Putting the "MO" in MOFO since 2004

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Friday, January 19, 2007

 

Hands off my kid's brain, bozos.

The company that makes Hummer Utility Vehicles wants my toddler to buy their cars. And no. I’m not kidding. My daughter is not even two and a half, and corporations are already focusing on ways to get her attention.

A recent article I read in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Ads seek kids' grip on family purses, December 4th 2006) offered up a slap in my consumptive forehead. In fact, the piece scared the dickens out of me. Large Corporations, it seems, are after my two year old daughter’s mind. They want to influence her. They want her loyalty. They want to convince her that their car is the best car, and she can’t even drive, and won’t for nearly 14 years.

Hummerkids.com offers games and coloring pages to teach children about the joys of owning a colossal sport-utility vehicle. Honda is about to launch an advertising campaign on Disney's ABC Kids channel. The Cayman Islands' department of tourism buys ads on Nickelodeon, a children's cable channel, promoting expensive holidays. And Beaches Resorts, a hotel chain, has teamed up with Sesame Street to make its resorts more appealing to children.”

Are these people crazy? Marketing to kids who can’t drive, and won’t for over a decade?

Some might say they aren’t crazy. Instead, they are shrewdly planting seeds of brand loyalty in our children’s brains. Seeds that will hopefully bear fruit decades down the road.

Corporate Advertisers and Marketers are seeping in through Sesame Street like parasites riding on children’s programming host animals to set up shop square in the brains of our children. Marketing to children is everywhere, and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.

I remember a comment made at the BlogHer Conference in July 2006. Someone stood up and said that Corporations are anti-mother, because mothers stand between them and our children. At the time, the idea seemed a bit over-the-top. But is it really?

How much of this insanity is insidious Corporate Vulcan Mind Control, and how much responsibility do we bear as parents to set a good example and guide them through the messages?

As parents, we have certainly earned the right to have the largest impact our children’s values. For Pete’s sake, I am the one who got up (albeit blearily) with my child in the middle of the night for feedings and diaper changes. I am the one who feeds her, dresses her, reads to her, sings to her, and gets up with her at 2:00 a.m. when she is sick with the croup and frightened by her own barking cough. I put on her hat, coat, and mittens, and buckle her safely into her car-seat. As parents, we do these things because we love our children.

Somehow, I question whether John Doe in Marketing at ACME CORP. has these same feelings of dedication, duty, and love for my child.

If someone in the marketing department for Beaches Resorts wants to contribute to my daughter’s well-being and pitch in to make a healthy meal, or read to my daughter for an hour once a week, I might give them 5 minutes for a quick pitch. But they don’t. So I won’t.

Yet here I am, repeatedly bamboozled into giving “Beaches resorts” their five minutes, because I can’t figure out how to Tivo out their blurb before Sesame Street starts, and my daughter loves Sesame Street so I love to let her watch it, and with it, she gets a dose of Beaches Resorts marketing.

The article implies that parents are partly to blame for the madness:
"The parents have ceded control. Children are making decisions about most household products," said James McNeal, a consultant who has been writing about marketing to children for two decades. He estimated that children under 14 influenced as much as 47 percent of American household spending in 2005, amounting to more than $700 billion. That is made up of $40 billion of children's own spending power, $340 billion in direct influence ("I want a Dell") and $340 billion in indirect influence ("I know little Timmy would prefer us to buy the Lexus").”

Who in the Sam hill let’s their child pick out the family big-screen?

On second thought, kids today are pretty technologically savvy, and might have a good and well-informed recommendation.

Here is where the water begins to muddy a bit, and this is precisely why our kids are a $340 billion dollar industry. They are hungry to learn, and their minds absorb quickly. Because we are old and tired and often confused by technology, we consider their opinions when making decisions. This is exactly why our kids are so valuable to marketers. Scary.

People tend to develop coping mechanisms for this kind of thing. Generation X seems to have developed its own bullshit detector in regards to advertising. Being bombarded with ads for several decades has made us skeptical and suspicious of anyone hawking wares. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The marketing our kids will deal with in their lives will dwarf what we have been exposed to.

On the other hand, a good hard look in the mirror never hurts now, does it? We Gen X ers have turned INCONSPICUOUS consumption into an art form. We might roll our eyes at the guy driving the Hummer, and joke about what he is most likely “compensating” for. But then how many of us covet status symbols like new iMacs, designer handbags, granite counter-tops, hundred and thirty dollar jeans and stainless steel appliances?

