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Slaughterhouse Five —

February 24, 2012
by

Yeah, that’s right, it’s not the Scarred4Life badge because I feel like it’s a dark cloud hanging over me lately, and I’ve got some cool news today. I mean, this post is about Strong4Life, but it’s not dark or heavy or serious like the rest of this week’s posts.

But before we get to General Douchepital, I’d like to share some personally exciting news. Last night (or this morning in Beijing) I was a guest on Today, a show on China Radio International, for a one hour debate with Dr. John Cai, Senior Health Policy Analyst with the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy based in Boston.

We were asked to “keep it lively,” which ordinarily wouldn’t be difficult with the average anti-obesity advocate, but Dr. Cai was a perfectly reasonable man, although we did disagree about whether obesity is a disease and whether weight loss is possible. Other than those two things, he seemed pretty moderate in his viewpoints. He was also soft-spoken and seemed kind of gentle and calm, while I was all giddy with the excitement over my first on-air experience.

But I spoke about the futility of weight loss and encouraged exercise for all kids and mentioned Health At Every Size a few times. I’m not sure how coherent I was, but after I sent an email of thanks to the hosts and crew of the Today show (an earlier episode I listened to kind of reminded me of a Diane Rehm a bit), one of the hosts, Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer, told me, “First off — if that was your first interview then you did an incredible job.  Heck I thought you did an incredible job for a seasoned media veteran.” He also said they are interested in having me back as a future guest on similar issues.

So, really, I should be lowering your expectations right now because otherwise you’re going to listen to it and say, “He sounds like a babbling wanker,” but I’m not even going to try. I had so much fun, but I feel guilty for being so much more exuberant than Dr. Cai. In an email before the show, the producers told us “we encourage our guests to interact with each other or simply jump in when you want to make a point for the purpose of having a lively discussion.” So, I tried to be lively without steamrolling poor Dr. Cai.

Anyway, if you want to listen to it, it’s here.

It’s alright, I guess. *kicks dirt*

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, Drs. Dickzenjammers.

So, I’m watching this horrible, horrible commercial that Strong4Life produced (do not watch unless you need a strong ipicac) because they’re a bunch of outrage junkies, and I notice that some of the images seem… out of place.

To figure out what was askew, I documented every single image used in the flashback sequence so we could review the story of Jimbo Fatty together (we know his name is Jim because of the multiple birthday cakes used).

Keep in mind that as the flashback progresses, the images go backward chronologically through Jimbo Fatty’s life a la Memento.

All this happened, more or less.

