I encountered this poster on a SEPTA bus last week: a painfully transparent effort to cater to our society’s obsession with dieting, this ad cites weight loss as a reason to buy Sleepy’s mattresses. It forms a tenuous progression between inadequate mattresses, trouble sleeping, nighttime eating and weight gain, casting each step in a disapproving light. It operates on the assumption that everyone aspires to a slender body; it stigmatizes desire and impulse by locating it in a chain of inevitability, where the person in question has no control over their choice to eat.
This ad’s approach to dieting captures what Susan Bordo calls the “moral and … economic coding of the fat/slender body”(Bordo, 191). Sleepy’s motto, “making the world a better place to sleep,” alludes to moral categories. It suggests that if you don’t shop at Sleepy’s, you’re making the world a worse place, and you also probably have a muffin top–which is, of course, the worst thing of all. Because the value of the slender body is so firmly enforced throughout society, this ad doesn’t even need to explicitly cite it; the allusion to a muffin top and nighttime eating is loaded enough to tie the ad’s moral system to that of desire.
Bordo, Susan. “Unbearable Weight.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.