There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.
~ Milton Glaser
The time of year that makes me an unwilling curmudgeon in a season of love and peace.
It’s the Christmas Season. The season of love, of giving, of a baby being born in Bethlehem. The season of helping those less fortunate than you, the season of old traditions and new beginnings.
The TV shows. The TV commercials. Online postings. Social media. The hints, the innuendos, the facts. My poor old heart is having a harder and harder time sifting through the sentimental stuff.
Perhaps it’s just my age showing. But I am inclined to think it is more the advertising industry taking advantage of my sentimental, over-emotional heart.
And I don’t like it.
I’ve already seen TV commercials about kids making video books for grandpa about his life with their (obviously deceased) grandma. I’ve seen poor, starving dogs united with fosters and adoptees who will give them a better life. I’ve seen lonely people make friends and the solo star of Bethlehem sparkle above a cold Earth, all to the tune of slow, sad music.
I’m sure you know I’m the last person in the world to be anti-Christmas. Last to be anti-emotional. I love my kids and grandkids and my friends and family to the moon and back. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make their lives better.
But I’m also tired of getting teary-eyed and having my emotions flicked every time I turn around.
In my own defense, I am a sentimental crybaby. I admit that. Always have been. Get all teared up listing to others share their crying jags on this movie or that movie. Crying when the dog dies, the mother dies, when the tree dies.
Advertisers know how to manipulate our emotional strings with visions of old people and young people and just the right music and sentiment, throwing in the product as almost a side-step maneuver.
And I resent being manipulated.
I know there is a percentage of the population that is cold hearted about Christmas and any other thing having to do with humanity. That’s their problem. We don’t need people like that in our lives anyway.
There are far more people who help others EVERY day — not just during jingle bell season. We don’t need to be told to do so at any particular time of year. We help all the time in all sorts of situations.
A little encouragement to love each other never hurts, of course. But to sentimentalize every thought and passing we have is a little cruel to those of us who tear up at thoughts of our lost family members or days gone by or the days of Christmas past.
I guess the best solution is to cut out TV and social media for the next 22 days. Which isn’t such a bad idea at all. In fact, I should shun the entertainment world for the next 22 months. I should also skip any puppy/baby/grandparents scenario with a Christmas tree in the background on Facebook.
But awww…. those cute little faces…… sniff……
My muse was at it again. I was standing in the shower, trying to remember what was still clean that I could wear to work, mentally making a grocery list, and trying to remember to bring a pair of scissors to cut flowers by the roadside, when my spicy Irish muse jumped into my head with a great idea for a short story.
With barely enough time to brush my teeth and curl my hair, I asked her to come back later when I had more time to listen. That evening she returned, but I couldn’t hear her, as I was thrown off by the barrage of super-loud commercials in the background. Once again I was interrupted by the Life Or Death Happy Happy Flim Flam Man.
Every day we are bombarded with advertising, advice, inspiration, and warnings. We are overweight, wrinkled, and messy. Our bodies are toxic and we have yellow teeth. We don’t have time to sort, exercise, chop vegetables or play with our kids. But there is a cure for that ― just ask the Info Man.
The other day on the radio I heard that the infomercial business is a 30 billion dollar a year enterprise. Just think — 30 billion dollars spent a year on ways to clean-up, tighten-up, and detox-up our bodies and our minds. Not only can we firm our thighs and flabby under arms, but we can buy bling from movie stars while we’re firming. We can organize our closet, scrub up doggie accidents from the carpet, and slice up vegetables in one swoop.
How did we ever survive this long on our own?
Most of us wouldn’t mind being a little thinner or have beautiful hair or be able to drain spaghetti in the same pot as the drainer. But these informercials know just how to tap into our low well of confidence. Advertisers do such a good job of pointing out our inadequacies that we buy improvement on the spot without having to think about it or leave the comfort of our sofa. What a convenient way to get better!
I’m not against advertising. I learn about a lot of new products every time I watch TV or read a magazine or walk through the grocery store. I get tired of cleaning up spills on the carpet, and I keep thinking I’m too old for pimples. But finding a solution to my mini dilemmas should be fueled by my judgment, not advertisers. We shouldn’t let our insecurities rule our self-worth. We shouldn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to feel better, think better, be better.
We have the capacity for unbounded love, compassion, and understanding. From astronomy to astrology, we have the power to discover magic both inside and outside of ourselves.
And discovering the magic doesn’t cost a thing.
There is something wrong when we are told how messed up we really are and how that can be changed with a quick purchase off the Internet. To believe that the answer for happiness and peace of mind is outside of us is playing into the hands of marketers and profiteers who take our money and our trust and leave no instructions behind ― people who have never met us, never sat at our dinner table, never took the time to find out why our closets are so disorganized in the first place.
So go out and buy that great pair of jeans or that diamondish necklace or those celebrity-endorsed pots and pans. But realize that you are just as fantastic in those beat up jeans with the elastic waist, and that your homemade lasagna will taste just as good in your worn out baking pan as it will in the latest non-stick wonder.
Sparkle is free. The fire inside of you is free. Everything else is just hype.
The only infomercial that matters is the one that broadcasts in your heart.
