Fatty Nation, Tubby Town

When the local obesity group landed a $7.5 million grant from the CDC to advocate for healthy food choices, organizers were joyous. A campaign was launched with advertisements on billboards and busses in Portland that announce “you just ate 16 packs of sugar” if you downed a 20-ounce soda.

The campaign is aimed at reducing obesity.

As a science-environment-risk-health media researcher, my attention was captured by the ads and news stories. But waves of unplanned publicity grabbed headlines when the folks at the Regal cinema chain refused to run the paid ads for the campaign.

Seems Regal thought the ads might discourage movie-goers from buying calorie-heavy candy and sodas.

The mega-movie chain’s rejection touched off a local media flurry, drawing attention to Regal’s dispassionate response to local obesity, which weighs in at 50% for Multnomah County denizens.

While the connection between mediated messages and behavior is tough to prove, researchers agree that the culture of the cinema experience helps engrain decisions. And if your only choices are popcorn and soda, you’re more likely to fork over cash for fatty snacks.

The Regal decision arrived in tandem with McDonald’s move to add apples to Happy Meals and halve the French fry portions.

I have a soft spot for frites in any form and shape, but didn’t grow up with McDonald’s. Our version of fries came from the food carts on the streets of London or The Hague where vendors wrapped hot potato strips in newsprint, offering mayonnaise and vinegar for flavor.

Having fries was a treat; not an everyday affair. My guess is that the ubiquity of McDonald’s exacerbates our poor choices: the golden arches are everywhere. Like the Regal theatres, your choices are limited to the fare on hand.

For Portlanders, choices abound with healthy snack shacks nearby and we’re not limited to McDonalds in my town. And we boast loads of mom-and-pop movie-houses that offer more than milk duds and cola.

So I’ve decided to boycott Regal theatres, having proved themselves an arrogant and loathsome neighbor.

Here’s a link to the campaign: http://news.opb.org/article/theaters-rebuff-multnomah-county-anti-obesity-ad/


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in film, journalism, news bias, risk, science, science communication, social media and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Fatty Nation, Tubby Town

  1. This is a very interesting comment about choice, if only popcorn and soda are available at a cinema, it almost feels like making a choice ‘beyond personal control’. It made me think of Borges and his idea about ‘the decision made me rather than I made the decision’ …


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