Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I used to work for R J Reynolds Tobacco Company as a salesman. At no time did I ever see, or hear, that the character of Joe Camel was designed to attract underage smokers. He was designed to creat a younger, hipper image for the brand that was created in the 30s. My sales went up, and I was, and still am, angry that people automatically assume a cartoon character, by definition, must be aimed at children. There are plenty of cartoons used to advertise prescription drugs, junk food, and other, more wholesome, products. No one suggests that Zoloft's animated ad campaign is aimed at kids. No one is suggesting that the animated bears shilling Charmin toilet tissue is targeting kids.

Now the assault has moved to breakfast cereals. Undeniably, these ads target kids. So did the old Ronald McDonald ads. If your local channels still show cartoons on Sunday morning, mine don't, you probably see ads for all sorts of candy, toys, and food using cartoon characters. Ad men aren't stupid. They know that when Mom or Dad is in the grocery store, and the kids start screaming, the parents cave. After all, disciplining kids is child abuse.

Candy manufacturers made a lot of money putting candy racks at the checkout lanes in your local mega mart. Parents who were no longer allowed to discipline their kids demanded candy free check out lanes. And we got them. Now we have checkout lanes with tabloids announcing the latest celebrity marital infidelity or same sex romance, magazines with lurid cover lines telling how how to improve your love life, and tiny little books promising to teach you how to win the lottery or improve your life with astrology lining the lanes.

Since parents can no longer deny their children's every whim, it falls to the government to do it. No longer do we have to park our kids in front of the TV to watch everything that comes on while we do. . . well, whatever it is we do when we don't want to deal with the little monsters, we have the V-Chip, confident in the knowledge that our TV will prevent them from watching something we don't want them to watch, like a show about evolution. We have software programs like Net Nanny to make sure they can't go to inappropriate sites while they surf, while we do. . .well, whatever it is we do when we don't want to deal with the little monsters.

Never--not once--do we say, like the Soup Nazi, "No TV for you!" Or, whatever it is we're wanting them to avoid. Nope, we get the government to do it.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to put the brakes on this consumer driven lifestyle we're leading. But that's a whole 'nother issue.


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