Good For You

I was perusing some old advertisements and that led to thoughts on the odd choices we make as humans, ostensibly to improve our lives, but which may be based on faulty logic, bad information, or even deliberate disinformation.

This 1st may be too obvious in this era where nonsmokers outnumber smokers and laws prevent indoor smoking in most public places—and increasing numbers of outdoor public places! As a nonsmoker myself, I applaud this particular government intrusion into our personal lives because we know without question that smoking kills. It may take decades, even scores, of years to commit this form of suicide, but it is always fatal. Unlike other types of self-indulgence, though, smoking is not content to kill you the smoker but also me the innocent bystander. Rather like my generation’s version of a drive-by shooting (if I had the talent, here I would place a hand-drawn sketch of a cigarette in gangster attire, driving a 20s style getaway car while shooting bystanders with a machine gun (bullets identified as cancer, heart disease, etc.). Pretend:

Instead, here’s a typical ad from the good ol’ days when smoking was ‘cool’ and all the movie stars smoked and advertised cigarettes on all the TV ads and in magazines. I remember the original I Love Lucy Show, which included commercials featuring a little person dressed in a red bellboy costume yelling through a hotel lobby, “Call for Philip Morris!” and even Lucy and Desi would appear to tout these coffin nails. Great role models for the kiddies, ehh? I still recall those dreadful car trips with both parents puffing away, sometimes with the tiny windows open, despite my inability to breathe. I really grew to despise the things in college, though, when profs and students puffed away in over-crowded classrooms with windows the size of the back windows in old 30s cars. Tests were hard enough WITH oxygen.

My father died of heart disease, my mother of lung cancer, both victims of the triumph of medical science and advertising. Too many believed that no one would sell a toxic product, that the government would not allow it. Note: all the actors and doctors in those cigarette ads are dead. I always thought the motto “I’d walk a mile for a Camel,” was idiotic, as these filter-less wonders would cancel any and all lung activity during said smokage, so I suspect you couldn’t even get your walking shoes on without fainting. (Yes, I do realize this is anachronistic, since no one owned ‘walking shoes’ in those days. Walking shoes in the 50s and 60s were called shoes).

camels

I won’t belabor the obvious, but rather move right along to another instance of bad science which enabled the rise of promotional advertising and vast wealth to panderers of panaceas. In the early days of the 20th century, ‘experts’ became aware of the fact that sometimes babies and their mothers did not react well to childbirth. Both just lying around, counting belly-button lint instead of working in the factories as they should do. Women lost teeth because their fetuses (feti? Fetae? Are they like platypuses and platypi or alumnus and alumnae?) sucked up all the calcium in their bodies for themselves with no thought to their poor mothers. Despite all that calcium-sucking, though, some babies didn’t thrive, either. And that put a dent in industrial production, I’ll tell you.

Both needed high-value protein, calories, vitamin-enrichment, so in stepped the heroes of the day—TA-DA!–companies that manufactured beverages that caused excessive weight gain (even when used correctly). They got some advertising know-how and some quacks to underscore the pseudo-science and they were set to solve America’s biggest domestic problem. Thus, beer and Coca Cola:

beerbaby

cola

Gee, even in the 2nd half of the 20th century, I wished I’d known about these fabulous products and their even more fabulous advertisements. I might have been more convincing when I asked for 10 cents to get a Coke, when I begged my Dad for a sip of his beer. I could have explained to Mom and Dad how they were being bad parents by depriving me of better nutrition, how I could have been tall instead of average. How, with the help of these miracle cures, I could have started my career much earlier, allowing us all a shot at early retirement. Ah, well…

And so we come to the final journey back to lala land. In the area of bad ideas, phony science, and conclusion-jumping from too little evidence, these last two ads are definitely my favorites. Even further back in our time machine, we come to an era when just about anything and everything was legal to purchase and use. My mother’s eldest sister used to regale us with stories of her childhood, when she could go to the drugstore and buy leeches as well as things like these cocaine drops. I believe women were even known to put whiskey on the gums of teething infants to quiet their crying. But, this fad boggles the mind. Strange enough that they would make toothache drops from cocaine, but the children portrayed in this ad are meant to be the victims patients of this “instantaneous cure”!

cokedrops

Medical mediocrity being what it was then, why not use bogus research to urge women to put their lives in true, immediate danger just to lose a few pounds? I’ll bet they never received any complaints, either, because their failures were 6 feet under! When I look at this ad, I can picture those grotesque photos from ER doctors who have had to perform major abdominal surgery to remove tapeworms with gaping maws, larger than the host. Ewww.

tapeworms

So, I truly have no desire to follow doctors’ orders of what’s best for me, no inclination to let societal pressure of what’s hip or cool to influence my food choices. I have just a few rules:

  1. If it’s chocolate, the darker the better, and I will eat it now.
  2. If it tastes good, eat it.
  3. If it crackles and snaps and is salty and/or greasy, eat it.
  4. If it turns out well done on a grill or in a skillet, eat it.
  5. If it is enhanced by vegetables and legumes, fine by me, but they’re condiments.
  6. If my dog won’t eat it, neither will I.

I might have other rules, but it’s time for my beer and some cheese-dusted pretzel nuggets…

© Copyright 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD

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