday walked me past a display of doubleberry pop-tarts on sale (I love how the excess  junk food is right next to the sick-people supplies.) My Dad's eyes bugged out when I told him to hold on and picked up a box--I could see him thinking that I had definitely lost it. I didn't even bother reading the ingredients--besides the elementals Suarabh mentioned (mmm , Rubidium), I distinctly recall falling prey to pop-mart marketing back in the early 90s, and immediately discovering that of course it was verboten. (One of the advantages of imposing seemingly arbitrary but fairly strict and sentiment-powered dietary regulations on your children is that they end up eating a hell of a lot less processed food than most people, even if they watch a lot of Nickleodeon.) Instead I found the 17 grams of sugar I was looking for--comparable to a bowl of Mueslix, right? Except I really doubt anyone actually eats only one pop-tart for breakfast (versus one bowl of Mueslix), especially when they seem to come in industrial-strength packages of two. Reminded me of the Canadian border-crossing diet trick.

Coming home from one of the homelands of sugarcane, where I was lovingly fed extra bowls of aromatic fresh date-palm sap--the extra to make up for the doses not consumed by diabetic or near-diabetic relatives--I can't completely blame rising sugar consumption on modern American marketing. What does seem particularly more evil to me are two subtle differences in marketing. In India child-food-products seem to be still mainly marketed to mothers, not directly to children, hawking nutritional value--dubious nutritional value, which is its own evil, but in principle, nutritional value. Here, we do two things--we market directly to children--making them into obnoxious grocery-store companions and whiners--and we also convince parents that their children simply won't eat unless their food is covered in sugar. Having been raised on PBS and bitter melon, I am continually amazed when children arrive at my house and their parents go through all kinds of contortions to feed them exactly what they want to eat. WTF? They're children. They don't get to do whatever they want to do. That's what makes becoming a grown-up remotely bearable.

I offer up these as a substitute for starving grad students facing stomach collapse, but I think I will continue to try following the famous advice of the Columbia J-school Prof, Sig Gissler: "Oatmeal is the only food they haven't fucked up.'"

I'll also refrain from showing indignation at the suggestion that we don't produce adaquate amounts of evil, and instead think of creative ways of better demonstrating my malevolent capacities in comments. :-)  

Posted by Saheli

and if you play it backwards it sounds like spongepop tartpants. 

Posted by david

Here we go. The markets must think Kellogs and Nickleodeon will win---commodity markets reached a 25-year sugar high  . Though I don't know if high-fructose corn syrup trades in Chicago.  

Posted by Saheli

I once spent time in rural Brazil, where I saw someone who had grown up on a cane plantation. He had no teeth. He was 8. 

Posted by hedgey

Ya think this is an American problem? Soda makers in the EU have agreed to tone down marketing  to kids and in schools (unless the $chool board$ agree). As this Times article on obesity in France reports, however, big food has fought legislation regulating ads:

But the backlash from the food industry and a lack of political will has made it impossible to impose changes in advertising. More drastic legislation was rejected by Parliament, including health warnings on the packages of unhealthy foods, much like alcohol and cigarette warnings; a proposal to force restaurants to display nutrition and calorie information on their menus; and an outright ban on television advertisements for unhealthy products.


Posted by echan

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