by sebba, May 15, 2021

*** Minor Spoiler for Episode 4 of Heart to Heart in Section 4, all other images are spoiler-free! *** 

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You Are What You Eat: Media Consumption and MDL User Diets  

MDL User profiles showcase dietary requirements: Insomniacs seeking serotonin; Hipster connoisseurs’ pursuit of an acquired taste; Vampires turned vegan; Activists demanding free trade and zero waste; Comfort bingers eating their hearts out; Bottom Feeders’ indiscriminate love of trash; Lovelorn with a bittersweet tooth; Lockdowners desperately in need of vitamin D; Carnivores wanting something meaty to chew on. These preferences can be exclusive to ‘anything goes’ and encompass intolerances and cravings. 

Minor theme of the influence of social media public opinion

Second Time is a Charm
Minor theme of the effect of negative social media

Then there are those on diets!  “Only Jdramas” or “Nothing by **** Production Company please!” It seems strange to blacklist entire cultures or production houses but such a drastic act is rarely done on a whim and comes from wanting to limit intake of toxic elements which make you sick to your stomach.  In Sujata Bhatt’s ‘A Different History’, the narrator does not understand why her people would enjoy using and creating in the language of their oppressors. Her confusion and contempt is understandable as is her boycott. Diets are different to such protests and aim to protect against perceived negative influences.

Running Man
Real Life example of the positive power of social media public opinion

Chicks, Serial Killers and Grandfather Clocks 

Media consumption is much like a modern day piped piper.  We imprint onto it in our early years, leading us to seek it out in a room and respond quickly to its call. It is the by far the biggest pendulum in the room effortlessly pulling us into entrainment disguised as entertainment. If we factor in the notion of epigenetics then the sound of a flute will trigger anxiety in generations to come. What we consume is the part of the legacy we leave behind in every conversation and interaction. As a test try arguing with a five year old against anything uttered by Peppa Pig or Dora the Explorer.

“If television's a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.” - Dorothy Gambrel 

Theme of the importance of satisfying media consumption

I used to scoff at the idea that watching serial killer fiction would compel me towards violence. People alone are sufficient to incite such feelings. However, I feel the stress of excess weight from thoughts instilled by incessant images of modern marketing that insidiously reify implicit biases of systems of privilege as I seek to be rewarded for compliance and emulating what is beyond most of us. I can’t convince my teenage niece that you can’t copy Kylie’s lifestyle on a budget. Yet I also question the root reasons for so many of my own beliefs.  

Big Noses and Why Men Age Better 

A pet peeve of mine is why men age better than women. Although a part of me truly believes that this idea is rooted in what I have known to be true, a friend suggested that perhaps I’d bought into corporate propaganda. Media shies away from images of older people in general, so perhaps this is the reason older women don’t show up on my radar. It could be a case of motivated perception; my biased opinions only see fouls from the opposing team! However, when did my allegiances form and where did they originate in the first instance? I don’t want to believe in a sinister oligarchy agenda that wants to make me feel inferior against images of youthful women standing next to handsome older men. Perhaps capitalism isn’t trying to extort money from me through intimidating subtext that absurdly I will only feel good by ‘fitting in’ by looking unlike myself.

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power.” - Malcolm X

Propaganda vs Truth

Search Engine algorithm manipulation

Another insecurity of mine is that my nose isn’t ‘as cute as a button.’  I can’t even pinpoint the moment I started believing that beauty is directly correlated to the width of my nose. Yet I remember the moment of realization that Big Business’ greed adjusts for localities - the day I read a post titled “Chicken Thighs” from someone I follow who was caught between two cultures opposing widths of ‘attractive legs.’

Again if I were to believe conditioning of media then I could easily think that it is possible to have a size zero figure and consume all the pizza, crisps and soda I want: characters who love to eat and yet avoid the consequences of it. I used to feel ashamed at being overweight even though I wasn't doing anything different from what I saw on TV. It begs the question why are we placing the locus of our self-esteem outside ourselves and more concerning right into the Smorgasbord of consumerism. Our thoughts become an arena of anarchy as we try to make the impossible messages a reality and the end result is never pretty or nice; disruptive self-doubt and poor mental health.

