competetive eating as professional sport?

December 27, 2011

In our last session we talked about competitive eating. I personally think it is really disgusting to watch people ploughing all this food into their mouth, forcing themselves to go on eating although they are obviously almost vomiting. Most of these people or rather a lot of them are very fat, if not even obese. That’s why I decided to write about the question whether I am in favour of or against having competitive eating as professional sports. The main reason why I definitely disapprove of having competitive eating as professional sports is the sanitary aspect. I mean it just can’t be healthy to shove masses of food into your body, whereupon it is always the same kind of food. I think it would make at least a little difference if the food was not one-sided in these competitions but rather if they ate different kind of food or at best healthier food. As the competitors do not only eat the one-sided food at the day of the competition but also have to practice eating several times before the competition, I find it problematic for their health. Last week I watched a TV show called “Abenteuer Leben” which showed a few boys participating in an eating contest. They had to eat ice-cream wafers and told the viewers that eating to much of them could lead to brain damages. Still, they participated. This is something I just cannot understand. Apart from the sanitary aspect, there is the fact that you gain a lot of weight automatically through these competitions, as you eat masses of greasy food over and over again. Gaining weight of course also means harming the health, as for instance increasing the risk of a heart attack, a high blood pressure or a high cholesterol level, to mention only a few of the risks. However, what I am aiming for is the fact that people fatten up through all these food masses. This means either staying fat or taking the trouble to lose all the weight to look “good” again, as we know that being fat or obese or looking grotesque in a way is considered quite negative in our society. As we have already discussed in class, fat people are considered to be lazy and don’t make the effort to lose weight. Also many people think that those who are obese probably only eat cheap food like fast food or unhealthy things that are easily prepared and therefore are considered to be of a low class in our society as they cannot afford healthy food which is oftentimes more expensive. In my opinion this is not necessarily the right way to judge people, however, it shows that fat people or rather those who get fat because of taking part in eating contests, as these are the ones I am focussing on, have a lot of disadvantages, not only with regard to their health, but also in terms of their weight as well as the way they are seen by society. That’s why I have to ask myself WHY all this? Only because of a cup and a little bit of respect you earn IF you win a competition like this. I definitely think that it is not worth it. If competitive eating became a professional sport, I assume that a lot more people would take part in it in order to prove themselves in eating mountains of food in the shortest time to have the positive effect of earning fame and recognition and the negative effect of serious health problems and a plenty of kilos they have to carry. I also doubt that competitive eating could be carried out if we note that we would do sports by eating food which is considered to be sacred in many countries. I personally would not find it proper to make fun of things which we have enough and to spare and others don’t have enough to survive, apart from the fact that the food is probably not really eaten but rather vomited after the competition.




Media Bubble- “medienkritisch” enough?

December 13, 2011

If you’ve been in the Brecht-Bau today, you’ve probably seen posters advertising the blog Media Bubble, which is a self-proclaimed “medienkritischer” blog produced by master’s students in the Media Studies department and supported by the Uni. I have to admit, my first thought was positive- after all, why wouldn’t I be excited to see that other departments were also taking up the idea of blogging and approaching media in a critical way? And I was impressed by the poster design- the clever “…bis die Blase platzt” motto connects both the title of the blog and the poster’s image, a woman in the typical “I have to pee” pose, knees together (you can see the poster here).

When a comment of the person I was with caused me to examine the image closer, however, my initial enthusiasm was dampened. Why, you ask? Well, the problem is that Read the rest of this entry »

Makeover Overkill: Superfat vs Superskinny

December 11, 2011

I talked to a friend about the last session and the idea that came up in Class: A show where obese and anorexic people are combined. It seems like this idea is not that new, because there actually is a show like this already:

Body Modification As an Expression of Personal Freedom?

December 5, 2011

The videos about “Cat Man” and “Lizard Man” on YouTube give an insight into the lives of Dennis Avner and Eric Sprague. They both underwent several surgeries in order to look like animals: the first one wants to resemble a tiger and the latter a lizard. According to Jones, in makeover culture, people usually undergo plastic surgeries in order to become “normal” or “improve themselves”. However, “Cat Man” and “Lizard Man” can be considered as counter-examples. They are trying to differentiate themselves from the mass what in my opinion, makes them “abnormal” in the eyes of other people. At this point one could ask why they are pushing themselves into “abnormality”. I think that people who want to be “normal” with the help of plastic surgery are mainly concerned to satisfy their social surrounding. For example, the decision of a woman to get breast implants only reflects the expectations of others. Even if she states, she is going to have surgery just for herself, this particular wish of hers arose under the influence of society. However, through their body modifications, people like Cat Man and Lizard Man are primarily concerned to content themselves. So I think that this particular form of plastic surgery in contrast to the others can be seen as an expression of independence and liberation. In other words, the decision to become “abnormal” somehow symbolizes freedom.

