Tuesday, January 6, 2009

High Fructose Corn Satire

Note to Sensitive Readers: This post contains descriptions of adult situations as well as crude language, including that word that starts with an "f" and ends with "uck."

In a recent post on her company's blog, MyDogIsChelsea wrote an analysis of some advertisements for, of all things, High Fructose Corn Syrup. Underwritten by a group representing the corn industry, they represent kind of a ham-fisted apologetics for the supersweet stuff. (Perhaps you are familiar with these ads. From inside the TV blackout of Castle5000, it can be hard to tell whether things like this are just another media blip or a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. One reads, for instance, that Americans have been all agog about a national singing talent show for the last several years. It sounds terribly unlikely, I know, but I'm assured it's true. But I digress.)

Anyway, these ads. They cast people concerned about the omnipresence of HFCS as ignorant busybodies who, fortunately, get led back to reality by the bland assurances of their more level-headed pals. Here's some examples:

Now, as far as I know (not far at all) the jury is still out on whether HFCS is actually any worse than conventional sugar. Still, there's more than a whiff of smug condescention from these ads, an adolescently swaggering attitude of "hey, our product is everywhere, and anybody who has reservations about that is STOOPID."

Now, I was not the first to bring a dog to this fight, but damn! -- how could I help wondering how Big Corn's line of reasoning might look when applied to some other goods and services? Here are some ideas:

I: A College-style apartment. Two guys hanging out.

First Guy (casually): I'm kind of bored. I think I'll shoot up.

Second Guy (shocked): Like, heroin? What the fuck?

First Guy (exasperated): What?

Second Guy: Well, don't you know what they say about heroin?

First Guy (dissmissive): Like what?

Second Guy: (speechless)

First Guy: Like, it's made from beautiful poppies? That its production supports hard-working Central Asian farmers? That it's very relaxing? And that it's only moderately toxic if used in moderation?

Second Guy (coming around): Gosh, did you bring TWO needles?

First Guy: Nah, but we can share.

II: Two guys walking through a fashionable nightclub district.

First Guy: (nonchalant) I think I'll hire that prostitute.

Second Guy (disturbed): What did you say?

First Guy: That hooker. I'm going to hire her.

Second Guy (horrified): Don't you know what they say about having sex with strangers?

First Guy: (mildly irritated) Like what?

Second Guy: (gathers himself to speak, but before he can open his mouth):

First Guy: That it is exciting and physically pleasurable, and 100% natural? That people have been doing it throughout recorded history? And that more than 3/4 of the time, you'll get away with it without incurring a sexually transmitted disease, HIV, or an unplanned pregnancy?

Second Guy (impressed): Well, gosh, I....

First Guy (indulgently): Come on, let's make it a three-way.

Second Guy (sheepish and grateful): You're awesome, dude.

III: Two guys in a college computer lab.

First Guy: Check out this satirical piece on the Life & Times of Michael5000!

Second Guy (appalled): You're reading a personal blog? In 2009? Really?

First Guy (confident): Why not?

Second Guy: Well, you know what they say about personal blogs....

[long pause. Second Guy gets embarassed.]

First Guy: That they're often written by hard-working people right here in the United States of America? That they express interesting ideas and unique material that you just won't find in the formal media? That they are a great internet tradition that has been around for literally several years?

Second Guy: Well... I mean... OK, I'll take a look.

First Guy: Thataboy.

[they look at the screen]

Second Guy (alarmed): Holy crap! That's... that's the conversation we just had!

First Guy (creeped out): What the....

[spooky music. fade out.]


margaret said...

Thank you for this post. I've been on an anti-HFCS crusade for years, and just the fact that there's a big ad campaign touting the stuff (the first I saw the offensive, it came in the form of a full-page Wall Street Journal ad) seems the most telling.

In the fine film "King Korn" the protagonists -- nice fresh-faced college grads growing their own acre of corn and figuring out the farmin' biz -- weren't allowed into an HFCS factory. At the screening I saw, one of the film's co-directors said they were told by the HFCS manufacturer that the public just "wouldn't want to see how it's made" (kinda like sausage?!).

I've been avoiding the stuff for the last couple of years, and it's hard. Even lots of PRETZELS have it.

I've also seen studies showing HFCS implicated in the alarming increase in obesity and blamed for fat that's extra-hard to take off.

Many manufacturers started using it because it's a cheaper alternative to sugar. The wallet was always the first motivator, not health, not taste, not the customer.

Eat at your own risk.

Yankee in England said...

Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard out loud at my desk. Good thing I had just gone to the toilet or I might have laughed hard enough to . . .

Yeah I start to wonder when companies have to run comercials about how "safe" their product is. One word Olestra

Jennifer said...

