A different picture

Is it a mere coincidence that Jamie Foxx and Moesha, tv shows with predominantly African American cast and audience, feature more overweight actors than white shows like Frasier and Friends?

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- US Primetime Shows

Is it a mere coincidence that Jamie Foxx and Moesha, tv shows with predominantly African American cast and audience, feature more overweight actors than white shows like Frasier and Friends? Is it also a coincidence the tv shows aimed at African Americans carry more food advertisements -- five during each 30-minute show as compared to three ads for other shows -- and that most of these ads push junk food? Is this kind of televising more an exception than the rule, or is it part of a pattern? A recent study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, has found unhealthy food and dietary images to be consistently more common on primetime shows aimed at African Americans than on other shows.

While the researchers, M A Tirodkar and Anjali Jain from University of Chicago, us, don't establish a definite link between such television and the higher rate of obesity among African Americans, they feel there may be a connection. "The content of television, both in its portrayal of overweight characters and in its advertising, may promote obesity particularly among African Americans, who are already at higher risk than whites," opines Jain. "You may ask -- which comes first, the demand for the programs and products, or the supply? And I think it is both. They act together, but demands and stereotypes can be both created and perpetuated by the right package," she adds. Interestingly, a study published in July in the Journal of International Medicine had found grocery stores in African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles sold a limited range of healthy food. While only 38 per cent of these stores sold skim milk, the figure was 80 per cent for white areas.

African American groups feel their community is being targeted. "It's in all media for African Americans -- billboards, television, magazines," said a health educator from California Black Health Network. "If you keep pushing something in someone's face, eventually they're going to buy it," he added.

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