Killing Us Softly: Jean Kilbourne and Advertising Images of Women

December 4, 2011

In case you don’t know Jean Kilbourne already, you should. She’s the film-maker who has brought us four Killing Us Softly films over the years, each showing the ways images of women are manipulated and framed in (US) advertising to objectify and sexualize women. In the same vein as this Dove video, part of their Real Beauty campaign, which seeks to demystify the work that goes into making the “perfect” image, Kilbourne takes a serious look at advertising and the values it trasmits.

For a taste of Kilbourne’s work, watch the video below.

From Killing Us Softly 4:

Follow-up videos can be found on YouTube.

The modern Freak Show: Talk Shows and Casting Shows.

December 2, 2011

This post is not thought to be an academically founded article, but rather a chain of thought for reconsidering parts of our popular culture. Having talked about the freak show and the ways it works and is structured, I discovered parallels to modern and recent TV formats. Especially casting shows like American Idol (German ‘Deutschland sucht den Superstar’), America’s Got Talent (German ‘Das Supertalent’) and America’s / Germany’s Next Top Model seem to be a modern version of the freak show to me.

To follow my train  of thought, you need to be aware, that I do not use the term freak as a negative one, even though it may be used in a negative way very often. To be a freak in my understanding means to have certain attributes that strongly distinguish you from the normal and average. These casting shows are looking for exactly these people with the aim to present them in public. They promse the chance for a better life through a record deal, a modeling contract or a grand prize of 100 000€. Presenters of freak shows did something very similar. Even though they did not do public castings, they were always looking for new freaks that they could present. To convince them to join the freak show, they argued with the chance for a better life in several cases. Both freak shows and casting shows make profit of their participants while they present them.  Apart from that casting shows, like freak shows, present the story behind their freak to an enormous extent. If one candidate has had a hard life, they use this and blow it up, showing film clips in order to create a public personality of the freak. They use existing attributes or facts and exaggerate them, so they appear more interesting to the spectators, in this case the people sitting in front of their TV sets.

Seeing the parallels between the freak show and different TV formats, you could start wondering, whether the freak show really does not exist anymore or if it just changed its appearance. Did it move to the media as the travelling freak shows started to vanish more and more? In the nineties and early 2000’s, let’s call it the pre-casting-show-era, people with weird bodily attributes appeared in talk shows, such as Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, etc. There was this sort of known group of freaks that almost toured from one talk show to another and talked about their story. As soon as freaks in talk shows did not seem to have  such a strong impact on people anymore the number of talk shows in the style of Springer decreased. By today, in Germany there is not a single talk show aired anymore(‘Britt’, ‘Vera am Mittag’,…). The only thing that remains is compilations of the ‘worst freaks’ in shows as ‘Talk Talk Talk’.

The new thing that came was casting shows. These shows are closer to the spectators, because the people that are presented in these shows are from the same group of on the first glance not freakish people, the same society as the people they are being presented to. The makers of these shows focus on the connection between the freaks and the viewers, they make use of both the relation and  the differences between them. I cannot tell which direction this development of the freak show will go next, but I am pretty sure that it will not stop. People have always been fascinated by things like these, they are right now and they will most probably always be.
I hope you recognize that what I just wrote was highly subjective and I did not mean to judge things positively or negatively. I think I may have not succeeded in that last aspect, but still I think that the idea that I had in mind became obvious. If you have any thoughts about this, feel free to tell me about it and don’t hesitate to discuss with me if you feel like it.

Since I am a great fan of South Park, I want to recommend the Episode “Freak Strike” which deals with that topic of freaks in talk shows. It was aired for the first time March 20 in 2002, shortly before the first big casting show American Idol started in June of the same year. If you are interested, see the link to the episode at the end of this post.


Link: South Park, Season 6, Episode 3

Cosmetic Surgery Addiction

December 2, 2011

It might start with one ‘little’ thing that you want to change about your body. After complete recovery, you forget about the torture and the pain. You only notice what has changed, and – all of a sudden – cosmetic surgery seems to be quite trouble-free and just worth doing. Why not continue working on your physical appearance, also because never ending self-development is considered necessary in today’s makeover culture?

