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Karl Lagerfield Sells Ice Cream, Mocks Fat People

04/26/2011 12:16 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2011

Skinny Girl Eating Ice Cream: A study in social morés. Eclipsed only by the Fat Child Eating Ice Cream tableau vivant, nothing brings out more opinions than a thin girl with a cone. Some people are jealous: "Lucky genetic freak gets to eat ice cream and still look like that?!" Others are sad: "I'll never be thin." Others moralize: "Ice cream is bad for you, skinnyfat girl!" Some diagnose: "That has eating disorder written all over it -- I remember when I used to starve for an entire day just so I could eat ice cream." And some resolve: "I want to look like that! Diet starts now!!" Yet others defend: "She's naturally thin, stop hating on her! Can't a girl eat what she wants?" A few will cheer, "You go girl! You eat that ice cream!" And anyone who's left pretends not to care, "Eh, I don't even like ice cream. Or hipster skinny girls."

Hence this ad was born:

Say what you will but I think the Rosie the Riveter of our generation is Rachel Bilson fellating an ice cream bar. It's a call to action that simultaneously plays to our strengths (We are confident, beautiful women! Who are not afraid to do what we want!) and our deepest fears (I can't eat ice cream and look like Rachel!). Of course now that I've compared an actress best known for cute-as-a-button frivolity to a World War II icon, I feel a little dirty.

But the one thing that the Skinny Girl With Cone image really portrays is our belief that we can have it all -- a belief that marketers simultaneously encourage and then rip away. Which is why this new ad for Magnum ice cream irritated me more than knowing that... So what if Karl Lagerfield and Rachel Bilson team up to sell ice cream -- another day, another celebrity product endorsement, right? Consider: Lagerfield is the fashion designer for Chanel who famously lost nearly 100 pounds in just over a year so he could fit into Dior Homme clothing. He is also the man who said this about complaints about overly thin models in fashion:

These are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly. The fashion industry supports dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women. [...][Models] aren't deliberately skinny because they want to be models, they've probably had family problems or suffered from other traumas. I've never seen any anorexic models myself, only extremely slim ones. [...] It's just as much a cliché as saying that all models take drugs and get drunk at sex orgies. Ninety percent of them are quite normal, properly proportioned girls with less fat and more muscles, who also eat pizzas and burgers.

(Dear Karl, whether a girl gets too thin from wanting to be a model or because she's endured a lot of trauma and family problems, being underweight is still unhealthy. Besides, most of the eating disordered girls I have known have had a combination of societal pressure and trauma.) So let me get this straight: the man who mocks "fat mummies" and glorifies not just thin but emaciated women is now trying to sell me ice cream. Using a gorgeous, thin model posing for a photo shoot. Is there a hidden camera? Or a garbage can to throw up in so I can purge the ice cream?

It is exactly this hypocrisy that has many people so confused and disheartened. Fat people are mercilessly mocked and yet how many commercials for food that will make you fat do we see in a day? Skinny people are deified and yet so is luscious decadent food. Marketers want you to buy the contradictory idea that you can have your cake and eat it too (and still zip up your Calvin Klein gown). Why? Because it makes money. If we're not buying things to indulge ourselves ("I deserve this!") then we're buying things to cover up or undo those indulgences ("I deserve this...').

Karl Lagerfield has an answer for this too, speaking of his epic diet, "I only like the things that I'm allowed to eat, so it's not like I have to avoid anything, which is how I don't put on weight." Clearly he must not like ice cream. So then why is he selling it to me?

What do you think of this commercial -- am I overreacting? What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you see a skinny girl eating an ice cream cone? Also, what are "crisps"?? (Chips? Cookies??)