Monday, March 20, 2006

Too Fat for Grape Nut Mix?

I just got finished watching The Apprentice, in which the delightful dimwitted Brent was finally eliminated from the show. And I've got to say "good riddance" -- Brent was truly an embarassment on the show, offering no insight or skill to his team, and generally presenting himself as a bumbling fool. I was very depressed to find out, in researching this blog post, that he's from my hometown of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Talk about giving the North a bad name. But one thing about this episode that gave me pause was an incident brought up in the boardroom that wasn't exactly shown in the earlier portions of the episode: during the boardroom, Brent claimed that he was discouraged from making his team's presentation to Post cereal about the new, health-oriented Grape Nut Mix cereal because he was "too fat". Project Manager Tammy gave a differing perspective -- well, only that she said that she called Brent too "unfit" to project the product's health-conscious image in the Powerpoint presentation. So, instead, the team opted on "flustered" Sean the Brit. In the boardroom, Trump and his advisors agree with Tammy. Trump argues to Brent that there's something about projecting the proper image in a presentation by choosing the right person, and said that anyone else on the team would've been a good choice to talk about the healthiness of Grape Nut cereal other than Brent. He suggested that of his advisors, were he in the same boat, he would put Ivanka out there to make the presentation instead of himself or George. Okay, so, I think I have to disagree here. Or at least blow a whistle or two. Does this strike anyone else as just a wee bit fat-phobic? Although you have to be conscious of the image projected in, say, an ad or a billboard when each image in the space must be a symbol to tell a story in as little amount of viewer effort as possible, we were talking about a 5-10 minute Powerpoint presentation on the rationale behind a billboard to people who own the Post company, i.e. people who didn't need to be sold on the health benefits of Grape Nut Mix cereal, itself, but rather on how this particular billboard did or did not convey the health conscious message. While I thoroughly agree that Brent would have been no better than a drunken baboon with a pair of opera glasses in delivering that presentation, I'm wary at suggesting that this would have anything to do with the image he would project because of his body weight. What next? Discourage men from making marketing presentations on tampons? Discourage people of colour from making marketing presentations on tuna fish casserole? To me, this message did nothing more than reiterate society's hateful and hurtful prejudices against larger people by suggesting that they are incapable of being in any way associated with healthiness or health food -- even in a situation which should have demanded more from your brain and articulation than your appearance. It discourages me to think that fat-phobia can be so ingrained in society that in a room of 15 people, no one thought to argue against Tammy's treatment of Brent's size. Brent may be fat, but that's not the reason why his brain doesn't work.


Anonymous Carmen said...

They've been playing up Brent's weight ever since the season started. I don't know if you noticed this, but in the last episode (when that woman accused him of "threatening" her) they kept focusing on him eating during their brainstorming meeting in a conference room. Now, being that there was a spread of breakfast foods in the room, I'm sure he wasn't the only one partaking, but there was nobody else who was shown eating. I feel like the producers have made it a point to make him out to be this gluttonous pig. It's completely offensive to overweight people, IMO.

3/21/2006 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

good point, carmen. i hadn't noticed that until you brought it up. they're definitely trying to turn him into a caricature of overweight people, and although he's not a particularly likeable personality, I dont' think they needed to resort to these underhanded fat jokes.

3/22/2006 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Hi jenn. I found your site courtesy of NursePam and find it absolutely absorbing. Bear in mind that I'm not a fan of Apprentice or any of the other reality tv shows. As a matter of fact, there is little I watch on tv except movies, Jeopardy!, PBS and the occasional old Law and Order on TNT. I have no idea who any of the characters are, except for the Don. Here's my two cents.

There's a vast difference between personal likes/dislikes/opinions and business decisions. I might be appalled by Donald Trump but you have to admit he's one of the most diversely successful businessmen on the planet today. There's a reason for that.

