Insensitive Ad: Am I Overreacting?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I had a rare opportunity to be a total couch potato on Sunday as I was battling a rare summertime cold. My weekends are usually chocked full of activities that I usually do not have the freedom to watch too much TV, but because I have a half-marathon to run in Seattle on Saturday, I needed to make sure I was well on my way to a full recovery even if that meant I did nothing rest.

Well, what I discovered is there is not much to watch on television, especially on a summer Sunday, however I did have the opportunity to view a remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, as well as an episode of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. I must say both shows were quite entertaining—one allowed me to sing along to one of my all-time favorite musicals and the other, well let’s just say, I had no clue that one could use seaweed and sea salt in a cupcake and still have it taste yummy.

So you may be wondering where I am going with all this. As entertaining as the programs were, the same cannot be said about the advertisements. I was appalled at a commercial from a company that has promoted healthier fast food options for years. That restaurant? Subway.

The commercial shows various individuals eating hamburgers while participating in summertime activities. One is floating in the pool on a raft, one sitting in a hammock, another sitting at the beach and another jumping in the pool, all accompanied to the theme song from “A Summer’s Place” playing in the background. As the commercial continues to play, it then shows the woman on the float quickly sinking, the gentleman falling though the hammock, the woman’s swimsuit top bursting open with a young boy looking on, and a gentleman jumping off the diving board while it breaks in two. I guess the point being that eating greasy foods is what caused all these events to happen. In other words, the consequence to eating greasy hamburgers is to be ridiculed in a television commercial.

I am shocked that in this day and age where we are told that we need to be more sensitive to those around us, the one area that is a free-for-all for others to ridicule is those who do not fit the so-called ‘normal’ weight. From television shows, to movies, to commercials it isn’t uncommon to see the overweight being the brunt of many jokes and I for one am not buying it any more.

I was so upset after seeing this commercial that I immediately sent an email to the company. To have a company tout such celebrities as swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Nastia Liukin in another commercial only to belittle the average American in another just doesn’t sit right with me. With so many Americans battling a weight issue, disparaging people is not the way to go. We would dare not demean others for their ethnic or religious background, then why is it OK to demean someone based on their size?

Have you had the opportunity to view this commercial? Do you think I am being overly sensitive about this subject? Do you think the overweight community is the one area TV takes liberty to demean without consequence?

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All I can say is moderation because you can get fat eating even healthy foods. But I do wish people would stand up to the media. And you know you have your own mind don't buy into the hype. Report
It is not TV but all advertisers. They need to belittle any atribute that is not perfect. How else could they convince you that you need their product to improve yourself. And to top it off their idea of perfect leaves the majority of healthy normal people lacking too!! Report
I certainly hope that commercial made a few people really think about what they eat. It might not be a very friendly kick in the butt, but at this stage of the game, niceness and politeness are just excuses to keep from having to admit that carrying extra poundage is a bad thing. Such passivity just permits the transfer of guilt from ourselves onto other people or situations, and if it takes seeing star athletes crash through hammocks and break diving boards while chowing down on 900-1,200 calories worth of burger to get ourselves to admit that we can't blame anyone or anything but ourselves, then I'd play that commercial over and over again. Sure, being upbeat and positive about lifestyle changes is a great thing to do, but you can't convince someone to take charge of making the changes while simultaneously pretending that it isn't his or her fault for gaining so much in the first place. It's rather like convincing a child to clean up someone else's mess just because it's nice to be clean. I think that commercial is funny, and I think that at this stage of the game, with so much information about healthy eating out there and so many active things to do, we can't pretend that we're ignorant of how to be healthy and it's beyond time for a little insensitivity.

