So, I’m watching tv the other day, and I saw something that I found very disturbing. (Not quit as disturbing as Extreme Couponers, but more disturbing than Toddlers and Tiaras.)
It was a commercial for Nutella. The commercial features a mother in her kitchen with her three children. She talks about how it’s so hard to get her kids to eat breakfast, but luckily Nutella makes it easy! Nutella is (apparently) full of nutritious hazelnuts, skim milk, and just a hint of cocoa, so Nutella is a nutritious part of any healthy breakfast. She slides Nutella smothered toast in front of her kids, who immediately chow down on it as she smiles motherly. (There’s probably more to the commercial than that and I’m not quoting it verbatim, but I can’t find the commercial online so I’m going on memory. The point is the overall message.)
And later I viewed another equally alarming advertising. This one was for the PayDay candy bar. (I couldn’t find this video either, so bear with me, people.) The commercial shows a swarm of little peanut halves charge across the screen. A deep voice asks (something along the lines of,) “What could we use to harness all the natural energy of peanuts?” At that moment this herd of peanuts gets caught on a turd-shaped lump of caramel. “Caramel will do!” The commercial ends with the same deep voice speaking some statement about Payday being a great source of energy so you can be super awesome.
For starters, let’s get one thing straight. Nutella and PayDay’s will never be health food. Ever. Ever ever. Perhaps in a parallel universe where things are opposite, (and I’m a size 4,) but only maybe then. While yes, peanuts are a good source of protein, they are also relatively high in fat. Also? They’re covering fucking caramel, so I’m pretty sure any health benefits you might get from peanuts are canceled out by the fucking caramel. And Nutella? Is essentially chocolate pudding in a jar. I’m pretty sure at least 75% of it by volume is pure sugar. Anyone who tries to sell either one of these products as a health food is fucking delusional.
But here’s the thing: what pisses me off isn’t the fact that marketing executives are trying to sell Nutella and Payday’s as health food. I mean, yes, these advertisements are essentially lies, which is its own barrel of bullshit. Not to mention the fact that by pretending that they are, they’re insulting the intelligence of the consumer. But what really pisses me off is that Nutella and Payday are trying to be something they’re not. Don’t misread me here: I fucking love PayDay’s, and I would trade one of my cats for a case of Nutella. (And the other cat for a case of sweetened condensed milk; I can drink that shit out of the can!) They are both absolutely delicious in their own ways, and fantastic desserts.
But that’s just it: they’re desserts. And wonderful ones that that. We don’t need them to be health food; there are many, many other foods that do that job much more admirably. We love them because they’re bad for us, because they’re forbidden, because they’re something we know we shouldn’t be eating. I’m pretty sure that’s were half of the flavor comes from. Sure, there are many healthy foods that are also sweet and delicious: mangoes, dried apricots, grapes of the raw and frozen variety. But they don’t satisfy the soul the way that a slab of bread covered in chocolaty Nutella or a rich, chewy, caramel-y candy bar does. They fulfill a basic need in us: the need for a treat, a reward, a little moment of sensory joy. And once they bear the label of “health food,” they no longer fill that oh, so important purpose.
So PayDay, Nutella, please, come out of the junk food closet. Stop pretending to be something that you’re not and be who you really are: the junk food that we’ve always loved you for. Because at the end of the day, you’re not just lying to us; you’re lying to yourselves.