In this Jell-O ad, a perfectly manicured woman’s hand is holding a tiiiiiiiiiiny ice cream cone, suggesting that women are better off eating sugar-free pudding as a dessert. Below, I argue that this ad, far from promoting “decadence,” is actually a form of social control.


The words “60 Calories of Denial” imply that eating ice cream requires self-denial because a normal portion would be too high in calories.  In contrast, the large bowl of Jell-O pudding is labeled “60 Calories of Decadence.”  The fine print specifies that the pudding is “loved by lips and hips alike.”

To put it plainly, this ad for dessert tells women to be ashamed of wanting dessert.  It says, “You are a woman, so you are stressed about calories (and you should be). But we’re here to save the day. We can give you permission to have a little bit of dessert, but you will do so on our terms.”

So, while the ad suggests that Jell-O is offering women freedom, the converse of self-denial, in fact it is reminding women of the rule that they be calorie-conscious.  In other words, it reinforces the notion that every woman should be unhappy with or fearful of her body, always striving to attain or maintain thinness.

Camilla Bennett is a sophomore at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California where she is a Cognitive Science major with an emphasis in computation.