We love to think that our level of taste is superior, and the quality of the things we possess is superior to that of the Joneses. We’re not as smart as we think we are, after all. We haven’t escaped the claws of marketing Vulcan mind control. We just forced them come up with subtler, wittier, and more intellectual ad campaigns in order to get us to want their stuff.

But back to my point. How do we shield our kids from this madness?

Like so many things related to child-rearing, there are no simple answers. One could attempt the impossible: remove your child from society altogether. Home school them. Forbid television. Forbid contact with any children outside your carefully constructed Utopia. But there are cracks, even in the best laid plans. What about the billboards you pass on the walk to the park, or the drive to Grandma’s house? What about invitations to Birthday Parties, carefully written out on “Dora the Explorer” themed paper? Do you intercept the invitations and let your child believe they have no friends? All in the name of protecting them from consumerism. That approach just isn’t realistic (or healthy, in my opinion).

Perhaps the key is education. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind a special series in elementary school curriculum on advertising, to teach kids how to sort out what’s real and what’s not. A little knowledge never hurt anyone. However if Coca-Cola sponsors the athletic program, that might cut off some funding. See? It’s everywhere.

Or maybe the best course of action is to instill some good old Generation X Skepticism in the minds of our kids. Teach children that advertisers want you to buy their things, and to get you to do that, they will try to make you think that you need (insert product here) to be happier, friendlier, smarter, or more attractive. They need to make you to feel insecure and unfulfilled so that you will give them your money for their product to make yourself feel better. Explain it to them. Think about it yourself the next time you peruse the Baby Einstein DVD’s or eye up that new SUV or handbag.

And I’m not saying I won’t buy the handbag, because I love handbags. In fact, I may buy one tomorrow. However, I know the difference between wanting and needing. I also have a well-defined idea of what I am willing to pay for something that I like, and want to have. I think about my reasons for buying the things I buy. I plan to teach my daughter to do the same with her hard-earned money.

I hope that when my daughter buys her first car, it will be something safe, and something that shows a degree of respect for the environment. Something that doesn’t cast a shadow a mile long and block out the sun. At least I have time on my side. I have almost 14 years to try to talk her out of that Hummer, thank God. In addition, I plan to do what my parents did for me, and make her buy it with her own money. Nothing teaches sound fiscal policy more effectively than a limited budget of minimum wages.

So there it is. My solution will be to make her spend her own babysitting money on the things she wants. Until then, I will tell her that Hummers are for people who have no friends.

I have fourteen years to hammer that into her brain. See? Parents are more powerful than you think. It just take a little planning.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

 

Golden Globe Recap, courtesy of my sisters and me

There are no better people to watch award shows with than my sisters. We perfected the concept of Mystery Science Theater 2000, but we did it first, and our commentary was on Little House on the Prairie instead of cheesy science fiction films. Our breakdown of last nights events:

The good:

Meryl Streep: She was one of the very few people who had anything of interest to say all evening. We loved her. Talented, intelligent, funny and Self-deprecating.

Helen Mirren: I hear she swears like a sailor, which makes her A-ok in our book. I think she had an ass-out wardrobe malfunction. The world may have gotten a glimpse of her undies. How embarrassing….. NBC was kind enough to move the camera angle up a bit. Crises averted.

Forrest Whitaker: Still deciding if he was veklempt or drug-addled during his acceptance speech. At any rate, he is a top notch actor who I wouldn’t mind seeing more of.

Reese Witherspoon: Just as we expected as a pending divorcee, she looked va-va-voom, yet classy, in a fitted yellow sheath. Go Reese. Your soon-to-be-ex is only invited to the ceremony when he's your date. Which he's not! Eat your heart out Ryan Whatsyourname!

Jennifer Hudson: Haven’t seen dreamgirls yet, but I hear she earned it. Plus I think she’s gorgeous. The speech went from cute to kind of sad very quickly though.

Borat: He livened things up, which was desperately needed. Particularly following the seemingly never-ending monologue of Warren Beatty. At this point, talk of testicles and trapped anal gasses was a merciful oasis of respite from droll, monotonous, privileged old man-speak.

Alec Baldwin: The man is funny. I want to dislike him, but I can't.

