Cross-posted at Jezebel.
The ad uses the same strategy as a previously covered Bacardi campaign in which they encouraged women to “get an ugly girlfriend.” Both suggest that being fat (or ugly, and they’re often conflated) is undesirable. They also both treat fat people like they’re aren’t deserving of respect and dignity; that is, it’s okay to use them. In this case, the skinny girl is literally hoisting the fat girl into the air, so aggressively that her shoe is falling off. The fat girl is like a thing that the skinny girl owns and can pick up and toss about.
Notice also that it’s taken-for-granted as simply true that, if a “boy” were to see these two girls together, he would look at the skinny girl and ignore the fat one. This is a pathologization of sexual attraction to fat women, the same pathologization that leads us to call it “fat fetishism” or come up with terms like “chubby chasers” to try to explain “weird” sexual proclivities. It assumes that it’d be unnatural to find the fat woman sexier than the skinny one.
Notice also the stylization of the drawings. Both the fat and the skinny girl are drawn with wildly exaggerated proportions. This makes fat and skinny people seem like members of different species, entirely alien to one another. Skinny people are sticks; fat people are essentially circles. In reality, fat and skinny people look more alike than this. They both have human bodies with all the same parts. Some people just have more fat than others and fat is distributed differently in everyone. Fat is human, fat is natural, fat is okay. But a fear of fat is stoked when we see images like this that threaten us. This image says, “if you are/get fat, you will be a downright FREAK; you will be a circle when you should be a stick. And skinny girls will wave you around to draw attention to themselves.”
The message is pretty clear:
Fat people might as well not be human…
…and skinny women are bitches.
UPDATE: A representative from the company that distributes Mentos, Perfetti Van Melle, emailed to let us know that the ad above was a spec ad, one unendorsed by the company and never used. The rep writes that they will take efforts to have the ad removed from the advertising website where it appeared.
Thank you for making Perfetti Van Melle aware of the offensive MENTOS® ad you saw which portrays an overweight woman. This creative execution was part of a series of ads that an advertising agency submitted to our company in another country but it was rejected because of its unacceptable content. It has never been used in our advertising campaigns.
We do not know how this unapproved creative was ever made public and have asked the advertising agency responsible to provide a public apology and take appropriate actions to remove the creative from the website where it was published. We regret this unfortunate incident and appreciate your willingness to bring it to our attention.
Perfetti Van Melle USA