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Posts tagged ‘consumerism’

Dr. Seuss’s legacy threatened?

The Lorax is one of the many books written by Dr. Seuss. The book focuses on industrialized society and its effects on the people within it. However, since the release of The Lorax movie, new controversy has arisen. In the article written by the Washington Times, ‘Controversial Lorax a Threat to Dr. Seuss Legacy?’, the writers and many others believe that the movie has a hidden agenda to it. Many believe they are promoting commercialism and green messaging. Capitalism was also promoted through a musical number. In the film, Mazda promotes it’s new CX-5. A version of the car can be seen driven around by one of the characters. The car was said to be “Truffula tree friendly”, this angered many environmentalists. They did not like fact that producers were using a children’s film to advertise their product. They felt as if it took away from the nature of the film, which was supposed to be for children. This is quite similar to Lynn Spigel’s, Seducing the Innocent. In class when we discussed 50s television, we also discussed the consumerism promoted withing children’s shows. In the show Howdy Doody, the Howdy Doody puppet was being promoted. Also, in the show Space Cadet, Kraft Caramel’s were being promoted. The way they went about promoting was throughout the show or during commercial breaks. They promoted these things because they were children’s products.  However, in the The Lorax, the car being promoted is clearly not for children. It is for adults. Therefore, this product was being aimed towards adults in the audience and not the children. No child that is 5-10 is looking at the car and saying “ooh mommy I want that!” The whole purpose of The Lorax movie was changed through the promoting of consumerism. This movie was intended for children to watch and enjoy, not to sell as car.

 

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.

Smile! You’re on Barbie camera!

Toys, were the staple of childhood. Whether you played with Transformers, Hot Wheels, action figures, Barbie or GI-Joe’s, the toy required that you use your imagination to create a scenario or plot, with a particular goal in mind that you and your toy could achieve. I am purposely using past tense for this description because kids have become so absorbed with today’s technology that toys no longer require the extensive thinking and imagination that they one did.

The New York Times wrote an article on how toys have changed, and once MSNBC.com caught ahold of it, Stephanie Clifford wrote an update version of the article. “Classic toys are becoming much less classic because of upgrades meant to entertain technology-obsessed children.” Stephanie explains that the reason for children growing up with the desire to be more technological is because they see all the gadgets that their parents are playing with and operating. The main attraction that they are writing about is the new Barbie. The new Barbie has become a digital camera, her camera lens in behind her and the picture then appears on her t-shirt. The photo can then be uploaded to a phone or a computer. In my opinion this takes away the whole point of Barbie, all that she will be now is a camera, little girls won’t know how to make up a story and have their dolls act it out.

There are a lot of people, myself being one of them, that feel toys and technology should not mix and that children should still have to utilize their imagination. I feel that this new technological advance could cause something similar, just not as extreme, as the moral panic that our society experienced when children became obsessed with comic books. Perhaps this new technological craze that is taking over the toys could stand to resemble how comic books were seen taking over children’s innocense.

A picture showing how Barbie is now becoming a digital camera.

Coca-Cola Soccer Kit

The year was 2001, and I was 9 years old. My dad had come across a pair of tickets to a home game for Honduras’s national football team against Mexico, and asked me whether I wanted to come along with him. I’ve heard that every man at some point during his life takes, as a wife, one sport. While he may be unfaithful at times by engaging in other sports, it is to this sport to which he will be permanently bound for the remainder of his life. My father’s sport was baseball. That probably explains why, unlike every other child in Honduras, I lacked any sort of familiarity on football and did not partake in the religious fervor that its fans tend to engage. That all changed on a chilly October day in 2001. Out of pure curiosity for the event my school friends had been ranting about for the last month or so, I agreed to go with my dad (mostly because I wanted to know what made football more interesting than Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, which despite my high praise had somehow failed to elicit anything more than a “whatever” from my friends). Once at the stadium, a wave of excitement drifted over me and I ran ahead of my dad so that I could see where the deafening noise was coming from. Then I saw it. The green pitch, the chanting fans, the waving flags. They say when you meet the love of your life time stops, and that’s true. I felt like I stood there for an entire lifetime before my dad snapped me out of it and walked me to our seats. There isn’t enough space in this post to describe how I felt during that game, but suffice to say Honduras won by three goals, and I had fallen in love for the first time in my life.

Following the game, and to advertise Honduras’s campaign towards reaching the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, Coca-Cola (the national team’s main sponsor) released a kit that included a soccer ball and the two small goals. You could not buy the ball in stores- it could only be purchased by redeeming 12 proof of purchase stamps from qualifying products. To promote the kit, Coca-Cola aired commercials showing the national team’s players doing tricks with the ball and scoring into the goals. The day after the game my friends (not a single one surprised at my overnight transition from indifferent to obsessed about football) and I consumed more Coca-Cola than should be humanly possible and redeemed our purchases to the nearest distribution center. Every week one of us would get to keep our new found treasure at their house, with possession changing hands on Fridays. Every Friday we would set up the goals on somebody’s street, place the ball in the center of our “field”, and a metamorphosis would occur. The walls around us turned to fans. The asphalt beneath us turned to beautiful grass. We were no longer children, but instead became our idols. Afterwards we refreshed ourselves with (big surprise!) ice-cold Coca-Colas.

