8 May

So, I’m at the movies, right?  Watching the commercials that come before the previews (mind you, I don’t have a television so I’m only exposed to TV commercials on my once-a-month trip to the theatre)…

In one of these commercials, a group of real fifth graders (or so one is led to believe) is visiting a space museum.  The museum guide asks them if they can keep a secret, and invites them into a room where they come face to face with aliens.  The incredulous children stare in awe at the two creatures on the other side of the glass, and communicate with them through a microphone and through the guide, who translates.  One of the children is selected to enter the room where the aliens are kept, and the children explode with delight when the alien returns the dazzled child’s farewell with a raspy-sounding “bye”.

When they leave the room, they come face to face with two actors who take off their alien masks to reveal their human identities.  The tour guide admits she’s an actor, and tells the children that they are actually in a commercial for a disgusting, preservative-filled, nutritionally devoid lunch product that parents nowadays send to school instead of a balanced meal, and which must be marketed to the hilt because it makes no sense to pay any amount of money for such pathetic rubbish.

Anyhow, the children, upon finding out they’ve been duped and hearing the name of the obviously-familiar product, explode into raucous cheers and delighted laughter, as if they’d each just won a new computer.  The commercial concludes with the promise of free field trips for those who purchase the product and win a contest.  Because nothing relates better to education than preservative-filled rubbery turkey from (if we’re lucky) inhumanely treated birds, and colon-clogging white bread from genetically modified wheat.

My brain screamed WTF!!!  At so many levels!!!  First of all, children should not be allowed to even consume the processed crap that company is selling.  Secondly, why would any parent be cruel enough to purchase that for their children?  Do they not know how to read labels?  Thirdly, why is this company allowed to establish even a remote relationship between the poison they peddle and the field trip, arguably most important type of elementary education?

Fourthly, and perhaps most disturbingly, why did the children – who, from the looks on their faces, had totally bought in to the alien farce – jump for joy when they found out they had been taken for a ride in the name of marketing?  They should’ve felt used, made fun of, taken advantage of!!  They should be incensed and disgusted with the thought of being even remotely associated with a product that would assume they were stupid and gullible.  But perhaps they’ve become so stupid and gullible – thanks to a combination of lack of school funding (of which marketers take advantage) and poor nutrition – that they cannot begin to understand their role in this… this… Someone help me find a word.  I’m too angry right now.

We’re having kids next year.  Is it too much to ask for marketers to keep their grimy, slimy paws away from them until they are old enough to understand the true implications of caving in to marketers’ psychological manipulation?  Or are we going to have to move to the mountains and raise our children in a yurt?


13 Responses to “Reproach-ables”

  1. Sue VanHattum May 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    Those kids were actors, too, of course, being paid good money to professionally feign surprise, and then delight. Yes, it’s gross. I don’t watch much TV myself (none at home), but I guess I’m jaded – this isn’t surprising.

    My son prefers bland foods, and so he likes that corporate fake food more than healthy stuff. He doesn’t get it often, but once in a while it enters our lives somehow, and he’s happy about it.

    He eats as much sweets as he can, spends his allowance on candy. He’s turning 8 next week, and I’d like to raise his allowance from $2 a week to $3 a week, but that would mainly mean more candy.

    He eats lots of Annie’s macaroni and cheese, and the ramen noodles we get at the natural food store. How much better is that than the crap you’re writing about? It says organic on the packages, but how much does that mean?

    I eat amazing foods, prepared by the folks at from local, sustainable, etc, ingredients. But my son usually won’t eat that – I think it’s too complex for him…

    Right now he’s watching a show made to advertise acceleracers, a particular kind of hot wheels car. It’s online, so there are no other commercials. But the whole show is a commercial, really. He’s so in love with cars, it fascinates him.

    I struggle with wanting to let him make his own decisions, and feeling that sugar and screen time are addictive, I am not consistent, because I feel so torn.

    So. What about the movie. Babies? Was it good?

