Cult of Hunger
By Flora Pick
To overstate any one of the Kardashians’ influence over the collective conscience of the internet is frankly impossible. The most minor of actions are sure to be noted, with spectators waiting with bated breath for the next scandal. The masses need a spectacle (full disclosure- myself fully included). Yet it’s inevitable that at points such scenes are going to breach the boundary between simple entertainment and that which holds actual, tangible implications over real world issues.
This was made explicit in the wake of Kim Kardashian’s promotion of -every Instagram models favourite- Flat Tummy Co’s newest product, an appetite suppressing lollipop. This is hardly out of left field. For years now sponsored posts have been a staple of the explore page of many a user, with Flat Tummy Tea being perhaps the most prominent example. How could it be anything else? It was a match made in heaven: ridiculously attractive people in the best shape of their lives offering a product enticing in its promise to make you like them. Whilst it’s disingenuous to say that the teas where free from criticism- there was criticism- the majority of it stemmed from questions around the honesty in declaring ads and sponsorships rather than anything moralistic. More recently, a shift in perception has occurred, as has the reaction to the prominence of the Fit Teas, as there was a collective awakening to the fact that they were little more than laxatives in cute packaging. Increasing unease with public figures shilling of dubiously ethical diet products has now come to a head. Far before the days of social media there have been diet fads galore, with appetite suppressants registering fairly low on the scale of being stupidly unhealthy (see: military diets, cotton wool diets, the lot). Far before Kim Kardashian there was Jessica Simpson imploring audiences to join weight waters and find fulfilment.
Now we are realising that, hey, maybe instructing people to ignore their bodies hunger signals isn’t the greatest concept, and teaching young teenage girls that they, too, can look like Kylie Jenner by skipping meals is not likely to turn out well.
There is, as with any controversy, a counter argument to be made for those who otherwise struggle with weight management- but is the explore feed of millions of people the place for promoting help? Statistics showing that 1.25 million people in the UK are currently suffering from an eating disorder with 14-25 year olds being the most at risk group, are telling of cultural issue in our attitudes towards food. It’s hardly helpful to have such unhealthiness normalised by figures, rightly or wrongly, looked up to by many.
Celebrity culture has undergone a rapid shift in a very concentrated time span, and occasions such as this make it abundantly clear that we are still not sure fully where we stand.
Boundaries between entertainer and audience are diminishing by the day, and they are treated with much more personal connection as a result. Still. They influence- do they have responsibilities as a result?