Media Monday: Desserts as Humor

Alyssa Perry

Food is often associated with stress and anxiety on many television series and in movies. Eating or even binging on boxes of chocolate, a large piece of cake, or other types of desserts is highly associated with these emotions in the media.  What’s wrong with eating chocolate or cake?  There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a truffle, a piece of cake with a friend, or a dessert that you had fun baking simply to enjoy food.  But, these types of foods are often portrayed in a negative light as something to be ashamed of eating or only eaten in the context of negative emotions in social media.

If a character in the media is shown eating desserts and they are not stressed, it is normally designated to the characters that are overweight.   A good example of this is in the well-known TV sitcom Friends.  The character Monica is slender and a professional chef although she is hardly seen actually eating foods or desserts.  Monica is portrayed as being overweight when she was younger in flashbacks, and it often shows her eating desserts or talking about eating them.  It is supposed to part of the comedy of the sitcom that Monica’s character used to be overweight and ate a lot of food.  There are many references throughout the sitcom about when she used to be “fat” and how much she used to eat.

This double standard is not healthy.  It makes the association and stigma that, if someone is overweight, they must be that way because they eat too much food or obsess about food and desserts.  It also makes the association that if a “normal” weight person chooses to eat dessert, it is only because of stress and negative emotions.  The truth is that people of all shapes and sizes can enjoy desserts and can choose to eat them for a variety of reasons.  With the media only showing us a limited way on how to view food, our thoughts about how we should think about food or others may be skewed.  Becoming aware of the messages the media is sending us is the first step to not letting our views get too distorted.  When we find ourselves laughing at the examples above (making fun of overweight people for eating too much or making fun of people for eating desserts when they are stressed out and anxious) it may be good to challenge why we find it humorous and remind ourselves what real life can look like outside of a television series.