I try to live a life that is accepting of all people, especially the marginalized ones. I am an ER nurse who has always worked in settings where a large percentage of the patients are from a lower socioeconomic background. In today's world, this means I encounter a lot of obesity and its consequences (diabetes, high blood pressure, activity intolerance and its resultant ailments...). I am concerned for my fat patients because of the impact on their health and on their psyche/body image as well as any limitations, right or wrong, that being fat creates because of our society's schizophrenia about food and weight. If you are morbidly obese and competing with a "normal-sized" person of equal qulifications for a job, who do you think is most likely to get it?

On a personal note, I do not find fat to be attractive. I tend to gravitate toward women who are about my size or very slightly larger, around the same height, redheads (Ooooooo! ; ). These are my preferences. How much of that is nature (my genes or my brain chemicals seeking out someone who would be a positive potential mate) and how much nurture (being raised a true-blue American girl) is beyond me. It just is.

But this is a business decision, period. If you're trying to tout your ad campaign, your archetectual concept, your medical journal article; you're understandably going to select for your presentation; the person who is the best representative of your concept...the person who, by appearance, seems to believe in the concept of fitness the client is promoting, the person with the most intimate knowledge of the neighborhood the new building is going up in, the researcher with the best verbal skills who is most likely to get your idea across in the most professional manner and spell everything correctly.

I wouldn't blame Donald Trump or Brent's teammates for eliminating him from the pool simply because he would not be the best representative of their concept, or the best salesperson.

Does it suck that size, looks, fitness, superficial things are so important in Western culture...absolutely! But if my bottom line is brining about the best return for my pocket and the pockets of my shareholders, I'm going to make my decisions based on what will best acheive that gosl.

Great are now fed into my Google sidebar! Thanks!

3/23/2006 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Abdul said...

All I have to say was that whether or not Brent's ideas were bad, there have been past apprentices with guys who had the same skills/attitude/anger level as Brent (I forget the guy's name, but I remember he threatened one of his team mates during a task to sell pizzas from a truck), but because he is fat everyone just hates him. Even when he gave good ideas, he was treated with kid gloves. Oh and the producers did exaggerate the whole eating thing, in one of the episodes, he was eating some bagles, and they added in some "crunch" sound effects to make him look even more disgusting. I think the whole thing is an embarassment to the Apprentice.

3/23/2006 02:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Bobby said...

Careful Jen,

Don't get too PC. If you do, than you begin to dilute your asian-american arguments for validation.

C'mon Jen, you know that it's bad business for a rapist to promote a new Hasbro-Mattel toy, or for an anemica-looking spokesperson promoting nordic-track workout set.

I know bottom line you're trying to argue for inclusiveness, it's a real tricky issue, but this isn't bias against fat people. I don't want to articulate too much, but it would be bias if it were a product for a book or a stereo, not if it were to promote a health product.

3/28/2006 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

"Don't get too PC. If you do, than you begin to dilute your asian-american arguments for validation."

Huh? How would being "too PC" accomplish that?

I'm not really gonna deal with the rest because I think my arguments are plainly laid out in this post, and if you simply refuse to see this discrimination, than I don't think I can say much else...

3/30/2006 01:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Bobby said...


i do not see this as discrimination.

he was overweight. the team was trying to present a health product.

the vendor/client would mostly get a better impression from a healthy looking presentor than an overweight presentor.

did you hear about the obese health instructor who sued the gym for not letting her be an aerobics instructor?

i think it is ok to be selective about your product or services, as long as it is REASONABLE. Racism, sexism are not cool. But are we now trying to create a new paradigm for obese-people as well?

If you take it too far, than people will roll their eyes and not even nod in the direction of racism or sexism, we cannot distract society from the real issues, and that is racism/sexism. These are categories which we are born with, which is why it is inherently wrong to categorize and pre-judge these groups.

Obesity is not a problem we are born with (most of us anyways), it is a health condition which can be prevented/corrected. So should we really cry discrimination?

If only we could 'run off' our asian-ness, than we would be able to live without the ignorance of the common-folk.

look, i'm asian american too. so i see discrimination when it's there. but when you start pointing the 'un-fair' stick at everything, than you water down OUR struggle for validation.

people will associate the struggle of Asian Americans with the excesses of PC-ness. AND THAT, is not cool.

3/30/2006 03:51:00 AM  

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