Like anything else, having cosmetic surgery done can lead to an addiction. But where does feeling the need for countless surgeries come from? About two percent of the US-American population is affected by a mental illness called body dimorphic disorder (BDD). People who have this illness suffer from a preoccupation with their body image. Someone with BDD thinks that one or more features of his body have a conspicuous defect. Apart from hard work on the self (e.g. diets, workout…), cosmetic surgeries intend to correct these defects, but due to the totally distorted introspection of BDD sufferers a constant need for cosmetic surgery can develop. Nontheless, cosmetic surgery addiction is not necessarily caused by this illness. A person affected by BDD is in fact not content after the surgery, so there is still an urgent need for another or a lot more cosmetic procedures, either on the same body part or on another. Since the feeling of ugliness stays omnipresent, BDD sufferers can develop an addiction to cosmetic surgeries.

Environmental factors are considered to be one possible cause of BDD and thus addiction to cosmetic surgery. Still, these factors also concern people who do not suffer from BDD and who are addicted to cosmetic surgery due to other reasons. But how come? In today’s society and culture, people define themselves by their physical appearance. Thus, beauty and superficiality are valued over issues like self-acceptance or inner worth. Unfortunately, this is another reason for the growing trend of (addiction to) cosmetic surgeries.

Generally, there seems to be a never ending dissatisfaction with the own body (and longing for abiding beauty) in today’s society, which leads to the ‘need’ for more and more surgeries. In fact, these surgeries are unnecessary, but they are indispensable for the respective person. As I mentioned, illness or obsession is one reason for that. Moreover, patients tend to have completely unrealistic expectations or are impossible to please which is why they are always longing for more and more ‘improvement’ of their physical appearance.

Unfortunately, cosmetic surgeries (and the addiction to them) can also result in the complete opposite of admirable beauty. One example could be Michael Jackson. He claimed to have three cosmetic surgeries done even though professional surgeons estimate the number at around 30 surgeries. He and his grotesque physical appearance show what can be caused by too many cosmetic surgeries. Furthermore, the fact that there was so much work done upon his nose shows that he also suffered from never ending dissatisfaction (at least about the nose as one particular feature). I do not consider the result of Michael Jackson’s surgery mania beautiful or admiring. I personally think that he should be a warning for us all.


Click to access gorbis_plastic0703.pdf

South Park – the grotesque reflection of ourselves

December 1, 2011

South Park is a little village in Colorado, USA which a lot of -at first sight- strange people call their hometown. The most important characters of this fantastic, correspondenting succession are the small, and in fact really cute, seven and eight years old boys Kenny McCormick, Kyle Broflovski, Stan Marsh and fat Eric Cartman.  

It is one of the most popular and famous series in the USA and so it is in other Western countries, too. Trey Parker and Matt Stone already produced 15 seasons and one movie. They started to broadcast the animated and homorous television series in 1997. Since that date fans of South Park cannot imagine television without this fabulous and mordant criticism of society. Eyery episode and also any character is well-defined by stereotypes and prejudices which are well-known all over the world. So it is just normal that there is, for example, a gay teacher, a Jewish boy who is always been picked of being Jewish, a fat boy who is not recognizing his fatness, a young guy out of a poor family, a dude with emotional issues and a big black chef who is often complaining about being a victim of racism. The guest parts of some celebrities or just the stories told about them are most of the time overacted but there is no gag without some truth behind it. Furthermore all the grotesque things which happen seem to be just a reflection of what is going on in reality. Of course there is no successful series in television without overacting gags and characters but some of the people who are laughing on one hand about a stupid joke about Adolf Hitler and the Jews or about the whole “Jesus-is-one-of-us-thing” do not recognize on the other hand that these jokes just can be made because of them. It is clever of the producers just to observe what is going on in society to make a favorable series out of it. There is then just an inserting of some hyperboles needed to have a hit on television. And the most funniest thing about this strategy is people do not recognize that actually they are the ones other folks laugh about. It is a great circle of the stereotyped human beings with all of their good and bad qualities.

Moreover it is also very interesting how interested people are in the mechanisms of human body. They love watching some orifices of the body and what actually comes out them. The whole body and its functions therefore seems to be a spectacle. No one in society would ever burp, fart, poop, or puke in public and if someone does so, there is not anyone who starts laughing or applauding(only the embarrassed “burper” or a disrespectful person to embarrass the “farter” even more). In South Park everything that is given into the body or comes out of it again is worth it to be shown and to make fun of it.

In a nutshell comparing South Park to society in “real life” does not lead to a big difference between the acting and the behaviour of the characters in South Park and the people in reality except of the exaggerated exposure of the series on TV.   

Just one great example; the Robo-Streisand: