Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Influence of big media

In a country where two-thirds of the adults – and one-third of all children – are overweight, pop culture is finally catching up. Chubby actresses no longer have to play the role of the BFF, but can now start finding work in leading roles.

The Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva deals with a former skinny model finding herself reborn in a “plain Jane’s body.” Now, the overweight brunette has to make a career for herself as a lawyer. And the new ABC Family drama, Huge, debuted Monday night. Huge deals with overweight teenagers sent off to fat camp. The campers learn to take care of themselves – and not just physically – and evolve into the young people they want to be.

So now we have to ask ourselves, should pop culture be promoting what doctors and nutritionists unanimously agree is unhealthy?

While I debated with myself a bit, I’m confident that yes, they should. Mainstream media should be embracing the new face of America.

There’s no denying that as prominent as obesity is, many young girls (and boys) grow up comparing themselves with the false sense of beauty coming from airbrushed actresses and models. Many of them lack the self-esteem to realize that you can be beautiful, that you can be a good person, that you can be happy regardless of whether you fit that ideal concept of “beauty.”

It’s important to give not just youth but everyone a sense of belonging. It’s comforting to turn on the TV and see someone who resembles you, your sister or your best friend. Kudos to pop culture for catching on.

But to be successful and appease those who hate to see society struggle with weight, the characters in the growing genre must lead healthy lifestyles and promote becoming the best person they possibly can. (And, unlike the show “Ugly Betty,” they need not promote the fallacy that attractive people are mean and ugly spirited.)

And as long as these shows aren’t promoting Twinkies and laziness, I’m good.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Darn those young whippersnappers

It’s all your fault, you know.

My generation – the Millennials, Generation Y, or whatever new term you’ve come up with those born in the 80s and 90s -- we’re like this because of you.

While its universal for older folks to have a sort of distaste for the new, youngest generation, I blame the Baby Boomers for the Millennials’ definite lack of maturity. The Boomers grew up with parents who weren’t cuddly or close. Kids were told to go outside and play and not to come back until after dark. “Yeah, son, that rusty hand saw looks like a perfectly fun toy, take it with you when you leave.”

As result, the entire generation vowed not to be like their parents. The Baby Boomers raised the Millennials completely differently. They coddle – and we’re a nightmare because of it. Parents “helped” kids with every school project and secured a victory for their child in every battle. The now teenagers and young adults in the following generation learned they are not good enough or strong enough to make it without help from Mom or Dad because of this behavior. But don’t worry, us Millennials don’t have low self-esteem. You’ve told us all our lives how awesome, beautiful and special we are. We just can’t do anything by ourselves. We’re spoiled and we don’t know how to fight for ourselves.

Then, as the kids grew up, went to college and began an adult life, the Baby Boomers decided to help their children pay for rent, gas, a cell phone, college, or whatever else they needed. They didn’t want their children to go through the same financial hardships and tough rice-and-bean years they did.

What the entire Boomer generation seems to forget is that those hardships, the experiences of fighting for oneself and for ones place in life is exactly what turned them into the tough-minded, hard-working people they are today – something they don’t realize they are robbing from their children.

So what’s going to happen when the Boomers die off and the Millennials actually have to stand on their own two feet alone for once. I wonder if our muscles are even strong enough.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The biggest threat

OK, so it's Wednesday? Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?

It’s not terrorism, AIDs or even atheism. The greatest threat to America – according to an “expert panel” (whatever that means) – is obesity. Some of us can now issue a sigh of relief.

Two-thirds of adults and one-third of all children are considered overweight or obese. That’s mind boggling, even as I sit here in one of the fattest states in country.

You can blame America with its overindulgent attitude. Or restaurants making portions more than twice the proper size. Or even TV programming and addictive video games that keep everyone indoors instead of out being active.

But the real culprit is Walmart.

Yep, the same people who save you money every Saturday. But that’s the problem. Ever notice what the cheapest items are? Hostess and Little Debbie snacks are pretty cheap. You can get $1 frozen pizzas with absolutely no nutrition. Or one of my favorites – blue box mac and cheese – are what, 64 cents? But what about fruits and vegetables? Whole grains? Any food made without preservatives and additives? Cha ching! Better bust out your big pocketbook.

