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Foaming at the mouth again…

I watch my share of TV, and much of it is deeply trashy, so this is not a post about how high-minded and cerebral I am. But because we don’t have an actual television, I watch on a computer via illegal TOTALLY LEGAL download, and this means I don’t see commercials. In fact, the whole reason we don’t have a TV is because I grew up without it and can’t stomach the commercials. The other day, I happened to see a bunch of ads aimed at mothers. And hey, turns out that TV ads now offend me in an all new way. Every one was intended to make me feel inadequate, and I just have to vent, even though I know I sound like a special snowflake who is just so special she can’t handle some fucking commercials, and also like a crazy hemp-wearing extremist who gets mad about a system she’s totally part of. But hear me out as I go through a couple of examples.

The first is an ad for a brand of formula that contains a special ingredient that will help a baby’s visual system develop. The ad is a close up of a beautiful baby’s face, with big luuuuuuminous blue eyes. A male voiceover tells us that a baby’s visual system begins making connections from the moment it opens its eyes and blah blah blah, and the developing visual system needs MAGICSTUFF, which is found in breastmilk (said rather quickly and quietly) but also in THIS FABULOUS FORMULA.

So there’s the minor but still intensely irritating fact that the voiceover is male, because of course only men know things about developing brains, but the main insult is the suggestion that if you don’t buy this product, your CHILD’S VISUAL SYSTEM WON’T DEVELOP AS WELL AS IT COULD. Such obvious bullshit, yet somehow so powerful. And I can tell, because even though I know that the only way to keep your child’s visual system from developing is to…well, let’s not talk about that, but you can read this if you happen to hate kittens and monkeys and have a strong stomach… I found myself thinking what am I doing for MY child’s visual system?

The second example is an ad for frozen food, with a tagline something like “let’s make dinner tonight”. You see a bunch of harried but obviously very loving people (mommy, daddy, two patently overachieving kids with all their soccer equipment and shit) converging around a dinner table, where the frozen food product is served (and, by the way, it contains real tomatoes. Real tomatoes, people.), and then we get the tagline. So it appears that links between eating dinner at home as a family and all sorts of things have at last penetrated the national consciousness. But the reality is that not everyone has time for actual meal preparation, thanks to the fact that, among other things, the need for a motherfucking living wage has not penetrated the national consciousness, so we get to feel guilty about not cooking, but thank GOD the frozen food people have provided a solution. Microwave this and you’re making dinner. Not cooking dinner, mind you, because lawyers won’t let them use the word cook, but never fear, same difference.

This is not a tirade against formula and frozen food–they’re wonderful inventions. But. Many of us–including my highly-educated, super skeptical self–are nervous about parenting, and that makes us vulnerable. I hate that there are so many people ready to prey upon us. Every book, every magazine lying on the table at our pediatrician’s office, or at the checkout counter of even our crunch granola grocery store, every website we happen upon in search of information, every product we have to decide whether or not to buy…so many agendas all vying for our money.

And yeah, I know I have the luxury of being incensed by things like this because my life is easy, and my life is easy because of the very mechanisms that are at work here. I know I’m a hypocrite, and that this is, like, the mother of all first world problems, etc., etc., and you’ve already heard my craziness on the topic of toys and this is just more of the same. And no, I don’t want to retreat from society, because I like society fine. It just feels like it’s hard enough to decide how to use trusted* information to make decisions, let alone fend off all the bullshit trying to seep in through every chink of our psyches.

End rant.

*If that even exists. You know how the American Academy of Pediatrics can’t even agree on the proper age to introduce solids? And check this out…

19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oak #

    Bahaha, I love this. I feel the same way about pretty much everything, I think I just try to avoid all opinions because I haven’t found anything yet that promises I won’t fuck up my kid for life, be it what I feed him, show him, dress him in or say to him. I’m screwed. I’ll just sit around being catatonic and hope he fends well for himself.

    I did a post that was rooted in the same frustrations just today but it took an all together DIFFERENT route to share my point.