Kate Winslet: Would someone let this woman win an award for God’s sake? How many times can she be nominated and NOT win??? Did anyone SEE Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind? Didn’t freaking Hilary Swank win that year? Have these people been lobotomized?

Little Miss Sunshine: Why the Hell Didn’t Allen Arkin get a nomination for best supporting actor? Seriously. What kind of dimwits are in charge of these nominations?
Why did this movie not win an award?

Two words. Totally. Robbed.


Best Golden Getup: TIE!

Drew Barrymore, who looked lush and fit in her pink column dress, but not weird and skinny.

Tina Fey, who rocked her black lace cocktail dress with her trademark wit and smart sex appeal.



The Bad:

Brangelina: Enough with these two. Please. Make it stop. We speculated whether they would adopt a Slovakian Prostitute on Hollywood Boulevard on their way home from the ceremony. We did wish Ryan flaming-bag-of-poo would have asked Brad how Jen was doing…

Warren Beatty: STOP. TALKING. Old. Man. No wonder his wife was downing champagne like a flapper in a speakeasy. The man is a windbag, and copious amounts of champagne are required to make him tolerable.

Tom Hanks: The man was puffy. Like DOUGHY puffy. Has he been club hopping with Britney? Someone needs to slap the saltshaker out of his hand asap.

Kyra Sedgewick: Her scattered speech was cute for about 5 seconds, until she thanked her lawyer and about 42 members of her red-tape posse. Not. Good. Or. Interesting.

Eddie Murphy: Heard he was good in “Dreamgirls”. The whole Scary Spice “It’s not mine” thing is just so Steve Bing. Yuck.

Beyonce: It would be refreshing to see her not look cheap, with boobs, bootie, and bad hair all flailing simultaneously, competing for attention.
Boobs: “LOOK AT MEEEE!”
Bootie: “I’M THE REAL STAR OF THIS SHOW!! I’M RIGHT HERE! LOOK AT MEEEE”
Hair: “MEEMEEMEE! LOOKIE MEEE!”

Two Words: Run Amok.

Arnold: WTF? “BAAAAHBul”????????

The Donald: Again, WTF? Fortunately his wife Melania chose a hairstyle that covered most of her face, which she apparently sharpens into angular points with some kind of tool on a regular basis. While pouting.

Jamie Foxx: Why does he shape his hairline into a square??????? Seriously! WHY???


And finally, the so bad it was good:

Angelina Jolie, during the Ryan Seacrest Interview. Her expression during his interview was priceless. She appeared to have set her eyes on a flaming bag of dog poo, but the bag of flaming dog poo was trying to interview her, and the bag of flaming dog poo was also Ryan Seacrest. Who, based on her expression, also smells like a bag of flaming dog poo.

America Ferrara Interview: Who was the dumbshit in charge of her post-win interview? The woman who started the interview by saying something like “So America, How do you feel about the producers not wanting you for this role?” She may as well have followed up with “Because no one wanted you, because you are not pretty enough. And no one likes you. In fact they HATE you. EVERYBODY HATES YOU. ”

Our take: The dumbshit interview lady had gone up for the part of Ugly Betty and lost to American Ferrara. Her resentment squeaked out like a fart from Gwynneth Paltrow.

And Finally, the Ads:

Target ads: Still Weighing in on the ad campaign. We do admire their unabashed promotion of the consumption of stuff by the modern yuppie (who has perfected the art of the discreet consumption of SUBTLE class ranking status symbols). It’s totally hipster chic to buy loads and loads of crap from Target for your home and your dog and your baby and your garage. As long as it’s stylish crap designed by professional DESIGNERS. And as long as they use hip, new (ripped off) versions of classic songs to sell them.

As my sister Betsy pointed out, since M.J. hit the skids financially, he seems to have sold off his Beatles rights at bargain basement prices in order to pay the lawyers who have thus far kept his tiny pedophilic rear end out of jail. He apparently sold them all to Target.

Orville Redenbacher: We thought it would have been more inventive, and far less cheesy, to have used a computer generated version of his rotting corpse to promote their popcorn.

If you're going to air a commercial that's creepy and spooky (albeit, seemingly inadvertantly), you're better off making it REALLY creepy and spooky.

Until Next time. Julie, Meghan, Molly and Betsy.

