Chocolate one of the most well liked foods in all the world. So how it has been bad for America?
Chocolate is consumed all across the developed world and has become a staple in millions of people’s diets. As a marketable, consumable product, its rise to fame was harmonious with the modernization of American culture. Chocolate gained more and more popularity as western civilization developed. Chocolate has a plethora of desirable dimensions. Traditionally it has been used as a spice, sweetener, medicine, satisfying treat or symbolic gift. In the modern era however, chocolate has gained a lot of attention through what it may symbolize- lust, joy, peacefulness to name a few. The branding and marketing of chocolate is what has truly taken control of how we view chocolate. This has lead to more delicious chocolate in our lives over a wider scale, however it has also opened the door to a slew of relatively unspoken negativity in America surrounding social issues, like race, ethnicity, gender, and class.
Cacao was first cultivated in Mesoamerica, and was very prominent in early civilizations there. For example, the Mayans who were known for “agriculture, art, architecture, astronomy, and foodstuffs, calendar system, math, religion and writing” (Martin, 2016) Our first example of how chocolate adds a negative to our culture socially is through its influences in the way we think about it as part of Mayan culture. Companies such as Green and Blacks, or Lara Bar use the appeal of mayan chocolate to come across a more authentic. Although it doesn’t seem outwardly offensive, I argue that it objectifies their culture and leads to subtle racism limiting an entire thriving culture to just one of their many wonderful facets.
Interestingly enough chocolate in our society can have negative implications surrounding class. Chocolate can have really great impacts on health but only dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has been proven to reduce blood pressure, “Dark chocolate, lowers high blood pressure says Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany.” (DeNoon, 2003). Chocolate is also it a potent antioxidant, this is very valuable because “antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments”(DeNoon, 2003). These benefits are a great aspect of dark chocolate especially along with its great flavor. However when we start to produce milk chocolate we run into major health problems.
“Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate … and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate.” Additionally chocolate, primarily milk chocolate, is very high in calories, LDL cholesterol, fats and carbs for what you are getting out of it. (Lee, 2016) This leads to obesity. What it also leads to is a divide in economic class. This is less the fault of the chocolate itself and more the fault of the American economic situation. However, one could still even make the argument that its dishonest for chocolate companies to sell a product that knowingly makes people unhealthy. However in a capitalist, consumerist society this is a pretty unreasonable request. Still though, the fact remains there is a divide in who can afford to enjoy chocolate and stay healthy by paying more for dark chocolate, and who will enjoy chocolate but suffer health-wise because the only chocolate within their economic range is processed milk chocolate.
Chocolate has also led to negativity surrounding gender in America. Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, has become a hyper sensualized product. Women are the ones modeling with chocolate, appearing to lust for chocolate, and have been objectified sexually in order to market it.
Take this woman in the above Godiva chocolate image for example, her sensual expression combined with the chocolate up to her lips emit a certain sexual desire that is being associated with chocolate. Combine this action with the slogan on the ad, “Every woman is one part chocolate” makes it seem as though woman are bound to chocolate, especially in a sexual way. To make the claim that women are bound to chocolate takes away their sense of choice, it is subtly but effectively taking away a portion of their rights.
Sadly this is not the only case of woman being objectified for the sale of chocolate. Cadbury, another major Chocolate company launched a new line of advertisements for their snowflake chocolate. Here is a picture of one of their ads:
This ad is completely hyper sexualized. The chocolate is again interacting with her mouth in a sensual fashion, additionally she appears not to be wearing a shirt, which takes the focus off of the chocolate bar and puts it on her exposed body. This marketing approach objectifies her and exploits her as a human. There was a study conducted where consumers talked about their thoughts on these objectifications of women as well as the discriminations between the women in men in the in advertisements of chocolate, most of those asked stated that what they were seeing was wrong. (Fusion, 2016) Sadly, the marketing still is effective and there is a population out there that takes to this kind of marketing because it wouldn’t exist if it weren’t successful, especially when analyzing how two of the biggest companies utilize this strategy (Godiva and Cadbury).
The last social injustice that chocolate brings out is about race. Racism in the current chocolate political climate is far reduced today then in the 20th century. However as the chocolate industry was growing there were countless examples of racist representation in chocolate. Roald Dahl’s Charlie in the Chocolate Factory is a great example that shows the evolution of racism surrounding chocolate. At first Roald Dahl included in his story that the oompa loompas in his factory were dark colored and from a place deep, deep in Africa. Wonka brought them to western civilization and now they work for free in his factory. (Robertson pg. 12009) However as rewrites of the novel continued to come out through them we see a decline in racist tendencies on how the oompa loompas are portrayed. By now, in the most recent re-write the oompa loompas are white, rosey-cheeked and come from Loompaland a made up place with absolutely no connection or mention of Africa. (Robertson pg. 2, 2009)
This chocolate babies advertising is an example of how racism and objectifying culture once was prominent. This advertisement portrays small “babies” that come across as older men implying that they are called chocolate babies only because of the skin color and size. This is racist advertising at its maximum. The other idea that comes into play here has to do with chocolate being a skin color, and an identifier when it comes to race. Carla Martin in talks about how “Chocolate and vanilla have become cultural metaphors for race, chocolate is to blackness as whiteness is to vanilla” (Martin, 2016). Chocolate has provided one more medium in our culture for racism to exist. As unfortunate as it may be, whiteness has come to be associated with purity and cleanliness, while blackness has come to be associated with impurity and dirtiness. The fact that chocolate has come to represent a whole race of people narrows who that culture is and what they stand for, especially because they’re already battling the stereotype of impurity that is associated with their “color.” By being looked at as chocolate, it sets black culture up to be objectified because it equates them with an object, not as people.
As seen through the examples of race, ethnicity, gender, and class chocolate can bring about some major social issues. Chocolate holds a lot of power because of its popularity. Especially through advertising there are countless examples of how many companies exploit certain groups for marketability purposes or objectify entire demographics. In the case of class and certain aspects of race, chocolate inadvertently helps to reinforce certain negative trends or stereotypes that have to do with those demographics. To combat living in a world where prejudice, objectivity, and unfairness exist all around us we must be consumers with a critical lens with the understanding that even in the sweetest chocolate there may a hidden bitter flavor.