Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is it really about nothing?

A comment on the post below has spent me to sit on my soapbox.

Sure our culture have seen a few generations of celebrity rebels who fight against standard protocol because they are wealthy or bored enough to do so. These are the people that ride the waves of shock culture.

I’m not talking about celebrities who use their influence to invest in humanitarian or political causes.

What I’m thinking about is no revelation and perhaps I need to clarity a few points.

There are new elements in American culture that - in the hands of a selfish adolescent, which they are by nature - are abused and out of control. Social media and the Net are marketers’ dreams. They can make tailored, direct deposits into the minds of innocent middle and high school kids. Often, because there is little life experience, these children fall for it, hard.

Parents are forced into a corner when they must provide the Net for school research. Some schools work in Google Docs. And, not allowing your child to text, have an email or Facebook account literally isolates them from their friends. A parent might refrain from one or two. Be assured, parents must heavily monitor all social media with time and scrutiny. There’s too much exposure and too much Snake Oil.

In the '40s my great grandfather worked for the Pulitzer newspapers promoting advertising. After working around the country, he finally settled at The Saint Louis Post Dispatch. I once read the script to one of his talks to a retail group. It was remarkable and clear my grandfather had to sell the notion of advertising as a worthwhile expense. Based on what he penned, it was most evident that he was battling the argument, “Why advertise? I already have enough customers and am fine.” This Zen-like state is rarely found in today’s American business climate. We’ve grown from the desire to meet our needs to just want more.

That was some 70 years ago that advertising venues where still needing to convince businesses there was a benefit in advertising.

Now? We have PR/marketing/advertising campaigns on steroids and very few of these groups have a social conscious. Mostly, it’s about money. If it wasn’t, how else does one explain push-up bikini tops for eight-year-olds, hair extensions for middle school girls, ten-year-olds in thong underwear, and gratuitous cleavage in 7th grade? Yes, children wearing bras that blatantly claim to enlarge the appearance of their budding little chests by three times.

These days? There are more Americans bucking trends because they are following a marketed campaign with no point but to make money. So I ask, are they really bucking a trend or are just falling in with the masses? Do they even know what they’re attempting to buck?

I don’t think it’s anything about individual expression. The people I see in thrift stores, generally have more taste and sense of style than those I see in the mall.

Lady Gaga? She will be replaced by something more shocking than herself. And that person/thing will urge kids to show more skin and drive them further away from the basics of cultural conventions and context.

It’s sad to think that common courtesy and context is losing out to money.


Darth Mama said...

Well, it didn't take long for someone more outrageous than Lady Gaga to pop up. A model in India promised to go nude as a "gift" for the nation if the national team won the World Championship in cricket. India did win (Jai Hind!), but I do not know if she carried through on her promise.

What is truly shocking is not her willingness to drop her clothes, but that it happened in India -- the country where just a few years ago kissing was not shown in movies. How quickly things change, and not for the better.

Anonymous said...

Parenting is so much harder in our era because of all the media hype aimed at kids. My sons do not get everything their hearts desire. My 9 and 12 year olds do not have cell phones. They do have some name brand clothing - bought second hand or on clearance (can't buy jeans second hand for boys, don't exist around here without holes in the knees:)). Such challenging times...

Cynthia in Indiana

Serena said...

Does the word, "pedophile," come to mind when we see these types of clothing being marketed to children??

I know a lady who recently took a copywriting class to help her learn to promote her various business ventures. One real eye-opener she revealed to me was the fact that copywriters are taught to appeal to the "7 deadly sins" when writing copy. If this is what advertisers are being taught, is it any wonder that we see these types of questionable products being marketed?

Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary.

We as consumers have all the power. We have the power to say "NO" and refuse to purchase such outlandish clothing for preteens and teens. Marketers don't care one hoot about your child. Their job and their objective is to seperate you from your money. They don't care how they do it.

Those horrible Brat dolls come to mind. I hate those dolls. They represent everything that is wrong with our culture today. Little girls should NOT be playing with dolls whose faces and clothing looks hookerish. I can't image a responsible parent buying her child this garbage. Even the name is garbage. Since when is a "Brat" considered to be a good thing?

Why can't we as a culture let our children be children? Why do we push 8 and 9 year olds to look and act like 18 year olds?

Shopping Golightly said...

Why do marketers push our children NOT to be children?

Because children don't need money to be happy and entertained.

Who needs a Brat doll when you've a collection of acorns, pine cones, bottle caps, rocks, sea shells, cardboard boxes and you play in the sprinkler and have forts in under lilac bushes?

Jill said...

I have just become a step parent to a young lady who was raised on a steady stream of MTV and junk food until her father got custody 3 years ago. Surprisingly enough, although some of her entertainment choices are still making me cringe (and reach for the remote)her clothing choices have been very appropriate! We have found that the way to deal with some of the low cut clothing (even at Target) is to layer tanktops underneath, starting a new trend at her school - one involving COVERING the 'cleavage' on 12 year old girls! You should have seen the 2 of us looking for a bathingsuit, as the one pieces had major cut-outs! I'm slowly converting her to thrift, but I do buy bathing suits and undergarments new. Speaking of which, does anyone know where you can buy bras in a small size that aren't either padded, push-up, or both? It was easier raising boys!

Shopping Golightly said...


RE: the question about where to buy bras that are not padded or push up. I'd recommend the Montgomery Wards catalog from 1980.

Anonymous said...

Go the sports bra route. There are some nice ones that give support and forego the bells, whistles (we hope), and the lace.

Elizabeth B said...

Jill, you might try Barely There brand bras. They make several wire-free bras, several of which I would not hesitate to put on a teen or tween. They're all tag-free, plain, and seamless, hence the name. (It's not a dig on small-busted women! ;) )

Raoul said...

>.< Sorry?

Summer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Summer said...

I don't see that any of us said it was about nothing. For one thing, I would never let my child wear high heels, but different people have different views on that.

RETRO REVA said...

I have been thinking the exact same thing lately!
I agree and enjoyed reading this post. I think it should be required reading in our high schools ;)

Anonymous said...

You took the words right out of my mouth! After leaving a career in technical marketing and PR I moved on to retail marketing (for a very infamous lingerie company)
After working there for 2 years, I could not take the consumer manipulation and selling of souls for an extra dollar.
Having been a thrift-er since childhood, I found myself falling victim to my own marketing tactics and buying things I did not need (nor, did I truly want) at ridiculous prices for a fleeting moment of pleasure only to find that same overpriced item unused in my closet a year or so later.

The experience left me feeling so horrible and empty at the end of each and every day that I left marketing altogether. I am now back in the non-profit world contributing to people's lives, our community and our planet. I am happy to say I am back to my thrifting ways and find myself much more rewarded and fulfilled. Not to mention, finding that $2-$3 "find of the century" every now again gives me so much more reward and fulfillment than any few hundred dollar retail purchase every did or could!