Edit: I agree with STRAWB5623, that if it offends you, you're perfectly within your right to be outraged. I don't want to sound like I'm bashing everyone who thought it was a nasty ad, I just think it was a great commentary on personal responsibility. Then again, it was probably just a really good pitch. : ) Report
I think this ad is hilarious!! Every time I see it, it makes me chuckle! To the "easily offended" club out there, "lighten up", no pun intended. If you ask me, ALL ads can be offensive in one way or another. How about the "fast food" junk pushers we see all day long, now THAT'S offensive! Report
I don't think you were overreacting. There is a way to get a point across without using fat people as the butt of a lame joke, and Subway has shown over the years that they really don't care about being offensive and engaging in fatbashing (which, and I know this will come as a shock to most of the commenters, is NOT the way to encourage overweight people to lose weight). Report
So you just found out that we overweight people are the last acceptable discrimination left ? Glad you took the weekend off to find out about the pain that many of us have had to,and still do suffer at the hands of the media and every other person who feels qualified to point their bony fingers at us.Yes, it's insensitive but many seem to feel that fat people deserve to be mocked and abused. I'm not at all surprised by this commercial. It's only one in a long string of weepy fat people commercials. Bravo to you for noticing and speaking up. We all need to do that. Report
I wouldn't compare the offensiveness of this commercial to any kind of demeaning you could do towards ethnicity or religious background. As I understand it, Subway's intention was to express if you continue to do A, B will happen, so give C a try and B won't other words there is something you could change for the better, and SP is an attest to that. In any context ethnically and religiously this is incomparable.

Anyway, if you found it offensive, you don't need any validation. It offended you, and you did a great thing to make sure your voice was heard by contacting the company. I personally didn't find it offensive, nor did I find it funny. I know it's all a bunch of poppycock because some Subway sandwiches have more calories and fat than some burgers!

Who I really feel sorry for are the actors! Especially in those Windows commercials where the dream land version of them are fitter and more attractive! Imagine that casting call! "We need you to be the fat/ugly version of another actor. Mmmkay thanks!" Report
I think too much is being read into this commercial. We have tons of ads that promote fast food (fried chicken, fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc). I think Subway is doing a good job showing the other side of what happens when a person (not a fat person, just a person) decides to continue to eat the advertised food. Looks good on TV, but not in your body. And it doesn't help you lose weight. Subway is trying to promote how good their food is, how better it is for you in our health concious world. It's a ploy to get you to drop the hamburger and get a sub. It's an ad, no more no less. It got your attention, negative or not. Report
Hi. I haven't seen the commercial, but will keep an eye out for it. Just from what you've described, however, it SOUNDS demeaning and insensitive. As for over-reacting or over-sensitive? I would sooner think you're just being passionate re: how it seem that the overweight community is being singled out in this ad. You have convictions and values and you acted upon them. As far as the overweight community being the one area TV seems to take liberties with without thought of consequences? Nah! I think women, by far, are the most demeaned, in advertising at least. They depict women as being silly, stupid, over-sexed, airheads who drool over the imaginary Mr. Clean who has just cleaned our floors, and Mr. Whipple who used to squeeze toilet paper for God's sake. That is, when we are not so self-absorbed about our appearance. But now, you've got me on a soap box. Sorry. I'm done. See? We all have things we are passionate about that others may not feel the same way about. HAVE A GREAT DAY, NANCY. Never lose sight of your convictions and, especially, what you value. Report
Yes, you are overreacting. Next time, just change the channel if you don't like it. You have that right. Report
Were the people in the commercial all overweight? Because you can make unhealthy food choices at any size and we all know it still leads to an unhealthy lifestyle. Report
Yes - sorry - I think you're overreacting. Report
It just goes to show you how much misinformation is out there!! Carbs are the biggest culprit to managing our weight and Subway is full of them! This kind of advertising doesn't offend me but it does make me sad to see so many people actually thinking that all that bread is healthy! Report
I finally saw the ad, and Yes you are being too sensitive.

The ad made points and all of them valid. Report
I thought it was funny & made the good point that if you want to be healthy, you need to make healthy choices .... and I'm not saying Subway is, cause I don't know if they are or not. As far as being more "sensitive" to people I think there needs to be some balance here as there seem to be more & more people walking around just looking for some point of contention. If you were offended, then you did the right thing by sending the company an email; we all have to follow our own conscience about stuff like that. Report
Surely they are mocking neither the people nor the food per se, but the choices the people have made: that being idle and consuming unhealthy food (and if you imagine that the advertisement will be on a lot it implies that the people who do those things do it a lot) continually DOES cause weight gain. Report
I agree with is not funny and does ridicule the people, not the food.( Was the hamburger funny?????)...You are correct in saying that over weight people atre being targetted as all right to make fun of.....Not funny, not educational not right! Report
I think it is more about the food than the people - I cannot imagine Subway disparaging overweight people because ads are directed mostly towards them offering Subway as a choice when people want fast food.

