A startling factoid has been circulating in social media: Did you know that the crowd scenes in top-grossing movies are more than 80% male? This came from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, launched out of concern over the impact of gender stereotypes on her children.
Perhaps these stereotypes are a by-product of the Hays code, enforced in Hollywood from 1934 to 1968. Based on a belief that film could be a powerful force for the “improvement of mankind”, the code prohibited, among other things, depictions of sexuality, childbirth and methods of smuggling.
Today, obesity, eating and food are major topics in public policy discussion. Food culture is diverse and fascinating. We have raw food advocates, gluten-free advocates, eat-for-your-blood-type advocates, and even food porn. We carry our coffee cups and water bottles around and snack freely anywhere – behaviors not tolerated in the past, when coffee breaks were scheduled. The type of coffee you drink, whether you make it yourself and with what device, all say something about you, your values, and your aspirations. Cooking advocates see home cooking as a path to family bonding and a better society, as well as healthier eating.
School boards are attempting to change dietary habits by controlling cafeteria menus. Without creating a compelling experience of healthy eating, these efforts have been relatively ineffective, a predictable result to any marketer or marketing researcher.
The public pays for poor health outcomes in many ways, so has a vested interest in good health outcomes. This territory is ripe for regulation, and we have already seen many signs of this, from labelling requirements to ingredient regulation.
If we want behavior change on a large scale, we have options:
- Forcing people to eat apples instead of pre-packaged apple products is one idea.
- Another is to deny processed apple products the right to market themselves, a strategy that proved very effective with tobacco.
- A more intriguing idea, to me, is to help the healthy food compete on a level playing field with better marketing resources.
Culture in our modern era is not monolithic, it is continually shifting around us. We engage in dozens of daily choices about the right way to be and to live, about achieving success, and what kind of success we should aspire to. We spend our lives in the creation of ourselves.
Learning how to influence our culture for the greater good without resorting to the Hays Code is one of the challenges of modern public policy.