Of course, I have to touch on fast food restaurants as part of the problem, but not in the way you’d think. Dollar menus are all the rage right now in this tough economic climate. You now can get a burger, fries and a Coke for $3, but a salad with no sides or drinks will run you about $5 at the same place. Where is the motivation to make the wise choice when you’re faced with doing fast food that meal? And most of the time, the salads are pretty sub-par.

Americans aren’t encouraged to eat well when there’s no immediate monetary gain. Yes, you’ll likely spend less money in medical bills if you maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight, but that’s not immediate enough for us short-sided folk.

Now, I’m not proposing we tax junk food, but they should make real, whole food more appealing by dropping the price. Offer coupons for natural food that is easy to prepare and versatile enough to satisfy our need for variety, and you might see us Americans buying – and eating – healthier.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

GM is a bit slow on the uptake, don't ya think?

I am glad to drive a 13-year-old Ford Ranger. In its history in my family, it has never once caught fire and the windshield wiper fluid almost always does the job.

Unfortunately, that seems to be a potential problem for 1.5 million cars, trucks and SUVs made my General Motors. The company recently announced its second recall of its vehicles made between 2006 and 2009. Turns out the heated windshield wiper fluid could cause your car to set fire. Awesome.

The company attempted to fix the problem during a 2008 recall but have since determined the “fix” didn’t take. The new plan is to deactivate the feature and buy the owners off with $100.

A company that is willing to publicly admit they screwed up and recall their product is always good in my book. It takes a lot to confess to a mistake and suffer any loss that comes with that mistake. GM is showing it cares about its customers’ safety...but wait, this problem started with the 2006 models? You mean the ones produced in 2005? Five years ago?

Let me see if I understand this correctly. You made the 2006 models with a defective heated windshield wiper fluid. It took you until 2008 – two years later – to decide they were unsafe enough for a recall. You then recalled the vehicles and “fixed” them, only to decide in another two years to completely eliminate the thing?

And you’re paying your customers $100 for the inconvenience?

It appears company officials were negligent to get this problem solved earlier and to stop making faulty, fire-happy vehicles the moment they were determined hazardous. Honestly though, how does it take you four to five years of continuing to manufacture unsafe vehicles to accept the problem? Clearly, safety is not GM’s primary concern here. This recall is merely to save face and give the illusion the company is looking out for its customers.

It’s better late than never, but man up a bit sooner next time, General Motors, and we might be more willing to trust you in the future.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How quickly passion turns into apathy

In 2004, I started college. As most students, I was an idealistically passionate almost-19 year old. I changed my major three times I day I enrolled. I finally settled on journalism.

The reason was that I was extremely passionate -- about anything and everything. I would fight you tooth and nail until you believed like I did -- which coincidentally didn't usually happen. At the time, I thought of journalism as columnists who expressed their opinions and tried to sway the readers. I quickly learned that the art of journalism was actually the opposite. In fact, in journalism, you aren't allowed to have an opinion at all for fear of coming out biased. And after four years of journalism training, and the subsequent year and a half as a newspaper reporter, I can safely say the passion has been beaten right out of me.

That's not to say I'm not passionate about things -- my job, my boyfriend, my favorite college football team, my family -- all these things I love (in no particular order) and will fight to defend them each. It's all the rest of the stuff -- anything I don't have an immediate invested interest in.

What are my thoughts on Obama's health care plan? The new abortion laws in Oklahoma? Al Gore is getting a divorce? Eh. I don't know. I don't know enough about it to make an informed decision and thus, formulate my opinion.

I have become what I consider maybe the worst sin out there: Ignorant. Stupidity is forgivable. You can't change who you are. But to refuse to inform yourself about your surroundings...now that's unforgivable. That's lazy. And that's why the world hates Americans. Unfortunately, that's me.

So what's my solution? I'm going back to my original plan. I'll be hitting you with a weekly column via this blog. From politics to the latest celebrity faux pas...Welcome to Tuesday's with Jessica.