I was surprised when I first saw the commercial, but I don't think it is offensive. It is a 30 second presentation of what is wrong with the food we eat. Report
Another solution? Read a book. Report
That ad is pretty funny as far as I am concerned. It also made me take a good long look at what I saw in the mirror. I did not like what I saw. It gave me the incentive I needed to get back here, and while I am just ending my third day of concentrating on what I eat, how much I eat, whether I am getting the exercise I need, I feel really great about it. It is just a commercial, but like most things is what you make of it. Report
For me that would have been an overreaction. I felt they were condemning the food, not the people so it didn't bother me at all. Report
I think it's a great commercial pesonally. We see junk food glamorized so often on TV, I think it only fair to show the opposite. My opinion, you're overreacting.

I am one of those overweight people, and I didn't take offense. Junk food is NOT healthy, and it WILL make you overweight. Report
I agree, it is an insensitive comercial. It portrays an unfair stereotype. All fat people don't eat greasy food. And there MANY reasons why a person is fat. Report
What *should* have happened in the commercial is this: As the hamburger-eating citizens broke through whatever was supporting them, they should have fallen into pools of blood shed from the animals that were slaughtered to make their fattening, nasty meals.

^_^ Report
I've seen the commercial and I thought it was funny. So my answer is, "yes" you are overreacting. Have a nice day and chill out. LOL Report
I love the commercial! I crack up every time I see it, which is unusual for me. I remember going swimming and getting my rear stuck in the donut float; I am so glad there was only the three of us at the pool. Report
Sorry...but I disagree with you. there are too many people who have a steady diet of greasy burgers, fries and pizza and they are overweight. Then what do they do? They sue the restaurant chain because they can't stop stuffing their face. Once in a while they are ok. Its a commercial. I haven't seen it but it makes perfect sense to me. You eat a lot of that crap and you'll get fat and break things. Hey...I was there once and I chose to eat differently.

BTW,,,,I have a very dear friend who is probably over 600 lbs. she is the sweetest person you could ever meet. she does not pig out on burgers and fries...its a health issue. I would never make fun of overweight people...but unlike my friend, most people have a choice on how they look. Report
Loosen up! It's funny! Report
I think it is a cute commercial and never ever took any offense. Yep it is true, if you are overweight you may split the hammock. There is a price we pay to overeating. My most embarrasing moment, getting off a roller coast because I could not fasten the seatbelt. Yep it was awful, but did it stop me from eating funnel cakes and ice cream the rest of the day................nope. Our country has become to politically correct, everyone worried about offending someone else. I mean it is true you should not point and laugh and call someone a fatty. But lets not kid ourselves, if you are moribidly obese you can't hide it. Everyone knows you are a fat. I saw a man at an all you can eat buffet last week, he must of weighed 500lbs, you could not help but stare at his plates piled high with fatty foods. He was wearing a shirt that said big on the back and think big on the front. It made me laugh, he got it, he accepted it and he was knew what people think of him. It is not healthy and if you are a christian it is not Godly and the truth is the truth being fat is not good. Report
I agree with PSSN4FITNESS I smile at that commercial. I think it's a great way to make a point to people. They're not poking fun at overweight people, they're showing you: Look! This is a bad decision because one day you might burst out of your clothes! It may seem like they're making fun of it, but they are just using it to show you that you have another option. Several people have fallen OUT of hammocks but rarely THROUGH one... these are situations no one wants to see themselves in. So Subway capitolizes on that fact and shows them that if you continue to order a Baconator everyday then that could happen to you. I don't look at those people in the commercial and say oh wow they're fat. I look at that commercial and think hmmm... have I eaten well today? I do not think it's demeaning. Report
it used to be funny (and still is in some circles) to laugh at drunks, too. it counts as humor that makes certain types of people the brunt of the joke - drunks, fat people, different ethnicities, and so forth. if we find it funny it is because we've been taught that fat is ok to ridicule. Report
I think there are millions of commercials that are offensive and that is just the tip of the iceberg. As a health care professional, I see a real nasty side of the discrimination overweight people face. I could go on for days but will stop there. On to the next rant, how Subway gets off trying to say their food is healthy gets me going too. Limp veggies, cut last week, tons of carbs in the bread, processed meat, oh please. Flip a coin and eat at any of these places. Good nutrition is more than calories in minus calories out. Report
Overweight people, while revered in some societies are associated with joviality in the US, thus the jokes. Many things will offend during the journey, but someone hit it on the head when they said, but WHY does it offend you? Probably a suppressed memory of an embarrassing moment in your past. Either way, you have as much right to your opinion, as the people who had Target's Joe Boxer ads removed from TV because they thought he was too sexual. I loved those commercials.
While it may seem that overweight people are fair game, I think that smokers in the US are treated worse than anyone by everyone. Non-smokers think it is perfectly okay to be rude, hurtful, intrusive and even legislate against smokers.
My advice? Build a bridge and get over it, obsessing and forcing your opinions on others is never a good thing. . .and I mean that to be positive. . . live, and let live. Report
I've seen the commerical. I'm pretty sure the point they were trying to get across is that "junk" food, fast food hamburgers in this case, makes you feel heavy and bloated. Where as Subway, a healthier option if you choose wisely, gives the opposite. I wasn't offended by the ad at all, I did think they could've done better though. Report
I really hate the Subway commercial with the lady at the fast food joint, the whole loss of self esteem, loss of boyfriend, ect.