    February 20, 2012
  2. Jen #

    Preach. KB and I have a running gag about those housewife-cleaning-up-after-her-messy-husband-and-children ads: Uh-oh! Another doofus husband! Look, he tried to change a diaper on the kitchen counter! Look, he doesn’t know how to use a blender and made a mess! Look, he fucked up again and again and again! (I guess my point is, these ads make women look like nagging know-it-all shrews and men look like borderline retarded man-children who must be minded by their women. And children, I dunno where they fit in other than men can clearly not be trusted to care for them lest hilarity ensues!)

    Between regular ads and political ads, I am ready to retreat to off the grid some days. Boiling blood cannot be good for general health or attempts to get knocked up.

    February 20, 2012
  3. We DVR everything or stream it, so we never watch adverts. That said, I did record a new Transformers series aimed at preschoolers recently and regretted it hugely when I realised how many food and toy commercials aimed at children were stuck in there (we’ll ignore the fact that the show is a toy commercial in itself, since I had already accepted the likelihood of buying Transformers).

    Marketing for a target age of six and under makes me cringe. I might stick to purchasing children’s shows in the future.

    February 21, 2012
  4. Yes preach. I know that I belong in this particular choir. I don’t have a tv either (not because I’m particularly virtuous, g has seen more than his share of youtube videos) and I have lost whatever antibodies I once had against ads. I don’t even know if I believe that the great quality of life that we enjoy is dependent on a system that allows companies to manipulate people’s emotional weaknesses to turn a bigger profit – but I’m kind of a hemp-wearing idealist at heart.

    And, as for the “trusted” information, I have the occasion to come across more of it and it makes me equally crazy. If that study is right than we are now in the position of choosing between picky eaters or allergy sufferers, depending on when we introduce solids. But, next year’s study may turn both of those beliefs upside down. After all, doctors were once in the position to discourage women from breastfeeding because formula was so much better. My suggested approach? Cover your ears and repeat “I can’t hear you la la la la”.

    February 21, 2012
  5. This shit actually gets to me. I find myself going from book to book and self judging. I find this amount of “do this and don’t do that” expert advice extremely mind numbing. The problem is as you pointed out….it’s everywhere and hard to get away from. Yet I have moments of assurance as just today another near ten month old crawled up to Bee and bit him in the face. This was after his Mom told the other play group moms that he is an angel. So I’m doing something right regardless of not following all the advice and having a slightly messy house and laundry backed up while eating a yogurt alone for dinner.

    February 21, 2012
    • Ah ha ha ha! Thanks for that chuckle, Steph.

      February 21, 2012
  6. You are cracking my shit up! Yay for no TVs!….well I have a TV but it isn’t hooked up to tv shows, we stream movies and what not on the interwebs. I hate commercials as well. They drive me bonkers…..your take is hilarious though, therefore I think you should watch more commercials and report back…aka rant.

    February 21, 2012
  7. We have hooked up our tv after a long pause, and looking for ze German Sesame Strasse, I happened on a lot of ads. I have to admit that children’s programs are relatively free of advertising, which in itself is wonderful, considering how AWFUL German ads are – they are even more clichéistique and stereotipical, sometimes I feel like they are still in the pioneering age of advertisement, honestly.
    But this is what ads do, don’t they? Present stereotypes and promotes them. Most of them just guilt trip us to buy, buy, buy.

    There is a book written by a very funny, yet very limited by clichés, French ex ad maker, Frederic Beigbeder. It was called 99 Francs, now I think they converted it to euros. 🙂 I recognized a lot of the brands he alluded to, and you have to admit, it is part of pop culture, clever ads at least. Now I forgot what I wanted to say about him, and deleting on the tablet is a pain, so I’ll just go away. Pretend I’m an ad.

    February 21, 2012
    • Jen #

      Whatever you’re selling, we’re buying. 🙂

      February 24, 2012
  8. You crazy hemp-wearing snowflake extremist, you. Pseudoscience makes me foam at the mouth as well, and sometimes I exhibit antisocial violence. “What To Expect” is the only book I have ever actually thrown across a room.

