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Posts tagged ‘Chudacoff’

The Lorax: Environmentalism Then, Commercialism Now

Susan Linn of the Huffington Post wrote an article recently about the “slew of corporate cross-promotions” making an appearance thanks to the new film The Lorax, an adaptation of the famous Dr. Seuss children’s book.  Linn criticizes the use of the new film to promote commercial products such as HP computers, Seventh Generation diapers, and Mazda SUVs.  The Lorax is a children’s book that was published in 1971 and originally taught a lesson in environmentalism.  The use of this book’s popularity to create a film that in turn fuels commercialism has caused a controversy; Linn explains that the environmental message of the book directly conflicts with the creation and distribution of products using the film and the Lorax as selling points.

This article nicely complements Chudacoff’s piece on commercialization.  The merging of a “‘backstory’ of fantasy with a product” is exactly what’s happening with The Lorax (pg. 180).  Advertisers are taking advantage of a beloved book and using its big budget movie deal to sell products.  Linn talks about how “[m]arketers routinely exploit children’s emotional connection to media characters to sell them on practically everything.”  Chudacoff discusses exactly this issue and how it emerged in the 1950’s through the medium of television.  In his own article on toys and commercialization, Cross writes that the “defeat of reformers’ attempts to prohibit toy ads on television” contributed to the growing number of children consumers (pg. 291).  Based on the Huff Post article, it’s obvious that manufacturers have, as Cross states, “formed alliances with makers of children’s movies, TV cartoons, comic books…” to sell products with the Lorax as their middle man, something the “real Lorax” would have had no part in (pg. 293).

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Trailer. Youtube. 2012.

Ni Ni Ni Ni Ni Ni Ni Nick NICKELODEON!

Growing up in the 1990’s, I spent countless hours glued to a television that was seemingly stuck on one channel, Nickelodeon.  Nickelodeon is a network aimed at children and preteens; its shows vary from animated, educational programs directed at younger children (2-5 y.o.), to animated, entertaining programs for the grade school child, and also to programs with teenage actors who deal with friendships, relationships, school, and other issues, primarily for the preteen/teen audience.  After a few years of minimal success, Nickelodeon hit it big in the ’90s and the beginning of the 21st century.  It opened an attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and created a series of animated shows, referred to as Nicktoons, that shaped pop culture for the “’90s kid” generation; my favorites included Rugrats, Doug, and Hey Arnold!  (And as I got a little older, All That and Clarissa Explains It All became quick favorites.)

Nickelodeon Promo.  1996.  From

Because Nickelodeon was a network for kids, all of their commercials and advertisements were for the latest toys and newest kid’s meals at this and that fast-food joints.  There was even a promo after every live taping of All That that told young viewers that the show was taped in front of a live studio audience at Nickelodeon Studios Orlando, Florida, somewhere I would’ve loved to visit as much as any other kid wanted to go to Disneyland.  With all the time I spent watching Nick shows, I was probably exposed to just as much, if not more, commercialization.  Unknowingly, I had become a child consumer.

In The Commercialization and Co-optation of Children’s Play, Chudacoff mentions Nickelodeon as a contributor to the development of children’s culture.  He states that “Nickelodeon and Disney, as well as national networks, opened new opportunities for program producers, retailers, manufacturers, and, especially, marketers to shape children’s tastes and desires” (pg. 178).  As a child consumer, I was completely mesmerized by all sorts of advertisements for new Barbie dolls, Polly Pocket, and entertaining board games like Mouse Trap.  Most, if not all, of the toys I was given as a child were a direct result of my exposure to these products via commercials seen while watching Nickelodeon.  Some of the animated shows also began to promote their own products, offering “a ‘backstory’ of fantasy with [its] product to create a meaningful relationship between toy and child,” as stated by Chudacoff (pg. 180).  Even today, if you were to flip to the Nickelodeon channel it would be highly obvious that all commercials are made for children exclusively.

Nickelodeon's signature orange splatter logo.

Apart from the entertainment I found through Nickelodeon, I also had easy access to a medium that displayed objects I desired; commercials on Nickelodeon were sort of short video representations of most toys in a Toys “R” Us catalog, I even derived many of my birthday and Christmas lists from such advertisements.  However, despite the excessive advertisements that were thrown my way at each and every commercial break, I fully enjoyed what I was engaging in, t.v. shows that I could relate to and discuss with my peers (even if we were all just kids).

Too Young for “The Real World”

Being the strange child that I was, I didn’t spend all my television time watching Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. By fourth grade, I had moved on up to MTV. Gone were the days of All That and Dexter’s Laboratory; I was enthralled by the coolness of TRL and the drama of my perennial favorite, The Real World. The Real World is one of the first “reality” television shows, and it features “seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together, and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.” It has been on the air since 1992, and recently finished its 26th season.  Like the parents described in Chudacoff’s “The Commercialization and Co-optation of Children’s Play”, my mother expressed concern over my new television obsession. Although she accepted the fact that she couldn’t keep me away from the show, she was worried about what kinds of adult themes I would be exposed to. I assured her that it would have no negative effects on my life, and truth be told, it didn’t. In fact, it may have contributed to my open mindedness and accepting nature that I have today. In the 11th season, Real World: Chicago, I first learned about homosexuality through Aneesa and Chris. In the 16th season, I explored Austin along with Johanna and Wes, and I learned about the depth of addiction through Nehemiah’s struggles with his mother. Yes, there were adult situations presented in the show, but the positive effects outweighed the negative. I think the parents and policy makers embodied by Chudacoff’s essay have children’s best interests at heart, but it would probably be best if they chilled out a little bit. My mom did, and I turned out wonderfully.

A clip from Real World: Chicago, where the castmates react to the news of 9/11