Sunday, April 13, 2008 the highest bidder

Originally uploaded by dailyinvention
I’m so angry right now I can hardly see straight. It’s no wonder I often feel that the urge to BUY STUFF is so overwhelming. I saw this mention of the Mackenzie Blue book series on Fake Plastic Fish and felt like screaming. It’s a series of books, supposedly meant to help tweens “discover more about going "green," [and] learn about the "global" landscape.”

So, what’s wrong with these Mackenzie Blue books? They’re basically selling advertising space to the highest bidder. Yep, the books are accepting corporate sponsorship and will use product placement within their pages to push those brands that have the cash to pony up. That’s it for me. I’m not buying anything else from Harper Collins. I’ve cut back my book purchases lately anyway through paperbackswap, but this is just too disgusting to stomach.

Maybe if a book wants to focus on “going green” they can make their message about buying less stuff. I am just so appalled. I really cannot even believe that a book whose one focus is getting people to buy more is claiming to be having a positive impact on young girls and the planet.

What about the girls who cannot afford to buy the brand name shoes that her favorite character wears? What about her self-esteem? Seems to me that when literature becomes just one more societal reminder about how much you need to have in order to be cool and fit in, it just is one more way to beat down our young girls and give them more reasons to feel poorly about themselves.

What about the girl who never cared what brand of jeans she wore until she read this book? Is she going to be a happier, more well-adjusted individual because she realizes that she can’t realize her full potential without that label on the back of her pants?

Lucky for me, there’s one site that’s already written a letter to Harper Collins editor Susan Katz. You can edit the letter as you see fit and send with your electronic signature. The original press release from the publisher is available there as well.

I’ve been irritated for a while now about how advertising is like an annoying mosquito that no matter how much you swat at it, it just doesn’t go away. I remember a flight I took maybe a year and a half ago. The stupid tray table had been transformed into a mini-billboard that I had to look at it if I wanted a place to set my drink. How irritating. I was paying them to sit there, and they were taking advantage of my captivity to let somebody else try to sell me more crap.

That was irritating, but I almost suffered a serious case of air rage when, just as I was about to drift off to sleep, the flight attendant announced that they would be passing through the cabin to give us all the chance to apply for their credit card, offered jointly by the airline and some huge national bank that has terrible customer service. They’d give us something like a billion bonus miles if we signed up before the plane landed. I’m surprised they didn’t throw in a free gift if we used the card immediately to buy something from the Sky Mall catalog. Something about crossing the line from the more passive ad on my tray table to actually waking me up to force me to listen to this crap made me think homicidal thoughts.

I think my irritation with being forced to watch advertising began in high school. In one of the many poor decisions made by the school district in Manchester, NH (shame on you…and yes, I’m still bitter!), was the inclusion of channel one television in home room every day. For those of you who were lucky enough never to be forced to endure this ridiculous programming, it’s basically a way to force kids to watch advertising for a few minutes every day by hiding it in the middle of “news” programming and providing free televisions to the schools in exchange for them selling their students to the corporate sponsors. I think this is part of the reason I still hate CNN and The View…Anderson Cooper and Lisa Ling were both “reporters” on the moronic news program offered by channel one.

By the way, to any school officials out there, it’s illegal for one individual to make a contract promising that another individual will do something. A school doesn’t have the right to sell their students (this should be a no-brainer, shouldn’t it?). In my school, however, we were told that if we didn’t watch the programming, we would be given detention. We were specifically told that we were not allowed to use the time to study or work on school assignments. The more I reflect back on this, the more I feel angry all over again. Isn’t studying academic subjects the reason we were in school in the first place?!?

I suppose I could have staged a little civil disobedience, and refused to watch, making a big scene and sucking up the detention. I was not exactly outgoing in high school though, and basically spent most of the time there hoping nobody would talk to me or notice me. Plus I was afraid of authority figures and the idea of getting a detention would have made me sick to my stomach.

So I watched every bit of advertising they shoved down our throats – which, by my calculation, amounts to 360 minutes over a school year with 180 days. Over four years of high school, that comes to 1,440 minutes, or 24 HOURS OF COMMERCIALS MY SCHOOL FORCED ME TO WATCH! Of course, my math may be wrong here, but if so, I’ll blame it on the fact that I spent 24 hours watching advertisements when I could have been actually learning something. No wonder our country is behind the rest of the world in nearly every subject.

I apologize if this has been a bit long winded and ranting, but I believe that the barrage of advertisements we all have forced on us on a daily basis in nearly every situation we may find ourselves is one part of the reason we all feel compelled to purchase so much, which is a big part of the reason we waste so much. When our books and schools become just one more opportunity for big companies to push products, it does make me wonder what hope there is for us.


DebTech said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crafty Green Poet said...

You're totally right, life would be much less complicated and we'd all be much more satisfied if there was less advertising. If the economic squeeze that's coming along just now becomes a full blown depression, watch advertising diminish and everyone consume less because they need to - maybe then we'll rediscover what's really worrthwhile

Melissa said...

Although I do hope we don't run into an all out depression, I think you are right that something to cause people to focus on what's really important would be wonderful!