05 September, 2010

Vintage Sunday: Americans Have Always Loved To Poop

We seem inundated lately in products which claim to promote "digestive health."  Most of them seem to be dairy products of one kind or another, sold pre-contaminated with live bacteria and advertised as magic potions to cure "sluggishness."

But even though these "probiotic" and "digestive health" products are new, marketers have been trying to make us feel guilty and obsessive about bowel movements for decades.  The current "digestive health" movement (heh heh, movement) is actually fairly low-key and mild compared to how practically insane America was about crapping in the 1920's and 30's.  At that time, many physicians believed that the colon was an unneccessary and even unhealthy organ.  Thousands of patients went under the knife and had their colons removed for the treatment of conditions we now know are entirely unrated to that poor maligned organ.

That was also the era in which ridiculous notions about pooping and digestion came about.  Things like "At any given time you have x pounds of putrifying meat in your colon" and "Chewing gum stays in your intestines for seven years."

And so it was during this time period that Kellogg's produced an annual series of cookbook/dietary booklets promoting "A New Way of Living" on The Sunny Side of Life.  The picture at right is the cover of the 1934 edition, but they were all pretty much the same every year, just updated with fresh illustrations.  They contained advice about incorporating lots of Kellogg's All Bran cereal into one's diet, as a breakfast cereal and as an ingredient in foods served at every meal, and touted the many health benefits of regularly scheduled crapping.

Each booklet also included very official-looking but completely idiotic diagrams and charts purporting to explain how food travels through the intestinal tract.

This chart, for example, is Kellogg's representation of how food should ideally travel through your body - right "on schedule like a railroad train."  Each color represents a meal.  You're REGULAR when all your meals politely line up at the colon, waiting their turn to be "emptied."

But look at the bottom right frame in that chart.  O NOES!!!1! MY MEALS R ALL MIXT UP & NOW MY BOWELS WON'T MOVE!!!!!!1! LOL

Don't you dare argue, damn it, this is SCIENCE, in bold italicized caps which everyone knows is shorthand for "truth."

Kellogg's gave away hundreds of thousands of these booklets over the years via mail-in requests and giveaways at state fairs and groceries spurring millions of dollars in sales for their bran products.

And just in case science and scare tactics didn't convince you to eat bran and organize your turds like boxcars in gut, they also commissioned newspaper comic strip artists to create advertising comics starring popular characters such as  this one with Alphonse and Gaston, two unctuously polite Frenchmen.  Note how the constipated Gaston refuses to set foot into the water, a situation also used by Activia ads 70 years later (remember the woman poolside who wouldn't go swimming because "I'm a little...irregular," she explains as she rubs her stomach.)

Yes, lady.  You are a little irregular, like your mother and grandmother before you.  Lucky for you there have always been marketers out there to remind you of your defecatory responsibilities and to provide you with the products you need to perform them.

1 comment:

MrsBug said...

I have a bunch of old magazines from the 20s and 30s (they are FASCINATING), and you are spot-on with this observance.

All sorts of ads for regularity, fiber, bowel health, etc.

I don't really think our ads today even come close to blatant and in-your-face wording of the old ones. Basically, they were a big ad that said "POOOOOOP! Oh no!!"

Too funny.