Saturday, May 02, 2009

Is television getting too creepy?

* I find the media's (and Vice President Joe Biden's) hype of the swine flu to be somewhat odd. While any type of flu that infects people around the world is a cause for concern, this flu is not very severe and really doesn't seem to present any more of a threat than the normal flu season does. According to the CDC, about 36,000 people die from the flu and/or complications from the flu each year. But that's just their estimate.

I think this says more about the media's infatuation with the latest news story and the intense competition for viewers. Think about it - when was the last time we had bad weather or news of a relatively minor concern that didn't become the 'big' story with doom and gloom scenarios? The creepy part is that so many viewers buy in to the hype without any objectivity.

* Since we're on the subject of TV, I have to wonder about the mental state and perspective of some of the people who make commercials these days - and also of the ones who approve them. I'll be the first to admit that the Burger King 'king' just plain gives me the creeps. Perhaps it was the first ad this character was in where he stands outside a bedroom window and stares inside - or shows up in the bed in the morning with a man just waking up. It's just plain creepy to portray a stranger in such a way.

But their latest advertisement for the Sponge Bob kids meal is beyond any realm of good taste. They do a take off of the 'I like big butts' (Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back") song, which certainly has adult content, and change it to 'square butts' to tie in with the cartoon character Sponge Bob Square Pants. The 'king' leers at young women who are 'dancing' in sexually suggestive manners and 'measures' them. To find such adult content being used to market a kids meal is even more disturbing than having the 'king' staring into your bedroom window.

I'm not a prude, and while I might think the commercial was in poor taste if were targeting adults, I am gravely concerned that it targets children.

I cannot conceive that any adult thinks this sexually suggestive content is the proper way to sell meals to kids under 10. But I'm obviously wrong as both the advertising firm and Burger King have done so.

* When it comes to commercials, I've long been a fan of the MasterCard 'priceless' series of ads. Until now.

Their most recent 'Helping your dad become a better man' focus on environmentalism really hit me the wrong way. I couldn't find a video of it, but it's a boy shadowing his father in three different scenes.

When Dad leaves the water running as he brushes his teeth, the boy is on hand. “Water glass,” says the (child’s) voice over, “five dollars.”

Then on to a hardware store where Dad is looking for light bulbs. How fortunate that his son is smart enough to hand him the 'acceptable' ones. “Energy saving bulb: four dollars.”

At the grocery store checkout, the child saves Dad from the horror of using plastic bags. “Reusable bag: two dollars.”

And then comes the tag line: “Helping your dad become a better man: priceless.”

There is no mention of the qualities that really define a better man - like honesty, generosity, kindness, courage, providing for your family, etc...

Yes, I know it's just a commercial, but I find something inherently wrong in expecting children to educate their parents after their indoctrination in 'right-think' from whatever school or program is supposed to be educating them. And it's not just the kids. They are indoctrinated, certainly, but then they are encouraged to indoctrinate others and badger their parents into 'proper' behavior. That's creepy as well.

So where is the discussion of how breaking one of those 'energy saving' bulbs might require the father to evacuate his son from the area to prevent inhalation of the chemicals used in the bulb? Or how those 'evil' plastic bags are made from recycled material and can be recycled again and again?

That the father just accepts the 'wisdom' of a child isn't even questioned. But it is implied that regardless of anything else the father does for his son, if he isn't adhering to the environmental dogma, he is not as good a man as he should be. As the Culture and Media Institute says:

It’s been widely noted that environmentalism is religion for our secular age. And since one of the main functions of a religion is to instruct it adherents in right and wrong, it follows that a man’s goodness can now be judged according to his carbon footprint.

What’s wrong with this? Nothing, if you think that six-year-olds – or Al Gore – should be the ultimate arbiters of morality.

And when this focus in injected, in such a non-subtle manner, into commercials, it's creepy - and it concerns me.


Carol said...

Maggie - I truly despise that BK commercial. I find it degrading, inappropriate and downright offensive. And you know me - I am not a prude even in the broadest sense of the word. The sexual overtones of the Sponge Bob commercial are another indicator of why we have such 'experimental' and irreverent kids in today's society. Kids that can out-think most adults when it comes to matters of sex and sexuality.

Today's commercials scare the hell out of me. I feel they are indicative of a 'drink the kool aid' society that says if we are not all thinking and acting alike then we are evil and terrible influences on the young. The ad you refer to about the "Pricless" theme ... that's scary. Since when is it the child's place to parent the parent? Shouldn't the marketing gurus be helping the adults to understand ecological impact and the need to educate the kids? Backwards, IMO.

Scary. Yes. Creepy? You betcha!

Tim Higgins said...


Commercials are a not to subtle signpost for what is currently held to be acceptable in America. The message that BK sends is that we have taken yet one more step away from the concepts of a polite society. For Mastercard, they merely mirror brainwashing that children are getting on the environment by an aggressive left leaning minority.

As for Joe Biden, we have not seen a VP with hoof-in-mouth disease on this scale since Dan Quayle. His performances for the sake of having some face time in front of the cameras, written off as "Joe being Joe" are a farce. The scariest part about Jokin' Joe however, is that it is said that he will be influential in the next Supreme Court Justice pick.

Hooda Thunkit said...


On the plus side, Al Gore is getting filthy rich which means that (assuming that he actually pays taxes) his taxes should go through the roof, under Obama.

That carbon footprint hooey is even biting its daddy in the but, which I feel is ironically SWEET.

Kadim said...

I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to think about the BK commercial. It's so absurd that it's difficult to think past its absurdity and entertain that it's sexual in any way. (Undoubtedly it's a parody of other sexual media, but that may not make it sexual in itself.)

The BK King is purposefully designed to be creepy. (In that regard it's successful, I find myself creeped out by it.) The creepy King campaign is considered genius in the advertising world (it's quite successful.)

It was done by the same ad agency that did the Microsoft Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld commercials. I liked them a lot but I was in the minority.

As for the Mastercard commercial...I didn't see the commercial in such a severe light. I can understand why you'd take it that way though.

It seems like, in the end, the boy was trying to get his father to buy environmentally conscious products as a way of impressing the girl-cashier, shown at the end. So in my mind, I took the "Helping your dad become a better man: priceless" line as being sarcastically ironic.

Maggie Thurber said...

Kadim - if the BK commercials are successful, I'm even MORE concerned...LOL!

AS for the guy trying to impress the cashier at the end of the commercial? I never thought of it that way. Funny - I presumed there was a wife (though not seen due to the father-son focus) rather than it being about a single father...

Thanks for that perspective.

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