Saving us from sugar and ourselves

[Trigger Warnings for fat hate, misogyny, and diet culture.]

Truvia has a new commercial. Thank you, television; I really needed that.

[Video description: In the foreground, a plate of doughnuts is seen, out of focus. In the background, a series of cubicles in an office space are seen, with the camera focused on a (strawberry) blond, white, conventionally slender woman in a shirt, v-neck sweater, and slacks. A female voice begins to sing in a somewhat flat tone (lyrics to follow). The woman in the office turns away from her computer to give the doughnuts a haunted look. Cut to the doughnuts, now in focus and crusted in sugar crystals, then back to the woman as she gets up from her office chair and approaches. With a furtive glance at her coworkers, she takes a doughnut and puts it on a paper plate. Using a plastic knife, she cuts a small wedge from the doughnut (which has a strangely stale texture; why this is considered tempting, I do not know). Still looking around to see if anyone is watching her, she eats the wedge of doughnut, looking miserable. Cut back to the paper plate, where the last crumb of doughnut disappears. The woman is back at her desk, licking sugar off her fingers, when she gives the remaining doughnuts that same distressed look and sighs heavily.
Now, a close up of white crystals pouring from a spoon, a little hill of berries surrounded by the crystals, and a glass filled with something brightly colored with crystals around the lip. A drop of water falls from the edge of a green leaf. A closeup profile of a mouth opening to lick a finger seductively, that glass of beverage visible in the background. Finally, the Truvia box with a green leaf drifting around it.
“Truvia. Honestly sweet.”]

The lyrics to this are a special kind of obnoxious, I think.

The holidays are here/here comes that jiggling sound/when sugar plums appear/temptation’s all around./Doughnuts, cakes and pies/they’ve got a gift for me./I wish that I could take it back/but there is no receipt./Oh jiggle bells jiggle bells/jiggle all the way./Oh how I wish I could resist/jiggling this holiday./Oh joy oh natural joy/Truvia box of bliss./Zero calories sweetness from a leaf/my sugar plum happiness.

(lyrics from Popisms)

I could wax rhapsodic about the scientific garbage on display in their marketing. (Hint: if it tastes like sugar, your body expects sugar. If no calories are forthcoming from your “little green leaf,” your body will demand you eat something else to meet its needs. Artificial sweeteners, whatever their positive uses may be, will not make you crave doughnuts less.) I am, however, far more interested in their new ad’s message about fatness.

This is not a diet/light/eating-right food that will “fix” you if you are fat. No, this time Truvia squarely positions itself as a preventative, rather than a cure. This is a story about a slender woman beset by a world of sugar, lacking of any kind of self-control (the fat-phobic world’s watered down version of agency), and TERRIFIED of getting fat.

And who wouldn’t be terrified? If you put on even a little weight, you’ll begin to jiggle, which is, I’m led to believe, really horrible. I can imagine the whole sensory experience of being Truvia’s kind of fat. You are a Santa Claus-esque bowl full of jelly. Even sitting still, you sort of shimmy. Instead of walking, you wobble. When you move, you make a flubbery sound like something out of a cartoon–ACME Grade AA Fat Ass. You smell of sweat and Twinkies. In short, you are some kind of hideous, sentient gelatin mold and you jiggle.

This is not the embodied fat representation I had in mind. For the record.

What I especially love is that the woman in the commercial seems genuinely disgusted by the doughnut (again, I have to say, if it’s that hard when you cut into it, I wouldn’t be wild about it either) yet can’t help contemplating going back for more. Her desperation for sugar wins out over her utter horror that one of her coworkers might witness this breakdown in her self-control. Her helplessness in the face of sugary foods is absolute.

This would never be attributed to her body’s biological need for sugar as fuel, of course. No, it’s something more insidious and harder to avoid. I suspect it is the simple fact that she is a lady-person and, as we all know, they cannot be trusted around sugar. All that talk about “letting yourself go” if you gain weight centers around the idea that women are inherently unstable, out of control, and apt to harm themselves if not held in check. Look at this woman: her face plainly shows how repellent that doughnut is and she is still magnetically pulled toward it again and again. Even shame cannot stop her.

So now, Truvia comes to the rescue of all those women whose bodies are socially, visibly acceptable but who are obviously on the verge of unraveling at any moment. If you don’t think this applies to you, you are kidding yourself. If even conventionally attractive, thin women can’t cope in the face of a stale doughnut, none of us can. But Truvia will save you from yourself. Truvia will keep you sane. Because that’s what it comes down to: every woman’s desperate attempt to lock down the food madness that fills her, lest she become a huge and wobbly mess.

Thank you, Truvia. You saved us. I guess.

For bonus points, between despairing over how very much luxury food is on hand and talking of returning gifts, Truvia does a great job of erasing any person who, during the holiday season or any other time of year, does not have enough food or who would cherish any gift that came to them. I know sugar substitutes are often marketed to those who have (more than) enough of everything, especially food. Products like Truvia are still, however, part of the multiverse of fat panic, the overall burden of which is disproportionately placed on the shoulders of low income communities. So this still strikes me as wonderfully oblivious and cruel.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this jiggling, wobbling mess has holiday dinner parties to orchestrate. Unfortunately, I don’t have any Truvia on hand, so I’ll probably just end up stealing all the food from my guests. Oops!


About Joyce

Joyce Sully lives in Southern California. She graduated from UC Irvine. She likes to knit and cook and play video games. But mostly she writes. Joyce writes short stories and novels, songs and poems, scripts and instructions to feed the cat if she stays out late. She has been spotted as far afield as Seattle, but travel makes her nervous. She believes in magic and dragons and ghosts, but is not convinced her next-door neighbors are real.
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3 Responses to Saving us from sugar and ourselves

  1. Truvia’s holiday commercial: saving us from sugar and ourselves. The only enemy worse than a doughnut is a hungry body.

  2. babysnaakes says:

    You mentioned you were new to blogging, I don’t have any constructive criticisms just wanted to say I liked your post and truly appreciated you noting that not everyone is fortunate enough to have seasonal treats to battle with in the first place.

  3. grace says:

    I don’t know which I like better: this post or your bio!

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