Brilliant! I have to be careful when I read your posts because when I read them first thing in the morning, some days I'm afraid I'm going to rupture something trying to keep my laughter in so I don't wake up the house--for instance, today.

Rebel said...

Why do I have the sudden urge to try heroin?

Jenners said...

OK ... total genius! The reasons I slog through the great movie posts and humiliate myself in the quizzes ... to get to comic gold like this. (I saw the mountain quiz but then just said F*ck it ... why bother? I only know 2 for sure. Anyway, this was awesome! Loved it.

Rex Parker said...

Please produce the heroin ad.

Or produce an ad where the anti-HFCS person is not an ignorant, inarticulate fuck.


Jennifer said...

Are these HFCS ads produced by the same people who did the old Competitive Enterprise Institute ads(see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sGKvDNdJNA, e.g.)? (The spoof of those ads at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71kckb8hhOQ is one of my all-time favorites.)

I'm with RP on both points, too. If you've just waiting for sufficient crowd enthusiasm to muster before branching into filmmaking--I mean, you have been studying the great movies, I notice--please consider this a sign of an eagerly receptive public. :-)

Plus, as RP says, the HFCS ad looks like a great call for being able to articulate one's arguments. Maybe I can use the ads and your spoofs in Comp next year. (Um. . . you're not going to ask for royalties if I do, are you?)

Kritkrat said...

Well, you've totally sold me on heroin.

Anonymous said...

Looovvve that top!

Ben said...

I very much enjoyed your spoofs on the ad. Funny!

Despite the risk of sounding like an ignorant, inarticulate fuck, I have to ask what ARE the risks of HFCS besides it being fattening and manufactured in a covert manner? I guess I'll have to google it.

Chance said...

This was easily the best blog post of the year on the entire Internet. Of course the year is only 7 days old but still, it's something.

Anonymous said...

This may be your best blog post ever. Did you know I gave up HFCS for the New Year as my resolution (I actually cheated and started cutting it out in November).

By the way, your comment about the jury still being out on whether HFCS is actually any worse than conventional sugar - it's not still out! The latest nursing research - that shit messes up your body!


Michael5000 said...

Thanks for the kind comments, people. Except for Jenners, whose use of the word "slog" took some of the punch out of her compliment, for which I shall have my revenge in the fullness of time. But the rest of you, thanks.

@Rebel and Kadonk: Remember, heroin should only be used IN MODERATION. Play safe, kids.

@Serendip: Of COURSE you can use it in class. I love the idea of being required reading.

@Karma: Say what?

@Ben: Hell, all I know is what I read on the Wiki. Some say that it ain't all that chemically different from cane sugar, but because it's so damn cheap (artificially, because corn is heavily subsidized) it has encouraged the great American sweet tooth and thus obesity. Other authorities, such as Margaret and Vida, argue that the fructose content kind of messes you up. Vida -- what are they telling you about the "Sweet Surprise" in nursing school?

@Chance: Feel free to nominate it for any awards you think might be appropriate. Especially any that carry a cash prize.

Michael5000 said...

@Serendip, pt. 2 -- OK, I've looked at the two links. The spoof is pretty funny, but the ostensibly serious one might be even funnier.

Jennifer said...

I used the CEI ad in my paper when I presented in Seattle!

Jennifer said...

(I don't know whether that made my ostensibly serious paper funny by association. . . )

fingerstothebone said...

This is definitely a classic!

Anonymous said...

M5 --- Sorry, that was the doofus line in the first video when it was time to change the subject. It's a three word mini-satire.

McGuff said...

Somehow I misunderstood these promos, so my prostitute and I shot up with HFCS. I've been buzzing around like a 6 year old boy for two days now.

Michael5000 said...

@fingers: Oooh, I like the sound of "classic!"

@Phineas: As long as it was in moderation!

Eversaved said...

Wow I slack off on my blog reading for a few days and look what I miss!!

I don't really have anything clever or insightful to say. Just thanks, that was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

You know what they say about writing scripts, right?

mhwitt said...

I'm late to the bandwagon here, but I love this post! Surely there is a way to submit your commercial scripts to Saturday Night Live.

The Calico Cat said...

I know its been since forever (I would have rocked the Pilgrimage quiz - for the record!)

To my way of thinking in a popsicle - HFCS - not so bad... I almost every other processed product - like ketchup & pretzels (aka things that are not sold as a "sweet")= bad!

Unknown said...

@MyDog: No, what DO they say about writing scripts?

@Calico: I understand you've been kind of busy.

G said...

Excellent analysis.

Anonymous said...

So, you're saying sex with strangers is bad for you? Shoot!