Saturday morning television (and, I’m sure, Sunday through Friday too), is not quite what it used to be in the olden days. Since my grandkids have lived with me, I’ve seen weird talking sponges, bunnies and squirrels using cell phones, human families with wild superpowers, princesses and pirates, and idiotic starfish, to name a few.
Now, I don’t expect it to be much like when I was a kid. With the ease of computers, poppy music, and an overabundance of adorable, obnoxious, little kid actors and actresses, it’s not hard to put together a half hour of babble. There is money to be made in morning TV land, and somewhere there must be a study that says to sell to kids you must be loud, colorful, hip, and overbearing. It is a sugar-filled, rude, sassy, whirlwind trip through psychedelics and jammin’ music, fast talk, and junk food.
And it’s sooooo grating on my nerves.
I suppose commercials were obnoxious to my parents’ ears, too. Things like AlphaBets and Cabbage Patch Kids must have sounded like tires squealing across the parking lot to them. And I imagine I was taken in by slick commercials and TV shows, too. But today’s kids need louder and bolder to catch their attention. It seems like they are pounding out cute funny kids and dumb parents, and cute obnoxious kids and dumb grandparents, and slick beautiful kids and even dumber parents. Poor oldsters still don’t get credit for being able to breathe, no less save the world.
According to a recent article in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/10/donna-stevens-kids-watching-tv_n_7544888.html), Australian-born photographer Donna Stevens says, “The images (photographs she took) capture the children not as the curious budding humans we hope them to be, but comatose zombies, cast in the alien glow of artificial light.”
A lot of attention is paid to how hip and sparkly girls are, their skirts up to the ying yang in middle school, countered smartly with a pair of tights that are supposed to make the shorties okay; vests and hats and bling and sparkled eyes and oversized glasses that make a little kid even more “adorable”. There is always a “lesson” in the half hour variety shows, so their obnoxiousness (or adorableness) makes their antics okay.
Herein lies the problem: the lessons are given by kids who are thin and adorable (with an occasional chubby kid thrown in), sparkling and sassy. Quite the opposite of those who are watching.
Most of the kids I know are somewhere in the awkward, insecure, and gawky stage. That’s part of being a kid. They want to fit in. Eventually they do, yet some do, some don’t. And from these mindless television shows comes more pressure to be cool, fun, smart, and well-dressed. A lot of kids can’t draw the line between “pretend” cool TV characters and their own life. And that’s where I see trouble lurking.
I’m not saying that the trying state of childhood is based in artificial worlds created on TV and in the movies. Far from it. Television is a place where dreams form; a place for information, for adventure, and entertainment. It’s a world separate from our own. A world we visit, but, for all practical purposes, do not stay. Kids’ worlds are made of parents, siblings, soccer and singing, school and swimming. Life is formed from all experiences combined.
But I just wonder what is accomplished by loud, colorful, hip commercials aimed at the young and impressionable? To someone who doesn’t have outside activities or a family life to get involved with?
Of course, this blog is written by an oldster, in of herself quite removed from the innocence of childhood. A lady who prefers sitting on the deck watching the branches bend in the breeze. A granny who has always stood at the edge of popularity in all its rainbow forms, yet has never quite crossed over the line.
Maybe I just need some Fruity Pebbles to make my life complete…
Forget what used to be — forget that one didn’t hear “Jingle Bell Rock” or see a decorated Christmas tree until Thanksgiving. I’ve been in stores with entire sections cut off for Christmas decor already, and even heard a Christmasy song on TV last week, too.
I’m not even done raking my leaves.
I’m sure there will be hundreds of blogs and articles about getting back to “old-fashioned” Christmases and values and saying bah-humbug to commercialism. And thousands more toting their wares.
How can we escape the mania that is now called HallowThankMas?
I have a 5 year-old and a 8-week-old in the house these days. They make me want to go all out for Christmas — something I’ve let slide the last few years. Trees and decorations and Christmas Villages — all the stuff that made my Christmas fun through my formative years.
Yet they start advertising toys and merchandise so early, that by the time you get around buying that one “special” thing, that “special” thing is sold out. You don’t even have your Thanksgiving turkey bought and you are expected to decorate your house with garland and lights and blow-up snowmen. If you don’t, your kids, your grandkids, wonder what’s wrong with you.
I know it’s a bit early to gripe about a holiday three holidays away, but sometimes the pressure to roll along with the tide gets to be too much. I already don’t put my tree up until after Thanksgiving; I don’t watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas or Elf or It’s a Wonderful Life until Christmas week. I do drive down Candy Cane Lane during December, and enjoy the parties and appearances of the pretend Santas and the choirs in church.
But there has to be a line drawn between the golden hues of autumn and the snowfall of Christmas Eve. There has to be an appreciation of each special day for its own sake. It’s hard to buy Halloween decorations for your own little celebration when Christmas lights are blinking down at the end of the aisle. It’s hard to get your family together for a Thanksgiving Day dinner when everyone’s planning New Year’s Eve already.
I admit, I’m not an angel. “Sleigh Ride” and “Christmas in Sarajevo” never get old. I make an effort to share the “old ways” with my kids and grandkids, the meaning behind the words, the love, the magic of the Christmas season.
But I refuse to give in to full-fledged commercialism.
At least until Black Friday. That’s when my new TV will go on sale.