Two seemingly disparate news stories from last week are really two sides of the same coin. These events appear different from one another in a number of respects. One is national news, the other tabloid gossip. One is provocative, and–as are all things political in the new era–controversial. The other just a little sad. Yet they both speak to how much recent attention the media has given to food and health issues, and in particular, to the “obesity epidemic.”
First was the announcement of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, a war on childhood obesity. The much-discussed initiative has well-intentioned aims, but it is difficult to see it as anything other than as an another indication that government is in the parenting business for good. That the nation as a whole is becoming increasingly unhealthy is something upon which most Americans will agree. Still, it is a testament to how seriously the problem is perceived by Americans, that a growing portion of the electorate apparently believes that the government knows best what’s in the interest of the children. Haven’t we already been told that it takes a village?
Anecdotally, it does seem that Americans are becoming fatter, a notion supported by the second, much less significant obesity-related story, that of Kevin Smith’s unfortunate airline affair, as tweeted by Smith himself. Smith apparently shared an even more embarrassing obesity-related story in the runup to the release of Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Smith’s latest film, Cop Out, premiers in about ten days, and he may be an adherent to Behan’s quip, “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.” Still, it seems a particularly brutal way to garner publicity.
While Smith may have some legitimate concerns about the way Southwest Airlines treated him, these exhibitionist admissions and the self-denigrating language Smith uses imply volumes about the state of Kevin Smith. Tacitly, the director has signalled to the world and to himself that has wearied of taking responsibility for his own health choices. In this, he is like a growing segment of the nation’s population.
So what do Michelle Obama’s crusade and Kevin Smith’s confessionalism have in common? The same message. A growing number of Americans have grown tired of the myriad choices in a free society, and believe they need someone to make the hard choices for them, to give them the great NO which they can not or will not give for themselves. History will record that when the people seek an absolute master, they most often find one.