Really? Are we at point in the country that being fat is the worse thing possible. That you can't be funny, smart, cute, loving if your overweight?! Report
I don't think the commercial is that big of a deal and while I do feel bad that overweight people get made fun of I think the reason is that (in most cases) weight is something changeable, no matter how difficult. Race, sexuality, gender, etc. cannot be changed (well gender can, but not easily). I think this commercial is just trying to be funny and also remark on a society where many people DO become overweight from bad food choices. Its common knowledge that being overweight can lead to health problems and all this commercial is trying to do is to make people choose Subway, which has healthier options than many fast food restaurants to make a change for the good of their health (and of course for the financial gain of Subway haha). Report
You have a right to your feelings. Don't let anybody ever tell you otherwise.

Subway might be lower in fat, but they're certainly high in sodium. Their chicken teriyaki that is supposed to be so good for us have over 1000mg of sodium!

As for the commercial, I think they were simply trying to make a point (however erroneous) as quickly as they could. And isn't that what advertising is all about? Report
I don't think it's that serious. If you eat too many cheeseburgers, you will burst out of your clothes. True dat. We can be all "PC" and pretend that discrimination doesn't exist, but it always has and always will. We as humans are imperfect, and live in an imperfect world. We also live in a world that makes it easy for you to shirk the responsibility for your actions. [Insert fast food chain here] didn't make me obese. I ate too much and didn't exercise, therefore I gained weight. As long as you are doing your own part to be healthy, and to make someone's day brighter, that's all you should really worry about. Report
I did see that commercial and to be honest I didn't think much about it. I had to giggle a little. Focus on positive things. After all you won't like everything. Report
I did see that commercial and to be honest I didn't think much about it. I had to giggle a little. Focus on positive things. After all you won't like everything. Report
Most commercials are offensive to someone. It's offensive that Axe body spray, breath mints and certain brands of beer turn all women within a 5 mile radius into brainless double D fembots. It's offensive that men do not have the ability to cook, perform basic cleaning tasks or eat yogurt. It's offensive that blondes are dumb, reheads have no souls and glasses are ugly. It's offensive that most ethnic media roles are meant for comic relief, that gay men can only give fashion advice and that lesbians must wear comfortable shoes. And it's offensive that someone always seems to think that they're the only one being targeted. The one thing guaranteed to you in this society beyond death and taxes is that you can be sure to find something personal to be insulted about in the media. Quite frankly, we all have bigger fish to fry.