The flashback begins with the moment when Fatty’s chest tightens, followed by Fatty scooping ice cream into a bowl; Fatty pouring himself a can of either soda, beer or urine; Fatty sitting down at his office desk and eating a cookie; Fatty kissing his wife, who is holding their toddler; Fatty’s junkfood-packed fridge; Fatty pushing his kid on a swing; Fatty’s son (I’m assuming) waiting for Fatty to catch his breath; Fatty reclining and watching TV with an empty glass of soda; Fatty at the drive-thru, followed by Fatty scarfing the last of his fries; Fatty driving in the rain; Fatty’s doctor saying, “Could be developing diabetes. You have to make a change”; Fatty crushing a can of soda, beer or urine in the car; Fatty playing the XBox with junk food on his coffee table; Fatty out of breath while moving boxes onto an unused treadmill; Fatty’s mom congratulating him on his graduation; Fatty eating a submarine sandwich; Fatty on a treadmill out of breath (presumably giving up) followed by Fatty running on the treadmill a moment before; Fatty’s mom presenting Fatty with treadmill as a present and saying “You can watch TV and you won’t have to leave”; Fatty’s 15th birthday cake; Fatty’s 13th birthday cake; Fatty lounging and rocking out to his iPod; Fatty smothering pancakes in syrup; Fatty walking in on his dad who has just discovered his son hording candy in the bottom drawer of his dresser, and his dad saying “You can’t do this”; Fatty scarfing said candy; Fatty stashing said candy; Fatty’s mom ordering fast food from the same restaurant as earlier in the commercial; Fatty’s dad ordering a deep dish pizza while Fatty lounges; Fatty opening a pizza box; Fatty scarfing the fast food his mom ordered; a doctor telling Fatty’s mom “You have to make a change”; Fatty’s 10th birthday cake; Fatty playing Game Cube; Fatty’s 8th birthday cake; Fatty playing the original Nintendo; Fatty running down the stairs out of breath; Fatty sitting on the side of a playground out of breath while his friends play; Fatty’s teacher congratulation him on getting an A+ and letting him pick candy from a bowl; Fatty catching a ball in gym class, then being out of breath; Fatty at a vending machine in school; Fatty eating a bowl of fruit rings with a glass of strawberry Quik; Fatty eating a lollipop; Fatty carrying a school lunch tray with two corndogs, an apple, mixed veggies, two amorphous blobs of food, and a can of soda (or beer or urine), followed by Fatty giving away his apple; Fatty’s mom giving a very young Fatty a bag of fries from the same drive-thru, followed by Fatty eating the fries and drinking some kind of pink, sugar-sweetend beverage; Fatty’s mom giving baby Fatty a sippy cup with some kind of orange, sugar-sweetened beverage, followed by Fatty chugging it; baby Fatty throwing a tantrum and flinging his bottle, then pounding the tray full of cheerios and blueberries, followed by Fatty’s mom presenting him with a bag of fries and stuffing them in his face like he’s got a vacuum hose attached to his face.

Beside her, a concerned friend says, “I still can’t believe you give this child french fries.” Fatty’s mom replies through gritted teeth (as though she doesn’t want baby Fatty to hear), “I know. It’s the only thing that will make him stop.”

After this, we flash forward through all of this again and see Fatty’s shirt being cut open for surgery. Then we get white text on a black background with the following phrases, one at a time:

  • 80% of obese kids become obese adults.
  • We can save our kids.
  • We can stop the cycle.
  • We can Stop Childhood Obesity.

Finally, we hear Fatty’s last breath before he flatlines. Poor, dead Fatty.

After laying all of this out, I realized what was bothering me: anachronisms.

For those unfamiliar, anachronisms are errors in the appropriateness of certain items at a certain period of time. Like if you’re watching a wild west movie and you see an airplane in the background, that’s an anachronism, or an error in chronology.

Let’s say the death of 32-year-old Jimbo Fatty takes place in 2012.We first see contemporary Fatty playing the Xbox.

Based on the controller, it seems he’s playing an Xbox 360, which was released in September 2005. That seems about right for a guy who died in 2012.

So it goes.

But then we see Fatty rocking out to his iPod just before his 13th birthday.

This appears to be the same iPod I have (see, they are targeting me!), which is the fifth generation video iPod, released on October 12, 2005, six years ago.

Okay, let’s say Fatty didn’t die of a heart attack in 2012, and that this is a vision from 19 years after this iPod was released, which would be the year 2024. As a point of reference, that means Fatty had to have born at least in 1992. That would also mean that Fatty has been playing on the same Xbox 360 for approximately 19 years. Seems reasonable.

Then, somewhere between his 10th birthday (2002) and his 8th birthday (2000), we see Fatty playing a GameCube.

The GameCube wasn’t released until November 2001, so then let’s say Fatty was 9 when the GameCube was released, which matches up chronologically. Well, immediately before his 8th birthday (2000), we see Fatty playing the original Nintendo Entertainment System.

The NES launched in 1985. So, either Jimbo’s family has hung onto their NES for 15 years, bypassing the Super Nintendo (August 1991) and Nintendo 64 (September 1996). I find this scenario difficult to believe, since the Fatty Family seems to be at least middle class and capable of buying their son the latest and greatest video game consoles.

So it goes.

There is, however, a rational explanation that may clarify the bizarre time lapses in Fatty’s digital life.

Listen:
Jimbo Fatty has come unstuck in time.

