Food and looking good.

It’s always been one of standards of advertising – if something looks good, people will buy it. This is particularly true in fast food advertising. We’ve all seen the ads – tomato slices glistening with freshness, a juicy, tender-looking hamburger patty between two halves of the perfectly baked bun. And our mouth waters, despite the fact that we know our burger experience won’t be anything like that. The bread will be squished, the tomato mealy, and the lettuce half-wilted. Still, we buy into the image and the sultry, deep voice describing the delectable nature of the food choice.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this kind of advertising. The product, the perfect burger, could in some rare case be exactly as it’s pictured on television – it’s not necessarily false advertising. And I certainly don’t blame advertising companies for selling the product wholeheartedly by appealing to our most base sense – that of sight. I’m not even blaming us for responding to the advertising positively, especially if only for a moment. Still, the image of food seems to have a profound impact on us that we tend to disregard.

Take this blog post for instance. I was drawn in by the title, ‘tart and tangy’. The images were vivid, artistic, and well composed. But when i read the text itself, I felt cheated when the author initially disliked the results of her recipe. Ultimately, the review of this recipe was positive, but at the end I still felt cheated. What did the images give me that the text did not to leave this impression? Was it the artfulness of the juxtaposition of knife, plate, and empty space in the first picture? Was it the rich and vivid colors of the berries themselves? The article was what it was – a valid review of a newly found recipe. But somehow I wanted more but wasn’t sure what. Social comment? Emotive elements? Ethical appeal?

Another instance of this dissatisfaction can be seen in the Iron and Wine video, ‘Naked as We Came’.

I am oddly disturbed/moved by this video. What does it all mean? The back-and-forth of life and death, food and eating and remnants, light and rain and shadow, serve to imply some odd sort of whole message. But I still have no idea what it is. I am dissatisfied and oddly attracted to it, its vividness and gentle solemness. I want to see it again, just to try and figure out what it means, and a part of that is related to the feelings of seeing all this good-looking food just out there. And the ants. It’s a squeamish-delicious feeling, and I have the odd sensation it’s trying to tell me something about my own life.

Is this odd reaction to seeing ‘good food’ a primal instinct? Are our reactions here purely biological? Let me rephrase – yes, our reactions are biological. But are they sparked only by the natural need of sustenance, that mouth-watering reaction to certain sights and smells? Or do we have deeper, more complex reactions as well, relating to our emotions, memory, and abstract categorizations of life and what it means? Does me seeing the newest hamburger ad tempt me simply to go out and buy a hamburger, or does my reaction have some larger, unintended consequences?

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1 Comment

  1. Shannon said,

    March 5, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    I read a little bit and then I got hungry.


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