Thinking back, this is a perfect illustration of the phenomena described by Howard Chudacoff in Children at Play:

Advertisers quickly learned that they could merge a “backstory” of fantasy with a product to create a meaningful relationship between product and child. The licensing from movies, television programs, and sports gave toys a very explicit significance… most children understood the product in a way that most adults did not. (Course Packet page 180)

In Honduras the vast majority of children (especially boys) loved Honduras’s national team, regardless of whether or not they liked football. It was a way we all bonded, came together, existed as one. There were no boys and girls, no kids and adults, no rich and poor. For 90 minutes, we were all just Honduran. Coca-Cola used that indescribable (at least to children) feeling of belonging, of unison, to advertise their product. By merging the national team and Coca-Cola products, the line between them became blurred. We saw Coca-Cola as the moment when a player made an extraordinary dribble, or as the feeling when all the crowd roared and danced when Honduras would score a goal. Coca-Cola became pure, unfiltered happiness. I saw anyone that chose Pepsi over Coca-Cola as hating the very core of being Honduran, of conspiring to deprive us all of the joy of qualifying for the World Cup. Many of my friends shared those sentiments. The kit Coca-Cola provided took it all a step further. After watching their commercials, we all wanted to use the same ball that the players used, and to score goals into the same posts that they did. We wanted to dribble the same, and shoot the same. We came to believe that the “magic” the players had was a product of the Coca-Cola ball itself. The ball and goals became mystical figures, items that when in our possession made our skill-set limitless. We were capable of any trick, could score any goal, and would eventually make our way into the national team to play alongside our idols. My parents and many adults did not and could not understand why we felt so strongly about these kits. How could they, after all? They were too old to play on the national team, so we figured they would never understand. Those days we existed for one ideal- “Joga Bonito”, play beautifully…

Coca-Cola Ball, courtesy of the Coca-Cola Store

Honduras National Team sponsored by, you guessed it, Coca-Cola. Courtesy of ElHeraldo.hn

Children are Big hands in economic! but A Nubie that need to be learned.

In the book of Howard P. Chudacoff, ” Children at Play”, used quotation that”Children have become a Market-often referred to as ‘subteens; by people who apparently see them mainly as avid little consumers and can’t wait for them become bigger, teenage consumers.”(176).  This statement is very true that Children are Big hands in economic, and they have money power now days. Therefore there are many of researches about their economic characteristic and news and article to help parents to teach kids how to handle Money.

Chart from "marketingcharts.com"

From the book, preteen money spending rate  400% increase from 1989 to 2002 (176).  Children’s consuming patterns were simple, but since their expenditures has been immensely increased, their consuming patterns have been diversifying. Most of their money spending were candy, snacks, or beverage however,now, toys are first place for both boys and girls. And also there are consuming pattern difference between boys and girls.  ”-Boys are also more likely to spend their money on video games and collecting cards. -Girls are more likely to use their money to buy clothing. -Younger kids prefer educational games or toys that tap into their natural creativity and imagination.” (marketingchart.com). Video games are conspicuously increased as IT industry is developed.

As children’s money spending is increasing, their parents’ worries about children’s money spending habit are also getting bigger. Maybe these common worries make them find article like todays. There is news article”Tips for teaching kids about money” from news Channel 5, Florida.  It teaches and advices parents tips for three age group of kids. It separates ages from ‘preschool’, ‘K-8′ to ‘high school and college’. For few example from one of each age group in the articles, preschool Kids should not be rewarded or paid for everything they do. You may give money for helping some chores, but it shouldn’t be rewarded every time. For k-8, help them buy few shares of  company stocks that they like, Nintendo or coca-cola. For high school and college, introduce them about credit card and how they handle it. We may find more tips from this site, and more site.

 

Christmas: Capitalism At Its Best

Christmas shopping for most Americans

Growing up, I remember Christmas being the most exciting time of the year. As I’ve gotten older and have become responsible for purchasing gifts for other people myself, I have come to associate the holiday with frenzy and anxiety. Thorstein Veblen was undoubtedly correct to refer to Christmas as a time of vicarious consumption. Christmas is literally referred to as “the season of giving” and if you are not giving you may be seen as cheap or a scrooge. As we have learned in our readings, one of parents’ biggest fears is having bored children. Parents also want to ensure their children do not feel left out or disappointed. With the growing emphasis on the importance of material items in the U.S., parents feel obligated to stretch their wallets  at this time of year to ensure their children aren’t left out. This is because we have been socialized to believe that when you wake up on  Christmas morning, there should be a towering mountain of gifts under the tree with your name on them. The main goal for many children is bragging rights. They want to be able to go to school the next day and compare who got the better presents.

“When compared to the average family budget, the Christmas gift budget makes up 1.3% of all average family spending. It is more than what the average family will spend on reading materials ($110/year) and alcoholic beverages ($435/year) put together.”

In the article “Modern Childhood, Modern Toys”, Gary Cross says, “But in the nineteenth century these celebrations of indulgence were increasingly focused on the family, in parents pampering children. The shower of gifts became a way of demonstrating personal affluence” (59). Essentially, families are going out of their way to buy their children’s happiness. The blame can in many instances be placed on advertising. Companies make it a point, especially at this time of year, to advertise their most expensive, sought after products while basically telling viewers how much they need it. Children see their friends playing with the best new toy and many advertisements lead them to feel like they aren’t “cool” if they don’t have that great toy too. Advertisements only solidify parents’ fear that they will disappoint their children.

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 Youtube.com.

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).