The Climate Change: Sex Sells for Alison Teal and “heute+”
The climate change is a topic that most people do not want to think about on a regular basis; it’s scary and it’s depressing and to really deal with the issue would require us to give up so many of our Western comfortabilities — and really, who’d want that?
Still, global warming is a problem today, and it will be a problem tomorrow, and we have to talk about it. So, it’s a good thing that the producers of ZDF’s heute+ decided to do a segment on the Paris Agreement.
They summ up what the agreement is about and criticise the lack of legal consequences if climate goals aren’t met.
However, what I find questionable is the way they proceeded.
Have you ever heard of Alison Teal? Maybe her online username rings a bell — “Alison’s Adventures”? If it doesn’t, I don’t blame you. With merely 15k subscribers on YouTube, she’s far from being a big YouTuber. Although, apparently, her stories have been featured by National Geographic, CNN, NBC and other well-known corporations — and, recently, by the German ZDF. Alison Teal calls herself a “female Indiana Jones with a cause” — that cause being climate change — and travels the world with a camera and a surfboard. Her goal is to document the effects of environmental pollution, to explore and to converse with locals, finding out how their lives are affected by the climate change.
I think that’s great. Like I said, we have to talk about global warming, and the more publicity the issue gets, the better.
Yet Teal has understood what I pointed out earlier: global warming is a tedious subject that people would rather not be confronted with. Her strategy to get people interested nevertheless is old, yet effective: sex sells. A beautiful woman with an athletic body, Teal can be seen in most of her vlogs wearing a neon-pink bikini — and not much else. Video titles include “Hottest Eco Bikini Launched TODAY”, “Eco Bikini Adventures — What lies beneath” and “Doggy Style Classic” (though, to be fair, there is a dog in the thumbnail). She’s also been on Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid”, which is a reality show about people who are… naked and afraid, I’m guessing?
And you know, that’s fine. I don’t have a problem whatsoever with young women using society’s fascination with boobs to try and get across an important message. If it captures people’s interest, why shouldn’t she show off her body a bit?
What I do have a problem with, is the way heute+ made use of this. At first, they show clips from one of Teals videos (in which Teal is sweaty and often points the camera directly onto her bikini-clad breasts), then go on to point out that her videos are “deliberately sexy” and that “one could criticise that” (which they do by bringing it up in the first place). At least, she can be sure of “ten thousands of views”.
The moderator turns to the camera, frowns arrogantly and says:
“Last week, we had ten thousand views, too, and we didn’t even have to undress”.
Let me repeat that in other words: heute+ uses the vlogs of an attractive young woman to pep up their coverage of the Paris Agreement with a bit of sex appeal, then criticise that young woman for doing the exact same thing, and then applaud themselves for getting an audience as large as hers without using sex appeal. So, apparently it’s fine to show boobs to sell something, as long as they’re someone else’s boobs?
In conclusion, I think it’s perfectly okay to use sex appeal to make the topic of global warming more accessible, both for Teal and for the ZDF.
But that the ZDF uses Teal and then slut-shames her only seconds later — that’s not okay.