I saw this advertisement last Friday whilst out on my lunch break:
My immediate reaction?
I think I can in a can? Or I think I’m fat in a can?
I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING THERE COKE.
Now, full disclosure: I drink diet Coke. I drink diet Pepsi, or Pepsi Max or Coke Zero, or whatever other aspartame-infused sodas you care to name. And as any of you who have been reading this blog for a while now, I have no qualms at all about admitting this fact.
My drinking patterns are sporadic – I’ll go for a couple of months without a sip, and then start drinking two to three cans a day without so much as blinking an eyelash. These habits are something I’m cognizant of, but not something of which I lend much weight.
Apologies to any Colorado Avalanche fans out there, but in the words of Todd Bertuzzi*: it is what it is.
(*Now I’m no fan of Mr. T. Bert by any stretch of the imagination – or as I like to call him: Hobo with a Slapshot – he’s just the first thing that pops into my mind whenever I think of that turn of phrase.)
However, to get back to diet Coke and my relationship with this product- the fact remains the same: this penchant I have for these drinks is one of the last remaining holdovers from the years I spent as an anorexic and bulimic.
And because of this, I have a hard time disassociating these drinks from a very painful, very unhealthy part in my life.
Now I know there are tons of men and women who live all across the globe, who lead perfectly healthy lives (or within the parameters of “healthy” – as goodness knows the definition of this term seems to be malleable as heck) who may drink a diet Coke every now and then.
Who knows, maybe there are individuals out there who shot-gun the stuff all the live long day that have zero food/body hang-ups (not to mention faulty brain wiring – like those cats who eat chalk and pillow stuffing), but I would be hard pressed to believe it.
However, of this I’m sure: people ingest things for a whole myriad of reasons, and it would be naive, and rather asinine on my part to assume that because I a.) had an eating disorder and b.) drank these drinks during this time in my life that c.) all people who drink diet pop have eating disorders.
That would be a gross misinterpretation of the Pythagorean Theorum. And a logical fallacy. And just plain silly.
However, it would also be silly of me to ignore the fact that I live in a society that is majorly messed up when it comes to diet, body perception, and self-esteem – indeed, every time I seem to open an newspaper (HAH! Like that ever happens – excuse me, I meant to say: every time I surf on over to the NYT or Globe and Mail or Jezebel.com) I am told again and again about how obsese/anorexic/sendentary/over exercised/stressed out/insecure we are as North Americans, and how we need to fix it using ABC without having to give up XYZ.
Just the other day I read about a new study released by Emery University in Atlanta Georgia that found that the number of U.S. children who drink sugar-free beverages has doubled in the past decade and that one-quarter of the adult Americans surveyed said they’d had a diet drink in the past day.
And reading this, I cannot help but question what role diet Coke (and by proxy its marketing stratagems and campaigns) plays within our omnipresent constant shame/constant gratification Franken-culture.
Sure, diet Coke isn’t exactly Airstrip One’s Victory Gin, but it’s not small potatoes either. And as such, when I see this ad, I don’t see personal empowerment in a can, I see this:
Have your Coke friend! But statistics tell me that you’re probably fat – or in some way aesthetically unappealing (or at the very least you THINK you’re not good enough!) so don’t have a real Coke (those are only for Olympic athletes and Mark Ronson) – have a diet Coke instead! But it’s totally your decision to drink it – and totally not ours, and certainly not a reaction to cultural norms! YOU’RE taking charge, YOU know what you want! Just one sip and you can take on the world, calorie-free!
(But first, go to the gym, because you totes need to work out first.)
Okay, so this may be a bit over-dramatic and a bit too sardonic – my m.o. might be to approach this dialogue with a heavy hand (heavy tongue?) but I can’t help it.
My experience colours my perception, and this is my honest interpretation.
And for that I will not apologize.
What about you folks? What kind of reaction does this sort of advertisement evoke on your end of things? Do you drink diet pop? Why or why not?
In the mean time I’m going back to my I KNOW I can in a bag: