Tags: commodification, consumption/consumerism, bodies, emotion/desire, food/agriculture, gender, health/medicine, marketing/brands, media, eating disorders, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This commercial for LAY'S® potato chips can be used to illustrate the common practice among advertisers to represent women's consumption of junk food as a (commodified) act of romantic love, intimacy, or sexual pleasure. In this particular spot, shot entirely in slow motion with Al Green crooning his classic "I'm So In Love With You" in the background, anticipation builds as the woman prepares to encounter her salty prince, err...snack. As she opens the bag, a flirtatious smile spreads wide across her face. She performs all the ritualistic feminine acts of falling in love (bites at her lip, bats her lashes, averts her eyes), adhering to a familiar cultural narrative of a school girl falling in love: she's playful, coy, and unmistakably giddy. Across the bottom of the screen the following words appear: "one taste and you're in love." Feminists have well-documented the ways in which women are persistently depicted as being tormented by an obsessive relationship with food (e.g., Bordo 1998). Recently, scholars have pointed to the ways in which chocolate has been marketed to women, equating chocolate to delightful yet sinful indulgence, sex, and a pseudo form of female empowerment. In the article "Women and Food Chains: The Gendered Politics of Food," Allen and Sachs (2007) place this marketing strategy in a socio-health context, stating that "dieting, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and obesity—all on the rise—mark the confused messages that women should have perfect (thin) bodies at the same time that they are encouraged to over consume and indulge in junk food. Advertising and media play an enormous role in perpetuating women's obsession with thinness" (2). As these commercials about junk food suggest, advertising and the media also play a role in perpetuating the message that, for women, the junk food eating experience is similar to that of sex, love, and intimacy, all of which perpetuate a complex and often unhealthy relationship with food. In another version of this commercial, Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" plays in the background.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Carole Morrison explains modern chicken farming practices
Tags: capitalism, food/agriculture, marx/marxism, organizations/occupations/work, theory, weber, alienation, assembly line, fordism, labor process, mass production, rationalization, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This clip is from Food Inc., a documentary illustrating how giant food corporations have taken control over the entire food production system "from seed to supermarket." The video shows how this rationalized system leads to the alienation and impoverishment of its workers, such as Carole Morrison (a Perdue chicken farmer). It illustrates all four dimensions of Marx's concept of alienation. First, Morrison is alienated from the production process because Perdue dictates how the chickens must be raised. Perdue requires that chicken farmers enter contracts with them, which require the farmers to upgrade their farms to dark, windowless facilities in order to raise the chickens faster and make them less resistant. Working for Perdue, Morrison is also alienated from her species-being because her creativity is being stifled, meaning she cannot raise the chicken in a natural environment. She may prefer allowing the chickens to see light or she may have a different method of ventilating the room than Perdue mandates. Perdue's practices also alienate Morrison from her product. When she's done raising the chickens, Perdue comes and takes them all away. Mrs. Morrison's labor only serves to benefit Perdue and she does not get to keep or benefit from the products she raises (i.e. produces). Finally, Morrison is alienated from her fellow workers. Even though there are many different farmers contracted by Perdue, they have no connection to each other and only care about following Perdue's commands. Morrison says that farmers are afraid to speak against Perdue because they might lose their contracts. If one farmer were to lose her contract with Perdue, it would be safe to say that the other farmers would either be indifferent or might not even know. This clip also illustrates Weber's notion of rationalization in that Perdue seeks to make the production of chickens increasingly efficient, calculable, predictable, and controllable (e.g. they make chicken coups dark because it makes the chickens more docile and easier to catch). However, there are many "irrationalities of rationality," including diseases, mistreatment of animals, and abuses against workers. Finally, the video notes that many workers that come to take the chickens are undocumented workers,and Perdue knows that they "aren't going to complain" about being subjected to diseases or unfair treatment. The worker's undocumented status makes them easier to control. Note that because of Morrison's participation in the documentary, her contract with Perdue was terminated.
Submitted By: Reza Rahvarian and Alex Hong
Tags: consumption/consumerism, corporations, food/agriculture, health/medicine, marketing/brands, media, social mvmts/social change/resistance, culture jam, sociology of culture, subvertising, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This McDonald's culture jam montage demonstrates how, by mashing up a readily recognizable yet rarely questioned piece of popular culture, new and critical questions can emerge that draw attention to social problems. In this mash-up, various scenes from McDonald's commercials are rearranged and placed alongside U.S. health data trend maps, images of obesity, and graphic scenes from a liposuction surgery in order to highlight the alarming rates of chronic health problems facing our "Fast Food Nation," including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, various cancers, insulin resistance, among many others. The accompanying music, "Pusherman" by Curtis Mayfield, provides further commentary on the role of McDonald's in American society, one that resembles that of a drug dealer, providing addictive and unhealthy products to consumers that can ultimately lead to life-threatening and socially dysfunctional outcomes. This clip would be good to use in a lecture on sociology and health, food, or media studies. This clip also adds to The Sociological Cinema's growing collection of video clips on culture jamming, (e.g., here).
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
DJDave raps about consumption at Whole Foods
Tags: art/music, class, consumption/consumerism, environment, food/agriculture, health/medicine, marketing/brands, theory, conspicuous consumption, privilege, thorstein veblen, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this rap parody, DJDave (aka David Wittman) raps about his frustrations shopping at Whole Foods, which includes over-priced grocery items, loud shoppers on I-Phones, and over-crowded parking lots. To illustrate useful sociological concepts using this YouTube summer sensation, instructors can begin by simply asking students: Why is this video funny? Instructors can facilitate a conversation about middle- and upper-class consumption practices; specifically, the clip might be useful in a class discussion on Veblen's notion of conspicuous consumption, whereby upper-class consumers carry out very specific consumption practices in an effort to wield social power, whether real or perceived, thereby conveying a particular social status. The video's portrayal of a "typical" Whole Foods shopper involves a host of recognizable consumption patterns, including the foods they eat (organic chicken, kale salad, pinot noir, gourmet cheese, quinoa, kombucha tea), the cars they drive (e.g., a hybrid, Prius, Mini Cooper), the health practices they engage (yoga, cleansing diets), the gadgets they use (I-Phones), and even the social justice initiatives they are financially able to support (e.g., the environment, natural/organic/sustainable foods). A critical perspective might involve a conversation around whether health is a class privilege, pointing to the high costs associated with a healthy American lifestyle. Instructors can further unpack the humor of the clip to illustrate sociological insight by pointing to the choice of musical genre deployed. Given that rap music's origins are largely rooted in a form of social commentary on the struggles of poor and working-class urban communities of color, the "struggles" that Whole Foods shoppers endure while purchasing groceries is clearly cast tongue-in-cheek. Like other clips featured on The Sociological Cinema, this rap parody shows the ways in which art can provide a useful medium for social commentary, as well as sociological insight (e.g., see here).
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
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