If you’re any kind of student of history, you may have seen some of the old Depression Era short films and advertisements. The former tended to portray strength and adversity in light of huge odds while the latter tended to reflect functionality and moderation. It frightens me to think that, in some ways, we as a society had more common sense in the days when open segregation and discrimination were the norm, but I can’t help but feel that way when I watch daytime television.
Due to my work schedule, I have Tuesdays off right now and so am able to bear witness to the horror that is daytime TV. Programming geared toward soccer moms, which seems to completely ignore retirees fills the TV screens from about 9:00a.m. until 5:00p.m. daily.
The other day I happened upon a soap opera and paid attention to some of the ads. What struck me most was their frequency. The same commercials must have run three times apiece in the time I watched, which comprised less than an hour overall. The content of those ads was, in my opinion, reprehensible and irresponsible.
In keeping with the modern American mentality of ignoring reality in favor of material gain, these ads glorified the idealized soccer mom with too much free time on her hands giddily shopping and indulging her every urge. Never mind that the barbarians are at the gates, these women are driving gas guzzling SUV’s while sporting sensible hairdos and grinning from ear to ear.
Frankly, it was disgusting. I realize the soap opera programming block is designed to appeal to the fantasy lives of mostly female audiences while presenting them with enough tragedy to feel good about themselves, but must the ads portray a world of obnoxious excess in a nation suffering an unsure economic future? Is there an argument to be made that, as former Executive-in-Chimp Dubya said, we just need to keep shoppin’ and everything will get better? No.
It should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence that nothing trickles down in hard times. The rich don’t spend and when they don’t spend, it falls to those of us in the middle class to pick up the tab. The poor sure as hell can’t do it, although Rush Limbaugh would love to tax them anyway, according to his “Tax the Poor” initiative.
Sadly, the middle class is often the forgotten stepchild of American society. As generally strong earners who can’t stop working, middle class people are encouraged to support a rather demented economy with ads that make people think they need non-essential goods. As if that isn’t enough, there is a strong undercurrent of unrealistic opportunity that had no small part in the current state of affairs.
But let’s forget about the pursuit of giant screen TV’s and get rich quick real estate scams for a moment. Let’s put aside the fact that advertising for SUV’s and min-vans was so successful it derailed the automotive industry as soon as the inevitable increase in gas prices took place. Let’s instead focus on the here and now.
The here is the aforementioned United States with the uncertain future, and the now is a situation where people have only begrudgingly accepted that sad fact. Instead of a “we’re in this together” approach to the problem, we get splintered, fragmented reactions ranging from panic to denial.
I waited until now to mention the fact that we are also at war. It doesn’t matter whether you think it is a just war or not. During World War II, people understood the need for sacrifice and commonality. There were conscientious objectors even then, although nowhere near as many as Iraq has created. We rationed back then. We had posters advising us to refrain from excessive spending and usage of materials and we did.
Since then, we’ve mutated into a consumer culture. Americans no longer value moderation and public service. It’s all about what we can get, how much the world owes us, and what we can hold onto when times are hard. And what of those who should know better? What are they doing?
Isn’t it obvious? They’re reaping the benefits of our stupidity and arrogance. They know us better than we know ourselves. They see the hollowness in our eyes and hear the lack of conviction in our words. They prey upon our desires and disregard our needs. Maybe there’s a conspiracy involving government and large corporations and maybe there isn’t. Either way, nothing can take place without our consent or inaction.
If nobody says anything, it didn’t really happen. If nobody complains, it is assumed we don’t have a problem with what’s happening. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t complain about the economy and then indulge our excesses.
Advertisers should be ashamed of themselves, but so should we~