So, perhaps Jimbo Fatty was really born in 1979, like me, and was living the life of an ordinary obese child, when suddenly, without explanation, he awakens one morning in 1986 to find himself trapped in a Tralfamadore zoo, then returns to our planet in time for the GameCube release in 2001, where he picks up his life again as an nine-year-old child. His life continues in proper order until some time after his 13th birthday, when he vanishes again to Tralfamadore and returns to almost the exact same time, now 19 years older.

If this is the case, then I have my suspicions that Jimbo Fatty is the love child of Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack (although Billy’s wife, Valencia Merble, is described as obese, so there’s that possibility as well), and that his untimely death may have more to do with the chronic stress of uncontrollable, nonlinear time travel.

We do get some clues in other parts of the video as well. For example, Fatty’s mom is featured prominently throughout the video, shoving french fries into his face as a baby and congratulating him on his (high school?) graduation day.

Yet, in the span of 18 years, let’s say from age 22 to 40, this woman has not aged one bit:

Considering that part of the video is an indictment of the lifestyle choices that Fatty’s parents model for poor Fatty, I’d say his mother looks pretty damned good for living on a diet of McDonald’s, orange drinks, deep dish pizzas and mountains of birthday cake.

So it goes.

Whatever the case, their fast food restaurant of choice must be pretty fucking good since it hasn’t changed at all between the time when Mrs. Fatty hands him a bag of fries as a baby to when he’s a full grown adult.

Also, it kind of looks like they’re driving the same car. So, perhaps young Fatty and adult Fatty are both living in the same time period, a phenomenon which is sure to disrupt the space time continuum.

But let’s set aside the theories on how time travel affects metabolic health and focus on one intriguing detail that may be an even bigger contributor to Fatty’s death.

Throughout the video, we frequently see Fatty in the kitchen scarfing sandwiches and stuffing his face because that’s what fat people do, all day every day. But upon closer inspection, I noticed something interesting about that kitchen. See if you spot it:

It’s the exact same fucking kitchen.

Here’s what really killed Jimbo Fatty: the man still lives with his parents, along with his wife and child(ren). If that’s not a cause of chronic stress and a risk factor for a heart attack, I don’t know what is!

Clearly I was wrong in accusing Strong4Life of beating a dead fatty. This isn’t an advertisement warning us about the dangers of obesity (especially considering 92% of obese adults were never obese children), this is a public service announcement about the dangers of becoming unstuck in time and living with your parents into adulthood.

So, thank you Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for having the foresight and courage to tackle issues that really matter. Your campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of time travel, boomaranging and the Tralfamadore zoo will not fall on deaf ears.

So it goes.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2012 12:33 pm

    I didn’t have the courage to watch the spot by S4L. (Your analysis/parody was probably more entertaining, anyway.) I think it’s more important to congratulate you on your media triumph! Keep at it, dude: you’re a machine!

    • February 24, 2012 4:20 pm

      Thanks Carl. But this machine needs a rest.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  2. Bronwen permalink
    February 24, 2012 12:39 pm

    Great post. One thing you missed was the new style flat screen tv’s. Also in the segment with the Nintendo controller.

    I mean, if we’re pointing out anachronisms and all.

    • February 24, 2012 4:20 pm

      I love the anachronism game. I’m sure if someone really studied this even more thoroughly than I did, there would be a shitload.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  3. vesta44 permalink
    February 24, 2012 12:54 pm

    And not to get too nitpicky here (but I will anyway), that microwave is a little modern for an 8-year old Jimbo, as is the stainless steel refrigerator and the granite countertops – unless of course, his parents were rich? None of those were common in middle class households 25 years ago, to my knowledge.

    • February 24, 2012 4:19 pm

      Yup, nothing in that kitchen says “Mid-80s” to me. It’s like they weren’t even trying. 🙂

      Peace,
      Shannon

  4. Duckie Graham permalink
    February 24, 2012 12:55 pm

    I love Vonnegut. And that you used him for this purpose – absolute genius! I’m really geeking out about it over here! Thanks!

