Skinny Update: The general reaction to my last column – in which I argued against a ban imposed on runway models whose Body Mass Index falls below 18.5 – appears to have been a combination of shock, horror and restatements of the premise that “size-zero” models create a template of beauty dangerous to both models and to the young women who emulate them, and should therefore be abolished. For my antagonists, I have two words: Audrey Hepburn.
Quoting a biographer of the late Ms. Hepburn – star of “My Fair Lady” and “Breakfast at Tiffanys” and one of the greatest fashion and beauty icons of the last century – Daphne Merkin writes in a “Talk of the Town” piece from The New Yorker edition of May 17, 1999 (The New Yorker‘s online archives don’t go back that far, but I swear it exists – I have the hard copy) that “Hepburn, who was five feet seven, kept her weight at a firm hundred and ten pounds.” That would put her BMI at 17.2, well below the floor set by campaigners for banning models from the catwalks. I await international efforts to ban Ms. Hepburn’s films from video stores and television as a danger to women…
Speaking of weighty issues, there exists no man or woman, royal or commoner, who can outdo His Royal Highness Prince Charles for sheer fatheadedness. Not content to try and drag architecture back to the dark ages (when your choice was castle or thatched hut) or flunk basic hypocrisy awareness by excoriating British schools for teaching children that they can rise in the world without talent or effort, the airhead apparent has now suggested that Ronald McDonald be branded an outlaw. On a visit to the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre with his longtime horse, Charles was overheard asking a resident nutritionist “Have you got anywhere with McDonald’s? Have you tried getting it banned? That’s the key.” Readers of this oddly libertarian-leaning column should know that nothing makes my lipid-enriched blood boil faster. But what really sends me reaching for my grease gun in this instance is that even the most rapacious or blundering nanny-state smotherer would never be so foolish as to call for an outright ban on an entire commercial enterprise. You don’t start the slippery slope off at the trough for goodness sake. Give Chazza a wedge and he’d try to clobber you with the thick end.
Let me pause for a moment to say that as a subject of the British Crown, I am agnostic on the question of Republicanism. Given that the Royal Family is today nothing much more than a fancy tourist attraction (no, that doesn’t mean you can ride the Queen), I don’t really care whether it stays or goes, unlike some gin-soaked old socialists on the Labour back benches who insist that abolishing the monarchy is the only way for us limeys to hold our heads high, lest some future royal gorgon orders them struck off. This charitable attitude to the House of Saxe-Koburg, however, does not extend to the current Prince of Wales, whose blood I would be baying for like Cromwell incarnate and incarnadine should our good Queen Bess ever decide to pop her crown-jewel-encrusted clogs. No throne for you!
Court Jester, in fact, is about as high as His Royal Highness should get in the hierarchy. For only a fool would think that a Big Mac was a greater danger to the public health than repeated exposure to Camilla Parker-Bowles. My apologies – in the manner of the viperous English press I’m getting carried away with ad-hominem invective. I almost forgot all about the argument. So here it is again for those in the cheap seats: No-one is forced to eat McDonalds’ fattier offerings, or to feed them to their child. The pervasiveness of junk food is a product of the public’s choices. To ban McDonalds and its ilk, or to treat them as the “root” of the obesity problem, is to infantilize all people. And we have long ago given up the notion that the subjects are the sovereign’s children. Any such ban would be ineffective and set a dangerous precedent for the power of the state to prohibit production or consumption in the name of knowing what’s best for you.
I realize of course that for many people, choices for a healthy diet are limited (though not as limited as some might suggest and the paltry choice itself is hardly McDonald’s fault). So here’s an idea: deduct the centuries of unpaid property taxes on the Royal Family’s massive holdings from its current assets and devote those funds to providing free, healthy meals for all children of lower-income families in Britain. The fat pocket or the fat mouth – Charlie Boy should open one or close the other. Indeed, perhaps what we need is a campaign for a moratorium on pompous pronouncements from His Royal Windbag. ‘Ban the Bloat” shall be our cry.
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