Friday, April 5, 2019

Editing/Ethics (Legal) Issue: Royal Pudding Jingle from Long Ago


"Royal...Pudding...
Rich, rich, rich in flavor!
Smooth, smooth, smooth as silk,
More food energy than fresh, whole milk!"

The folklore, anyway was that Royal Pudding was required by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or other regulator to remove their eminently memorable jingle because it was misleading. The two main ingredients in Royal Instant Vanilla, e.g., are "SUGAR [and] FOOD STARCH MODIFIED, " with some cottonseed oil lower on the list, but there, for your desert basics of sugar and fat. So of course mixing Royal Pudding with "fresh, whole milk" yields an enticing dish with "more food energy" per unit weight than even pretty high-caloric "fresh whole milk."

The FTC — or whoever — ruled that the ad was misleading, making Royal Pudding sound downright healthful as opposed to a high-calorie dessert suitable for only occasional eating, unless one wanted to gain weight (a high-calorie pudding helped save the life of one of my cats when he needed to start eating again after a serious jaw injury).

But "food energy" is what is at issue here — the thing in itself — and "calories" just the unit of measurement in colloquial American; so the ad as it stands should be preferred, one might argue, to stating that the prepared pudding has "more calories per unit of weight than whole milk" (ca. 19 kcal per ounce in one on-line chart, vs. 100 per ounce for Jello Chocolate pudding according to another).

Sooo ... folks who edit now and then or for a living — how would you come down here? Exactness of meaning as stated, or what most of an audience will hear? And lawyers out there (or just fans): Should it be illegal to mislead an audience speaking truth to their ignorance or just failure to think through a jingle?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Equality Before the Law: One Idea, and Not Always Dominant

There was a pre-Watergate turning point in US popular culture in a film where Harry Morgan, who'd played straight-arrow Detective Joe Friday's partner, and Peter Lawford, JFK's brother-in-law, were agents of the law facing the problem of getting sensitive (medical? psychiatric?) records. The Harry Morgan character said the only way he knew to do a search was to get a warrant. The Peter Lawford character gave him a look — and quick cut to the two of them with small flashlights going through records in a darkened office. Then the Charles Bronson character in DEATH WISH (1974 f.) and a line of figures responding to the rhetorical question and the misquoted answer, "Rules and regulations — who needs them? / Throw them out the door." 

Combine that with the literally ancient idea that laws are for the little people, or, from at least The Code of Hammurabi on, the idea of different laws for different classes and classification — and there's a point many of us need to deal with. Equality before the law is one theory. And sometimes it's "All the people who (fully) count" are equal before the law. There's a line in a play by Aristophanes of a young citizen claiming his rights: "I'm Athenian, male, of age, and free" — democracy was for men and citizens, not resident aliens, women, girls, boys, or slaves. 

"No one is above the law" is an ideal, and not one everybody supports all the time.