"Not wanting to leave the house some days because I'm so uncomfortable in my own skin, isn't normal," says actress Sara Rue, Jenny Craig's latest weight-loss spokesperson. The clip, which aired this week, shows a zaftig Rue at the beginning of her "journey." Now she's 50 pounds lighter, and can fit into skinny jeans, she proclaims exuberantly (if hungrily). So why is she still in that stark white Jenny Craig set?
The series of commercials featuring Rue are disturbing, as Jezebel's Hortense Smith points out, for their suggestion that weight loss can cure bigger problems--the kind of self-esteem issues symptomatic of an eating disorder.
Another disturbing feature of the ads is the set design. Throughout her campaign, Rue's commercials have taken place in bizarre dream-sequence home where all the furniture, walls and floors are white--even the vases and books are white. It's hard not to compare the set to the padded walls of a movie mental institution. The kind Norman Bates ended up in. A sterilized room devoid of character, dirt or escape hatch, suggests the spokesperson will be incarcerated until she shows further progress. Get skinnier, it suggests, or get used to this.
In one sequence, the Jenny Craig cell is outfitted with a door. Rue is seen about to leave it, dressed like the pink panther incognito, claiming she doesn't want to be caught eating out. When co-spokesperson Valerie Bertinelli coaxes her back in for some good wholesome JC meals, she's not going anywhere. You get the feeling armed guards with morphine syringes would have stopped her had Valerie's ploy failed.
In her final commercial, at her "goal weight", the zaftig Rue is unrecognizable. She looks like she's been put through more than a diet, but a physically altering experiment. Her claim that the weight-loss program brought back her "smile" is eerily undermined by what looks like a grimace. In this commercial, her set is still stark white but today she's been granted a window...and a colorful, accent pillow. It's a step, I guess. But can't she just leave the house?
I get that the white set is supposed to elicit the feeling of wiping the slate clean, it's also supposed to highlight the shape of the spokesperson without competition from props. But to me it's like a visual metaphor for how it might feel to be trapped inside in the cycle of an eating disorder. There's a clear effort to have every crumb or trace of food excised from the area. The accent vase or shelf of books serve no function because all you can concentrate on is your own body. There's no comfortable lounge area, and there's certainly no exit. And the only person who can even enter the space is someone else who shares your compulsion.
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