    • February 24, 2012 4:19 pm

      Thanks Duckie. I’m into Vonnegut too, although probably not as deeply as you, or others. “Slapstick” inspired me to write my own apocalyptic novel a few years ago, and I still pick up one of his books I haven’t read every once in a while. Him and Aldous Huxley are two of my favorite.s

      Peace,
      Shannon

  5. February 24, 2012 1:24 pm

    I adore your deconstruction of the ad, Genius, pure geniu! The ad made me physically ill, really, it just disgusted me. Unfortunately, the majority of people that see this ad are not as brilliant as you are, sad but true, and will see this ad as imperative tough love scare tactic to save the children, similar to the anti smoking campaign where we are forced to watch the woman hooked up to the air tank and talking through her trach tube. I am just bracing myself for the onslaught of people who will argue with my criticism of the ad accusing me of not being able to HANDLE THE TRUTH, or the truth hurts doesn’t it…type remarks. Any advice?

    • February 24, 2012 4:17 pm

      Thanks Deah,
      I would go back to my ostrich post, where people accuse us of burying our head in the sand, yet they refuse to even acknowledge the wealth of research that supports our claims. To me, that’s actual evidence that someone cannot HANDLE THE TRUTH. I’ll read any research or scientific evidence that they want to present, but if they can reciprocate, then they aren’t worth talking to.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  6. LittleBigGirl permalink
    February 24, 2012 2:32 pm

    I’m not as familiar with gaming consoles – actually still do not own one and never have and yet I am fat…hmmmmm go figure. My first “huh” when reading your breakdown (I won’t watch the video) was “wait he had an ipod at 13?? They aren’t that old!”

    I also love how the whole “gaming makes you fat” thing completely ignores the Wii fit, Wii sports, and all the dance games that are essentially pimped out cooler interactive versions of all the aerobics videos people went crazy about in the 80s. Video games make you fat? Are you kidding me!? Have you seen a group of girls at a slumber party playing Dance Revolution??!? Have you tried playing Zumba on Xbox? It will kick your ass and leave you a happy sweaty mess. Basically, after getting tired of health advocacy nuts bitching at them for supposedly promoting the ‘obesity epidemic’ by creating more sedentary people, game makers today are using the new motion sensor technology to actually encourage people to be more physically active when they play video games. So the whole “fatties just eat junk food and play video games” is complete bullshit and totally outdated. We aren’t just facing horrible stereotypes, we’re facing horrible *retro* stereotypes!

    Other thoughts when reading about this retarded propaganda piece:
    1) In what horrible universe are pancakes and sub sandwiches junk food/evil? I suppose everybody is supposed to subsist on unsweetened oatmeal and only have whole wheat sandwiches with lean meat, low fat cheese, no condiments and lots of veggies. Because of course everyone has the time and money to shop at Whole Foods and make everything from scratch all the freaking time. Give me a break. You might as well say “food is evil starve yourself fatties.”
    2) The candy stash thing with his dad was like a drug commercial. I know from personal experience that food hiding/hording/binge eating is a direct response to body/weight shaming and food denial/policing. Want to make a kid binge on candy? Tell them they can’t have any and take it away. Want them to have a healthy relationship with food? Never restrict food and do not assign judgement or personal worth to any food or food choices!
    3a) Corn dogs? Protein. Not the best source of it but better than nothing. Maybe it was a koser whole beef or maybe even a chicken dog. At least he ate his veggies! Why wasn’t he given more fruit options maybe he just doesn’t like apples damn it.
    3b) Why is the school cafeteria’s menu (or lack thereof) lil’ fattie’s fault/problem? Many schools today actually work very hard to provide kids with a healthy variety of foods.
    4) This is huge one for me: If Fatty is continuously short of breath whenever he attempts physical activity even as a child, perhaps oh idk HE HAD ASTHMA!!?!?! Or a bronchial infection? Or some congenital (ie born with not lifestyle-based) heart or lung issue??? Well, we’ll never know will we because when his unaging mom took him to the Dr. I’m sure the doc just said he needs to lose weight. ARRRRRRRRGHHHH!!!!!