    Also, my child is currently subsisting largely on peanut butter and green pasta (don’t even ask, but it involves spinach) despite all my best evidence-based efforts and I give the fuck up.

    February 22, 2012
  9. “a crazy hemp-wearing extremist who gets mad about a system she’s totally part of”

    Ahahahaha! I resemble that remark! 🙂

    February 22, 2012
  10. Those kitten and monkey eye suturing always gave me the heebeejeebees. I’m glad that we know what we know about the visual system (and god knows I dutifilly memorized everything about the layers of the LGN (esp. layer 6)), but I’m still not cool about how this knowledge came to be known (but I am doing anything about it? No. I am a cog in the system).
    I hate how advertising has its way with me sometimes. It’s always praying on my vulnerabilities. I wish new parents could have immunity from all advertising until they feel very competent in their parenting britches.
    Thank you for this funny rant, Bunny.

    February 22, 2012
  11. It does seem like every time you turn around there is a new product, or method, or schtick, or data. And the subtext seems to always be that if you don’t do a or b IMMEDIATELY then you are a bad mommy. (My personal favorite? the idea that chewing your child’s food for her/him can actually avoid food allergies…something to do with enzymes.)

    I hate commercials. Especially in the US. In a lot of other places, commercials are still attempts to get you to buy things. But they don’t assume that their viewers are morons. Every time I see an American commercial, I’m convinced that these companies imagine that they’re trying to sell things to chimps. Somehow, combining that with baby products is even worse. Bad mommy PLUS moron.

    February 22, 2012
  12. Misfit Mrs. #

    Commercials have the same effect on me. Also a non TV kid, which is an interesting look. Insecurity sells. Sad, I know. Foam at the mouth all you will, hippy. I will bring the guitar and bongos to the drum circle as new entertainment. The older I get, the more Luddite I become when it comes to this sort of thing.

    February 23, 2012
  13. then there’s the holier-than-thou hippie fuckers at the company that makes the formula the Bean takes. they go out of their way to say on the package that since breastmilk is the world’s most perfect food, only babies over one year should have their formula, unless a doctor says otherwise.

    …and then i wrote a rant in your comment box, but i think i’ll put it in my rant queue for my blog instead. i’m on a bit of a tear that way.

    don’t even get me started on the fat-shaming corduroy (the bear) book that just arrived at our house. sheesh.

    February 26, 2012
    • Oh please, what is my comment box for if not other people’s rants? I have n compunction about throwing away books that upset me.And I normally am a respecter of books.

      February 26, 2012
  14. We don’t have a TV either, and christonabike, the ads, when I catch them, make me c-razy. I’m pretty sure formula advertising is illegal here (at least, I’ve never heard of it, and I’m assuming they would if they could), so it’s not so much the baby stuff but the blatant sexism and the pervasive ‘all girls are stupid bimbo sluts, but it’s ok so long as they laugh with you!’ attitude that gets to me. And there is almost no way to voice a negative opinion among the general population about this mind-numbingly crass and demeaning stance that the world of advertising has towards women without sounding like a bitter old unshaven shrew.

    I don’t happen to shave my pits, but I do steal entertainment from teh interwebs.

    February 26, 2012
  15. manapan #

    “…the only way to keep your child’s visual system from developing is to…well, let’s not talk about that, but you can read this if you happen to hate kittens and monkeys and have a strong stomach… I found myself thinking what am I doing for MY child’s visual system?”

    Ah, the much-needed reality check bitchslap. 🙂 That’s why I love you. My friend and I went to the same psych program, and our kids are a month apart. We know this too, but we still both buy That Formula anyway specifically because it has Magicstuff and we feel all neglectful if we don’t.

    February 27, 2012
  16. Wow, I’ve been looking through Oak’s followers for something and have to say I am *in love* with your blog. Where the hell have you been all my (blog) life?

    Could you shoot me an email when you get this? I’m planning something for Oak and need to see if you’re interested. 😉

    April 3, 2012

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