Public disservices (Never shake a lynx!)

While Albany persists in being an episode of Romper Room and the MTA keeps trying to hike fares, what is New York State busying itself with? Really annoying campaigns to control its residents’ bodies! Doesn’t the NY State Health Department have anything better to do?

First, there is the graphic anti-smoking campaign, with the amputee and the guy with the voice box warning you what will happen if you don’t put down your Marlboros. Then, there’s the anti-soda pop campaign (this is gross; watch at your own risk) and the fact that any restaurant with x or more locations has to post calorie-counts on its menus. Now…we have the WIC pro-breastfeeding campaign, and it’s the most annoying invasion of a citizen’s personal business yet!

Check out this PSA, framed very much like a perky, cheerful ad for Jenny Craig, that says breastfeeding will help you lose weight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjoWWUYDKQM

It’s too bad that, unlike those ads for weight-loss shakes and nutrition programs, there’s no tiny disclaimer that says “results not typical” or “when combined with a daily exercise regimen.”

And then there’s this one, all about how breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyxh8RnuK3U

This one really steamed me, because, unlike the previous video, which treats breastfeeding like a freakin’ Slim Fast shake and is just stupid, this one basically indicates that women who don’t breastfeed are harming their child, that formula is substandard and antiquated. It passes judgment on mothers who don’t, for whatever reason, choose that option and uses a strong element of fearmongering as well: ZOMG, if you don’t breastfeed your child will be sickly and diiiiiiiie. That the mom in this video is basically like,”Gee, shucks, I was stupid, but my daughter will be smart with her baby” makes me want to punch someone in the face.

Look, from an advertising standpoint, I get that fear is a great motivator. You want to shock people into putting down that pack of cigarettes and shake them into saving money on costly formula by opting for the breast. But it’s also really hinky, because you’re using a 30-second to 1 minute commercial bloc to spurt out some kind of message, without further explanation. It’s like yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater or pulling someone’s hair and running away. It’s especially uncomfortable, because this isn’t an ad for a KIA Sportage or a Heineken, it’s a government program feigning worry for your health.

Doing this with the issue of breastfeeding is a particular minefield, because it’s already a hot button issue within the parenting community. New mothers have enough societal pressure to deal with, in terms of the choices they make while raising their children, without NY State weighing in (har har) about how using formula will turn them into an irresponsible fatass.

I have to think these various PSAs are, likely, doing more harm than good. They’re gross, they’re annoying, they’re offensive.

Look, I’m not arguing that quitting smoking is a bad idea. Of course it’s a good idea. And cutting down on sugar and watching what you eat is also wise. And if you choose to breastfeed your baby, go for it! But when you watch as much TV as I do, and are constantly bombarded by these messages, a pattern of “Big Brother is Watching You” begins to emerge, and it really starts to feel like the state government telling people what to do…while simultaneously screwing said people over in other aspects of its functionality.

So here’s my own little PSA: OMG STOP IT!!!

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