The Gruen Transfer, and my take on it

All around the internet, people are talking about that ad from The Gruen Transfer, the one that wasn’t aired.  They are doing an excellent job of discussing why nobody wins in the “Oppression Olympics”.  I want to talk about the one that was aired.

The ad that was aired starts around 15:50 of the first link there.  It only take about three minutes for the whole segment.  I’ll wait ’til you’ve had a chance to see it.

Now that you are back, I want to start off with a little information about the show (as I was given it from a friend who lives in Australia).  The Gruen Transfer is a weekly show about advertising, how it works, why certain ads don’t work.  Every week they have a challenge they put out to different ad companies to “sell the unsellable”.  This episode’s challenge had to do with “Fat Pride”.  Only two advertising companies took up the challenge.  One did the commercial that was banned from airing, but which you can see at the link above (along with the full reasoning of the creator of that advertisement), the other was aired, and won the challenge.  Note: Neither of these commercials were ever to be actually shown on TV for anything other than this challenge.

The second one that was aired was just as offensive as the one that wasn’t, and, in fact, proved one of the points of the creator of the banned commercial.

The commercial that was aired starts out with the creator saying, “Being in a recession, we thought we need more consumers.  Fat, might just be the thing to get us back in the black.”  The commercial talks about the stock market, unemployment, housing prices all pointing out that “we” are in recession.  That the thing that can save us is “super consumers” (cue male obviously fat belly walking — yes, we’ve graduated from the “headless fatties” to now JUST being about our bellies) .  They have “statistics”: “fat people consume 18% more than thin consumers.  Because of you,  farmers grow more food.  Because of you, xxl clothes get made.  Because of you airlines burn more fuel to get you off the ground.  If everyone upsized like you, Australia would already be in recovery.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you, you super sized, superheros!”  It ends with a slide that reads, “Australia’s success depends on your excess.”

Now, of course, people were laughing at all of the “jokes”. 

In the critique of the ad that wasn’t aired, the creator said his take was “End Fat Discrimination,” and went on to tell a story about how he was in a pub, and he and his friend watched a “fat chick” go to the bathroom.  The friend made a derogatory joke about fat chicks, and the creator started to laugh.  And it coalesced for him.  If they try to do “end fat discrimination” in a humorous manner, they are making fat people the butt of the jokes.

The commercial that did air proved his point.  Now, I’m not arguing that the commercial that didn’t air wasn’t offensive.  It was.  It was supposed to offend. 

But what everybody seems to be forgetting here, is that both sides failed the challenge.  If the challenge was to help overweight Australians have more pride, the first commercial fails.  They used tired stereotypes  (fat people eat more, fat people use more resources, fat people are hurting the environment) to get laughs at fat peoples’ expense. 

While the unaired commercial was condemned, and is still being condemned all over the world, as being offensive, this commercial, the “super sized, superheros” commercial, is just as offensive. 

Yes, nobody wins in the “oppression olympics”.  But we are focusing on that to the exclusion of discussion, or even seeing, how offensive “thank you, super sized superheros” is.  Where is the pride in being told that you eat more, that you use more resources, that you are the cause of global warming and are going to destroy our planet (none of which assertions are true, by the way)?  Just because it’s turned around into a joke, we’re supposed to think it’s funny? 

I don’t think so.

So, here’s you you, you prejudiced ad companies:  Because of you, stereotypes continue about fat people.  Because of you, fat people get ridiculed whenever they leave the house.  Because of you, the rest of the world can rest easy knowing they don’t have to stop buying gas guzzling Hummers(TM) or taking 5 over-packed bags on airplanes because they don’t destroy the world near as bad as those fat people.  If everybody thought like you, a lot of fat people wouldn’t want to ever leave their houses. 

Oh wait.  That’s the real point, isn’t it?  Let’s shame the fatties even worse using the guise of making them feel pride in themselves.

And that’s not offensive?


Edited to add:  I was in a hurry before, and forgot to thank my friend for showing me this material, and giving me the links for it.  Ravenari is a wonderful artist, and helped me immensely by giving me the link to The Gruen Transfer,, and a bit of the background on the show.  Please go see her artwork on deviantART.  It’s amazing.  One of these days I will own a Ravenari original. 🙂

4 Responses

  1. Damn. I totally see why they didn’t air the first one, those jokes were pretty triggering (although obviously the appropriateness does depend on the show, with which I am not familiar), but I can’t believe they aired the second one, that had me cringing more. Maybe because I’m all FA, but it simply sounds painfully meanspirited and totally missing the point.

  2. Thank you for writing on this subject. I find it so sad that essentially, they didn’t end up with one advertisement that addressed the issue in a non-offensive way. I *liked* the theme of the ‘banned’ advertisement; but think it was too heavy-handed. And of course the one that was aired made me cringe in disgust. If the audience is laughing, they don’t get it.

    It just sickens me that our culture/s get away with saying things about fat people, that they’d never get away with saying about just about any other sub-culture / group of people, and so on.

    In fact, a friend of mine on her blog posted in favour of ending shape discrimination; and was attacked by homosexuals who said ‘your discrimination isn’t as bad as mine, so get off your high horse.’

    Trying to win a war in discrimination is a form of discrimination. It saddens me that in so many ways we still have so far to go. 😦

  3. I am Aussie and was watching the show that night. I haven’t gone to see the ad that was not shown. I too thought the one that was shown was very offensive and not helping fat people at all. As we know, you can’t tell how much someone eats by looking at them, and you can’t tell what food they waste by ordering or cooking it and not eating it either. And that goes for all sorts of resource use and wastage.

    The show left me feeling downhearted to be honest. Not that I am surprised; they tackled the manipulations of diet ads in a different segment a few weeks back and apart from one commentator who pretty much got it right in one sentence (that they don’t make people lose weight permanently and it is a money spinner because they keep coming back anyway) and was ignored, the advertising stance was that however unscrupulously they advertise they are providing a ‘much needed’ service so it’s ok. Bah!

    I’m not watching any more!

  4. I sat and cried through the winning commercial, it made me feel so humiliated, hated, and ashamed I can not in any way see how it would convince a person to look at us in a better light. In fact what it was, was one long fat joke that happened to have a fat pride stamp on it, they should have put that ad in place of the fat joke told in the other ad and declared them both winners.

    At least the ad that was pulled tried to show how hurtful and hateful those kind of attitudes are yes it was drastic and offensive but I think it showed alot better what we have to go through everyday as fat people.

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