Television and Commercialism

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  • Topic: He-Man, Advertising, Howdy Doody
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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Television and Commercialism

Television is populated with images which are superficial and lack depth. Programs look more like ads and ads look more like programs. All this leads to a close circle of consumerism. The three excerpts relate to these unifying ideas thus the validity of their argument.

"Surface is all; what you see is what you get. These images are proud of their standing as images. They suggest that the highest destiny of our time is to become cleansed of depth and specificity altogether." (1). We live in a world populated by images. Children's television has concocted small, preset groups of images such as rainbows for happiness, red hearts for warmth, unicorns for magical regeneration, and blondness to indicate superiority ( 2). Images are just that—images which keep the viewer on a superficial level. For instance, in the program Sailor Moon, little girls are kept on a level of clothes and being cute for boys. This is a very unrealistic outlook and short circuits any thoughts of importance in their lives. Barbie, the Mattel doll, also portrays a false image. With her petite, fragile figure, large bust, tiny waist, long legs, big eyes, and vast career ranging from a lifeguard to a doctor, Barbie wins the hearts of many innocent little girls who become subjected to her unrealistic image.

Most often in television there is no depth beyond the surface, what you see is what you get. This is very prominent in children' s television, where without the special effects in action- adventure shows, all that is left are shows that lack enthusiasm. For example, many children's programs are alike. They often involve very innocent, sweet, high-voiced creatures that live in happy land. They are threatened by bad people who capture one of the happy creatures. However they are rescued on the end and everyone lives happily ever after. In response the viewer experiences the emotion of feeling "happy." These programs allow for a quick emotional response but no deep response that permits you to go past the surface.

However, television allow us to see further at times such as a program about black Americans discovering their roots. Yet shows like this are far and few between. Most of the time, we only see what's on the surface which focuses on what society already knows or what they (writers) think we need or want to know (3).

"Television, with all its highly touted diversity, seems to becoming more of a piece, more a set of permutations of a single cultural constant: television, our debased currency." (4). TV looks like TV and when you look at it deeper it takes you back to itself, this is referred to as homogeneity. "But even as television becomes television—plus, it remains the national dream factory, bulletin board, fun house mirror for distorted images of our national desires and fears...And yet non of the metaphors seems quite right, because finally television is not quite anything else. It is just—television." (5).

Ads are becoming to look more like programs with the use of narrative strategies called "mini- narratives." This strategy is used in a particular Pepsi commercial which models the TV show Miami Vice. It features Don Johnson and the music of Glenn Fry. It is almost as if the commercial is a three minute episode of the show. Similarly programs are beginning to look like ads. When Price Adam pulls out his sword in the show He-Man, he is encircled with lively, lightning flashes as he shouts in a deep, echoing, voice, "By the power of Grayskull... I have the power!" He then transforms into He-Man . This appears to be a commercial for the He-Man action figure and sword of power. There is a history behind program—length commercial. A cartoon Hot Wheels , which is also the name of a line of cars made by Mattel, was aired on ABC in 1969. One of Mattel's competitors, Topper, filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stating that the show was a thirty-...
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