  7. February 24, 2012 3:47 pm

    Geek points from me for any Doctor Who reference. I’d honestly not noticed any of the anachronisms in the video, but I didn’t have a great urge to watch this thing over and over.

    It actually reminded me quite strongly of a much older ad screened here in the UK in the 1980s – a series of close-up shots of fatty’s mouth through his life, eating cake, chips, drinking beer etc. to a heartbeat sound effect that gradually increased in speed till he, too, had a heart attack. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it online – if anyone thinks they can, please let me know.

    I was thinking how much we could do with our own version of this. Begin with the viewpoint character in despair and contemplating WLS. Flashback through his (or her) life showing all the humiliation, the forced diets, the disordered eating, the lectures from doctors, the concern trolling from family, then back through college and school with bullying from other kids, bullying from gym teachers, bullying at home, right back to a doctor weighing them as a baby and prescribing diet formula…then back to the present and have the character have a revelation and find an HAES group – cue appropriate slogans. I’d love to try it but I’m not really a video person much. Anyone?

    • February 24, 2012 4:15 pm

      YOU SO READ MY MIND!!!! This one is called “Stop the Cycle.” I want to do one called “Stop the Cycling” and show the effects of weight cycling. I don’t have the video acumen to do it, though, but would totally support whoever would.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • February 26, 2012 11:42 am

        Actually, that title of theirs is puzzling: stop what cycle? Timey-wimey stuff aside, it showed one person’s fat life – surely ‘cycle’ would be more like depicting fat parents raising a kid who gets fat himself. Except that, oh, wait, this guy’s parents clearly aren’t fat, so where exactly did he get his terrible fatty habits from? Unless it’s possible that his parents have those same habits (and I don’t see much evidence that they don’t) without being fat themselves. Hmm…

  8. Kala permalink
    February 24, 2012 5:10 pm

    The first thing I noticed was the video game systems being all wrong. When I was 11, we got a Gamecube, when it first game out. The original Nintendo came out before I was born, the first console we had while I was alive was SNES. And I play my sweet, sweet Xbox 360 when I can find the time.

  9. February 27, 2012 12:56 pm

    The Slaughterhouse-Five reference is brilliant! And thanks for describing the video so I don’t have to watch it. (*Hands you some sanity points*)

  10. Jackie permalink
    February 28, 2012 12:49 pm

    This would’ve been better if you didn’t exchange fat shaming with lifestyle shaming. As in, the idea that the minute someone turns 18 they should be out the door and living their own life. Many people live at home, because it’s safer for them and it’s convenient. It’s terrible our society suggests we throw our children into the world the second they get out of high school, and then wonder why they take up drinking or drugs.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, and yes living at home with your wife would be kind of weird, but remember when people used to have extended families? They did just that. Just wanted to tell you, that pressure to leave your support system and be a part of society just because, isn’t any better than suggesting people should be ashamed of being fat. Perhaps one day we won’t be hearing people talking about “Living in their mother’s basement” as a bad thing. I understand you were joking, but it’s upsetting for people who face stigma for not living on their own.

    If anything our society would be better off if we stopped kicking our kids out of the house, and staying in close relationship with them throughout their lives.

    • February 28, 2012 12:59 pm

      Jackie,
      My intention was not to shame anyone for living at home. I was saying that living at home with your parents and your wife and your baby would be very stressful, and I know, I lived in my parents basement from the age of 22 to 25 with my son after my relationship with his mother ended. And it was very, very stressful.

      I was simply making a joke about how the chronic stress of living with his parents was what killed him, not his eating or exercise habits. I would never shame someone for living with their parents, but I would absolutely warn people that living with your parents can be incredibly stressful.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • March 1, 2012 9:46 am

        I know where you’re coming from. I’m nearly 50, my mother is nearly 75, and if I moved back in with her it would go right back to her attempting to parent me. I am only somewhat joking when I say it would probably drive me to drinking.

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