Monday, January 15, 2007

 

Does the "gluttony" level of Hell have a hibachi chef?

See if you can beat this.

Friday, I had a lovely lunch of chopped Filet of Beef Tenderloin at a Japanese Hibachi restaurant. The cook chopped it all up in front of me and cooked it at our table, while juggling salt and pepper shakers and making volcanoes out of sliced onions. I also had salad and Fried Rice.

Then for dinner, I went to a DIFFERENT Hibachi restaurant where I had a lovely dinner of chopped filet of beef tenderloin, chicken and steak, also served with salad (AND SOUP!).

Two Hibachi meals in one day. Can anyone else out there say they have been to two Hibachi restaurants for two Hibachi meals in one day? Damn, life is good.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

 

Performance Improvement Plan

Dear Meghan’s Brain,

I regret to inform you that you have been put on a performance improvement plan (also given the sprightly name of “PIP” in the illustrious world of sales).

This is not a punishment, but an action plan for improvement that we shall work together. Because you are sucking wind with no identifiable end in sight. No offense.

If a sufficient amount of progress has not been made by the end of the term specified, we will have to terminate our professional relationship and send you elsewhere for gainful employment with the best of luck and perhaps a letter of recommendation if you promise not to take legal retaliatory action.
.
The factors leading to this intervention:

Your lack of output of anything that might be considered funny or witty.

Even it the words “might” “funny” or “witty” are used liberally and / or sympathetically. Writing about how you don’t have anything to write is worse than not writing at all. Don’t even think about it, this will count against your progress.

Your lack of measurable production.

Staring blankly at “Law and Order” reruns is not considered productive. Neither is eating microwave popcorn, sighing regularly, or snapping at your spouse for repeatedly asking questions at the exact moment you begin to doze off in front of said “Law and Order” reruns. Neither is washing your hair every third day, or gazing out the window at the snowless landscape which serves as a visual reminder of the reality of global warming which is then quickly moved to the “don’t think about that kind of thing” part of your brain, the area of which is growing at an alarmingly exponential rate. You might want to consider leasing the property next door for more storage space.

Your general attitude.

Your habit of taking things in the worst way imaginable and moping in a stew of injured feelings is really not adding much to your well being, or the well being of those around you. Buck the fuck up. Just because you read “The Bell Jar” and watched “Sylvia” in the same week does not give you license to mope or validate your own fragile sanity by comparing it to that of a person who ended up sticking her head in the oven.

Suggestions for improvement:

Do not read literature produced by any author who ended their own life. At least until May, when the increased daylight is likely to improve your general attitude.

Write something worth reading every day. Even if it takes you twenty lame attempts.

Get out of the house and talk to others in social situations. Sooner than later.

Exercise. Preferably outside.

As for “Law and Order” reruns, that may require some kind of an intervention. Let’s not take on more than we can handle. We will address this item at a later date.

We will review progress weekly. If you don’t comply with the aforementioned requirements, you will be unceremoniously dismissed with nothing beyond perhaps a small obligatory superficial acknowledgement of our 34 year relationship, to perhaps make this seem less severe than it is, in reality. It’s not that we don’t like you. We just don’t want you to work here anymore. It’s just business.

Sincerely,

Meghan’s cold and unfeeling department of Human Resources.

Monday, January 08, 2007

 

Sound bites from a spent mind.

I am currently slogging through my post-holiday stupor in which I am rendered absolutely of no help to anyone whatsoever. I will offer up a post-mortem at some point, but I can’t quite think properly yet.

In the mean-time, my nearly 2.5 year old, Maggie’s new catch phrases:

“What about ME?”
She whines / inquires this in response to everything from me opening up a can of mineral water to putting my coat on to go to the grocery store. My response: “What about you? Please share!”

“No Mommy, you CAN’T count to five! You CAN’T!”

This is shrieked in horror, with tears, every time I try to implement the counting technique, otherwise known as “I know you love to climb into your car seat yourself, but perhaps in this century if for no other reason than to prevent my untimely dismissal from my place of employment”. Or “If I get to five and your little heine is not in your car seat I will lovingly place it there for you”.

“Mommy, you’re my BEST FRIEND.” This is said earnestly, with her arms around my neck, with eye contact. Then she hugs me deliciously with her head resting on my chest.

Then I give her whatever she wants. Candy, Play Doh, her own car, you name it.