Watching sports on television was once a terrific way for the young and old to share recreational time. The combination of light-hearted competition and fun suspended the harsh realities of daily life for a while. The escape was a healthy way to recharge ourselves even when it was periodically interrupted by inane, but relatively harmless commercials. It was a small price for the privilege of watching without charge.
Not anymore. Watching baseball’s league championship series brought home the realization that we have digressed tremendously over a couple of decades. During a recent evening, I went through a few between-inning series of commercials and saw just two which demonstrated being in sync with a mature society (a Lexus and a Burger King commercial, of all things… I normally don’t mention products’ names, but they deserve it for not caving in). The rest used images of violence, immaturity and sexual attraction to sell the following to an audience comprised of all ages:
1) Promo for a violent movie centered on gratuitous “action” and injury.
2) New burgers from a restaurant well-known for focusing on women mainly for their attributes between neck and waistline
3) A teenage boy, with a mouthful of a particular candy, is kissed by a teenage girl whose primary goal was to secure some of the candies from his mouth. (And, unfortunately, viewers see that she is successful.)
4) A grim video game based solely on violence and destruction is touted as must-have entertainment.
5) A suave and overly confident gentleman has a certain beer on the table. He appears “successful” by his expensive clothing and by the two adoring women in close contact with him. So, get money so that the beer and the women will follow? Or is it get the beer and the women will follow?
6) The advantages of a new phone is shown amid a backdrop of parents acting childish and fighting each other because their inadequate phones require them to get closer to their children’s school presentation in order to get an acceptable photo. (Too much pre-evening beer from the guy in #5?)
7) Another new phone is promoted by a shy middle-schooler who overcomes his fear of giving speeches. He notices a fellow pre-teen admiring him and immediately looks online “how to ask a girl out.” Now if we could just lower the driving age to 12.
8) For those of us guys over 50: commercials suggest that sex can, and should, be the dominant part of our lives forever (the likely future for the pre-teens in #7?). And, as my girlfriend reminded me, the famous “four-hour” cautionary statement is probably included as much for its fantasy appeal as it is for being a medical disclaimer.
And some wonder why we have a society focused on gratification. This helped a lot of candidates win public office in the last few years, so it appears that Madison Avenue might as well cash in, too. Apparently, they have discovered that we really are nothing but animals with somewhat larger brains… Glad my son and two daughters are already grown, but what will their children be subjected to?