What does it profit a man to loseth the weight but gaineth the cell-block moniker “chomo”?
Jared Fogle pleaded guilty to child pornography and underage sex charges on Wednesday. The sandwich salesman faces five-to-twelve years in jail, imminent divorce, and, worst of all, a plummeting Q-Score.
If you remember Jared’s first Subway ads that ran around the turn of the century, you long ago aged out of his dating pool. During the Jared-Subway marriage, the eatery’s revenues more than tripled on a campaign that stressed Fogle halving his size on a diet of sandwiches at the fast-food joint. Jared’s unthreatening image appears in hindsight as honest as his dine-out-weigh-less message.
“Jared gave Subway the health halo before any of us even knew the term,” Nation’s Restaurant News editor Robin Lee Allen told USA Today in 2013. Subway still offers subs that taste good. They just don’t taste the same.
Our conception of health remains terribly unhealthy. It fixates on the image in the mirror to the exclusion of all else. Jared beamed a superficial picture of wellness to Americans. But Oscar Wilde tells us that somewhere hung a reflection of Jared’s soul on canvas (or perhaps in the sickly glow of his computer screen). This Dorian Gray picture of Jared Fogle resembles a half-eaten, day-old Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki.
Jared Fogle’s soul consumed more unwholesome fare in recent years than his 425-pound body did in the 1990s. The feds say Fogle viewed surreptitiously-obtained videos taken at his friend’s home of a dozen children and other illicit images more widely traded on the net of kids as young as six. Eating a Subway Footlong Big Hot Pastrami Melt for breakfast, lunch, and dinner leads to better health outcomes than devouring the ugly images that Fogle greedily gobbled up.
Big bellies symbolize appetite, and not just of the culinary variety. Plato’s tripartite theory of the soul conjures up visions of the sometimes rational, sometimes rationalizing egghead, the courageous or hot-headed big-chested individual exuding thumos, and the big-bellied slave to appetite. This third unfortunate soul plays the glutton—to drink, drug, sex, money, and much else beyond food.
Jared never lost his belly. He hid it.
Vices vex like Whac-a-Mole: knock one down and another pops up. Better to replace the wrong with a lesser wrong; best to replace the vice with a virtue. Aside from trading in junk food for more horrific junk, Fogle audaciously tried to mask his vice as virtue. He launched a foundation for kids and talked about writing a children’s book. The former apparently served as a conduit for the obscene material he craved. The latter unfulfilled project, one hopes, was not a picture book.
Apart from the narrow understanding of health that imagines buffed-but-drugged professional wrestlers and bulimic models as symbols of health, our eyes delude in seeing the persona marketed to us by Madison Avenue and Hollywood rather than the dark personality underneath. Jared a pedophile? Cute Corey Haim a drug addict? Cliff Huxtable a rapist? We can’t believe it because the image sold to us clashes so dramatically with reality. There’s no business like show business.
It’s easy to see through our present delusion by looking clearly at the past. Lawrence Levine’s Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America offers several humorous examples of the audience mistaking the show for reality. “You damned lying scoundrel!” a theatre-goer earnestly shouted at Iago during an Albany production of Othello. “I would like to get a hold of you after the show and wring your infernal neck.” When a Kentucky production depicted a family left destitute by a gambling paterfamilias, a spectator took up a collection for the beleaguered wife on the prudent condition she not inform her husband lest he waste it away on wagers.
Our 21st-century shocked disbelief toward the legal and ethical troubles of Bill Cosby and Jared Fogle find root in the same gullibility that caused the audience to occasionally fall for the performances in the 19th-century. Like Jared looking at his slimmer self in the mirror, the people looking at him on television believe the image. Grimace a predator? Sure. The friendly, bespectacled beta-male who dropped 200-plus pounds by dieting on submarine sandwiches? No way.
Fatness highlights but rarely hides faults. Beauty covers ugliness; glamour, dirt; health, sickness. Jared’s association with physical wellness and society’s fixation on physical fitness make his unfitness so startling.
Obesity is healthier than pedophilia.