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.
*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…