By Michael Applebaum, MD, JD, FCLM

We are media-malleable.  Advertising tells us what we want, so we do.  Media "personalities" tell us what we need, so we do.  The bedrock of entire industries is formed in the substance of successful suggestion.

Like the casinos, many businesses use the promise of winners to lure the rest of us in.  It is no secret that Victoria’s models look better in those garments than the vast majority of purchasers.  It is obvious that fitness models did not get into the shape they are in by using the products they endorse.  It is noticeable that obese people are absent from fast-food restaurant ads, yet herds of them populate these stores in real life.

The message of the sell is “If you buy our product, you will become a winner just as our carefully chosen actors did.”  And people want to achieve that.  They want to be beautiful, fun, sexy, rich, carefree, exciting, desired.

This makes sense.  Perfect sense.

There are two subsets of ads that seem to defy this logic which strike me as interesting.

My training routine takes an average of 29 minutes per day.  When I train, I wear a portable music system so I can choose what moves my eardrums.  I find the club’s music terrible.

Today was cardio day.  My exercise of choice is a stepping machine, i.e., I climb stairs.  While climbing I will look at the TVs suspended from the ceiling in my club.  All I can hear is my music.

On the tube were several commercials, for what it makes no difference.  In each ad there was a guy or gal who was overweight and flabby in appearance.  Each actor played a physician.

So I had to ask myself, “Why are television doctors stereotyped as out of shape?”  Don’t we want the alleged guardians of our health to look fit?  If they practiced what they preached, shouldn’t physicians be exemplary of a healthful appearance?  Fitness winners.  We expect hair color models to have beautifully-colored hair.  Right?  So why shouldn’t health advocates have fit appearances?

The second subset comprises the diet gurus -- those few, very lucky individuals who squeeze together at the lucrative bully pulpit of the weight debate.  Why are the biggest names also some of the biggest people?  They are not weight management winners.  They are overweight or possibly obese physicians, fat talk show hosts, ventripotent psychologists and flabby, but “famous,” researchers.

Why do diet gurus and doctors in commercials look like such losers at their own games when everyone else looks like winners at their games?

One possible explanation is that the mind-controlling media cannot afford to make its consumers better.  Imagine how much revenue would be lost if people became fit, accepted the color of their hair, didn’t need over-the-counter life-relieving products and realized that no matter how much beer they drank, their lives will not become as much fun as a beer commercial?

To keep people in their places, the message we are told is that if you live your life as the physicians and diet “experts” we parade before you, this is the best you can hope for.  Media-cre results.  This is what is achievable for the supposed best we have to offer.  You cannot expect more for yourself.

Supporting the message, are the talking head mediots whose morning talk shows feature the fascinating combination of useless and dangerous advice.  “Certs advice”--two, two, two hazards in one.

The system rests atop layer after layer of bolstering strata.  Brilliant, frankly, because it works.  The public is fed by media-cre spokespersons, buys media-cre products and accepts media-crity as the result.

The only excellence here is in the ability of the media and gurus to generate money for themselves.

Caveat emptor.