Accepting yourself

Eliminating toxic relationships

Global Big Business is behind much of our brainwashing, as we buy into the premises they peddle so we rush to buy ‘antidotes’ to the anxiety of not fitting the norms they promote. It messes with your psyche not being able to buy ‘skin colour’ products, of being on the wrong side of a feminine man even against emasculating depictions, of never finding the 1 cm safe zone between prude and wanton. It makes you paranoid, alienated and uncomfortable but worst of all it distracts you from getting on with your life. Big business will never provide nourishment that satisfies appetites because their aim is our obsessive preoccupation with consumption.

Need vs Want

Not fitting norm values of beauty

Detox Now! 

For many, the idolised norm is a preferred taste and for some part of their silver spoon package.  However, conforming to the norm doesn’t make you superior, no matter how much the world validates that notion by regarding and rewarding it as a badge of honour.  People who aren’t bringing their A-game in appearances tend to for a reason, e. g. poor mental health, lack of time & money, or they don’t want to give it importance. And it is these very people that need the care readily given only to those that meet promoted standards of beauty; that you’re only valuable if you’re beautiful – in a very specific way - based on the fallacy that “what is beautiful is good.”

Social Anxiety

Pressure to keep up

Eugene Yang went from being the bullied ‘ugly’ kid for being of Korean ethnicity to successful, good looking YouTuber. Yet what intrigues me most is the change of opinion on his ‘attractiveness’ within his ethnic crowd. As a teenager, his mother’s friends would suggest ‘some plastic surgery’ to make him tolerable to now fawning over his ‘handsome features.’ What changed their palates?

If people find it hard to look at you then make them bow!

Proliferation of streaming sites, on-demand TV, and social media means that hetero-norm, abled, upper-class privileged conforming images don’t have to be your staple diet anymore. It's early days and we still need diversification within diversity to create inclusive content so that everyone is represented without depictions of assimilation or fetishism. We need more non-conformists like Harnaam Kaur or Winnie Harlow who challenge the idea that you need to fit promoted ‘ideals’ of beauty to be worthy of attention and spotlight. Moreover, it is delectable that they are unreservedly unapologetic about not conforming.

Fighting snobbery

Healthier Eating Options 

Fed up of tokenism, I decluttered my dashboards and followed people who only post ethnic content as found on MDL User Feeds. It’s a case of positive discrimination: deprogramming decades of overt messages and toxic subtext to undo learned and internalized mind-set of never being able to measure up. Very quickly, I found myself associating beauty and empowerment with Asian and Black cultures, people and voices. In order to maintain my healthier mind-set, I now rarely – to the point of insignificance – consume media content from non-ethnic sources.  

My ‘diet’ intends to create a fairer representation of viewpoints that showcase my own personal journey and not from only outside of it; discourses looking at our understanding of existence from varying vantage points free of cultural colonization, sexism, cis-het exclusivity additives.

What I watch now makes me feel lighter yet fuller, happier within my own skin and belonging to an ethnic culture. It might not always be the most tempting choice on the menu but it’s healthiest for me. Eating ‘clean’ can still be problematic and I live with unsettling feelings that I might still find caterpillars in my organic fruit even if not pesticides!

Doing what you want and love

The great thing about the proliferation of K-pop is that it puts Asian faces out there. Adjusted, but still Asian faces. If it’s even one small town girl who is now obsessed with supporting Asian culture, then more power to them!” - Eugene Yang  

Validating people with low self esteem

Sometimes I visit the ‘food court’ for candy floss, hot dogs and instant regret - but I return to my healthy eating plan because my overarching concern is to enrich my well-being one meal at a time.

Heartfelt Thanks

Despite ‘the level of interest’ my last few think pieces have garnered – don’t laugh – I thought I’d give this another try. Thank you for indulging me! My opinions are ‘thoughts in progress’ so both biting remarks and sweet-talk are welcome!

Are you on a diet? What unwanted weight are you trying to shed? Have you detoxed your watchlist to cut out ‘junk’ to help you towards a healthier lifestyle? Do you choose mindful munching over binging unneeded, ‘empty’ or even toxic content?

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