Besides, removing everything offensive would remove 100% of comedy routines and then where would we be? Report
I have learned not to be too sensitive when it comes to weight. I've always been the butt of jokes because I was too tall (I reached the height of 5'9" by the time I was13 and towered over all my contemporaries), I have big feet (at the age of 8 I wore a size 8, at the age 10 a size 10 at the age of 45 I have hopefully topped out at size 13), I wore green glasses, made straight As, and played violin. The only thing was at that time I was not fat, I was stick thin. At the age of 12, I made the disastrous (to others not to me) to cut my hair and wear it in a natural style rather than relaxed like all the other girls in my classes. Jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers were the only thing I wore unless there was a concert where I had to wear a black skirt and white shirt, which coincidently was always made by my teenaged sister because while my parents could afford to pay for the violin, books, and anything related to academic pursuits they could not afford the extras, which at my growth rate meant that I was getting new clothing every 6 months or so. I had two dates in high school. At the women's college I attended, my house had a tradition where you were adopted by a senior housemate. You were meant to have a dinner and champagne with your sister as a celebration of sisterhood. My assigned sister never spoke to me, never acknowledged my presence and in fact cried that she had been chosen to be my sister (I witnessed her tears and the conversation with another student in passing). In the work place, I've been called stupid, a b---tch because I refused to compromise the health of a hospital administrator even though it was his health that would have been compromised and was told that in order to succeed that I would have to learn to include a bit of fluff in my personality (never quite figured out what that one meant). I've had one man intentionally allow every woman waiting to board the bus to board ahead of him but when it came to me he intentionally blocked my entrance with a frown. I've loved and I've lost the one man who loved me unconditionally (and who was a foot taller than me!!) approximately 6 months before our marriage. So this commercial and all of the insults, slights, injustices and unfairness are miniscule in the grand scheme of things. I've been in a situation where I had to tour a steel mill in pants that did not fit because there were no pants that fit the body of a 320 lb, 5'10" woman. I've broken chairs but life happens. I didn't get fat because I was drowning my sorrows, I got to be 320 lbs because I genuinely love food and was enjoying my life. There's something about never fitting in that gives you the freedom to really enjoy yourself. Unfortunately, I did too much of it. The point is there will always be ways that people will ridicule or insult. Life isn't about fairness, but it is how you survive and react to it; it's how you treat the others around you. Is it pleasant? No. Will things like this kill you or irrevocably scar you; only if you give in to it. Do I like the commercial? I thought it was mildly funny but then again I don't eat at Subway anymore because their restaurants always appear a bit unsanitary. So it really isn't a big deal too me. Besides I always have the option to change the channel or not buy their product. Report
Rather than wondering if you're overreacting, rejoice that you have the opportunity to disagree.

For me, I find most commercials offending for any number of reasons. My husband reminds me that since companies can't advertise cigarettes or alcohol, what pays for network TV is very limited. So I just change the channel or put it on mute.

I see companies linking fun, fellowship, friends and good times with fatty and high calorie food. I applaud myself for having the common sense to know that pancake stackers are NOT a food choice!

So if something really bothers you, speak up! Know that you CAN and have made better choices. And if you like something, also be sure to write and let them know! Report
I've seen the ad and I am not offended by any means. I am obese and working on losing weight. I think there is no need to be upset by the Subway ad and it is an over reaction. Thanks for caring about others' feelings though. You're super to care so much about others. Report
I think sometimes the truth hurts. Report
My problem with this commercial is that it again puts it
in people's heads that EVERYONE (since they show
all types of people) is fat because of how they
eat and this is NOT true! This is why people think
they can comment and be rude to people with weight issues. Eating the wrong foods is not the only
reason someone may be overweight. This commercial is not a positive one.
I am glad you wrote the letter. That is what people should do if they see something that doesn't look right. Everyone will view this differently depending on how they have been treated related to weight, or if they are overweight now. Report
Telling someone to think of why this commercial bothers them rather than seeing that it doesn't matter WHY it bothers them the fact is she is not the only one that has an issue with certain things on TV being offensive. I for one find this commercial offensive not because of the "picking" on fat people part but more because the people they are showing as "fat" are normal healthy people. Once again causing the teenage girls who are "average weight" to see this and think they are over weight.

I have a son who feels like he is fat even though he is average for he age because his two older brothers are small for their age and this causes him to feel overweight. I have talked to him about it and showed he pictures of himself and shown him that he is perfect but it does no good when commercials are allowed to rein free with cracks on "fat" people who aren't even close to being a little over weight! Report
I always thought the ad was kind of funny, I guess I first saw it after the holidays and could relate to the buttons flying off the pants and the swimming suit popping as my clothes were more snug. I spose if it offends people they could do a different ad though. Report
Without the social pressure to be fit or thin would you still have decided to lose weight? For instance I want to look "good" in a swimsuit and be confident, but this is entirely based on letting how others perceive me change alter my confidence. Save pressing health concerns, its the social aspect of our appearences that many women to diet. I havnt seen this ad, but it seems they are trying to sell their product to those that are concerned with avoiding embarrassing situations that are seen as connected to their weight. Do it for you not for them, ignore these pressures in the media. Report
Nancy, yes I have seen the ad, you've got to lighten up. There are more pressing issues out there other than a paid TV ad. Next time turn it off , why waste your energy or thoughts on such nonsense. Report