    • montessorimatters May 9, 2010 at 1:38 am #

      Sue, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have kids in this day and age… The more you try to shelter them, the more they become attracted to the “forbidden fruits”. The movie was awesome, endearing and uplifting. I could’ve watched another hour of baby footage, but that’s just me b/c right now I have MAJOR baby fever. I’ll write a post with my thoughts… Definitely go see it and let me know what you think!

  2. sands May 9, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    Well yes those ….ables are so in….I have been packing my daughters lunch since she was two with the Indian food we eat made at home along with fresh fruits, sometimes we are looked at as some primitive tribe who is still peeling and chopping the produce and then laboring on the stove…..but I refuse to give in to the convenience coz health is more important to me. Did she eat everything I gave from the start…..NO….but as a Hitler mother I am, I was fine letting her go hungry with half eaten meals….consistency is the key with food. She was developing her taste buds and I very certain that I don’t want to be developed for the over processed sodium filled junk. We would take fresh fruit over a box any day! But yes, we are the talk of the crowd for being like this……”you should look at her daughter’s lunch box, its as if she has nothing else to do”…….:-))
    Sorry for rambling but I feel very strongly about this whole food situation going on right now.

    • montessorimatters May 9, 2010 at 1:46 am #

      Sands, major kudos to you for making your daughter’s nutrition a priority. I think sometimes people forget that we are what we eat… My mom, a working mom, would get up early every day to make us things like brown rice wrapped in nori, seaweed salad, mixed greens with grilled tofu, carrot juice, etc. We were macrobiotic growing up, and although I would never subject a child to the strictness of that diet, I must say that I have taken antibiotics a total of ONE TIME (last year) since the age of 9 (when we became macrobiotic). I’m 34 right now, so that means that I went 24 years without antibiotics. I am CONVINCED that this was thanks to the nutrition my mother provided for us, since prior to becoming macrobiotic we were constantly at the doctor’s office and took antibiotics just like all the other kids.

      So, when you feel stressed or frazzled by the amount of work that goes into planning your daughter’s lunches, think about the wonderful favors you’re doing her for the future… Not only will she be healthier, but she’ll have a wider palate and be willing to explore new foods. And yes, we were all made fun of for our lunches. I’m a size 6 and very healthy (and I continue to eat a balanced diet of grains, veggies, local fruits and wild-caught fish), while most of my classmates are overweight and on tons of medication. Who’s laughing now? 😉

      • Sands May 9, 2010 at 2:45 am #

        :-)) I have never been on antibiotics and neither my daughter…:-))
        loved your comment!!
        I love cooking and my daughter is developing a serious interest in it too. I am glad she will not be depending on take away and ready made meals and hence will be eating much fresh and healthy stuff.

  3. EV May 9, 2010 at 1:28 am #

    Three thoughts.

    1. Ohh boy I can’t wait to see the commercial for my self when I go see the movie tomorrow.

    2. We’ve been eating much healthier – especially since the Dr asked me to cut about 20 foods from my diet for 3 mo – including wheat products – and we thought we were eating healthy before. The kids have come to the place where they don’t like the taste of some of the preservatives and they can pick out products that contain gluten as a filler. It is weird. I tell you – weird.

    3. We worked hard with our two boys to get them to at least try a variety of foods – we pay for that when they order caviar and exotic sushi when we go out but hey. They have tried it and learned they like it.

    We started out our home schooling year with me tutoring BR who didn’t eat veggis (except potatoes) or sandwiches. You have no Idea the drama getting him to eat sweet roasted baby carrots. Still he doesn’t like them but at least he really knows not thinks. 40 minutes of drama. AGGGGG. He has made tremendous progress. He loves Pakistani foods (yes) and Southern foods and will even eat a grilled cheese sandwich.

    Now, I’ve agreed to tutor RL, the 7 year old. He eats NO spice. A taco is too spicy. I didn’t jazz up the packet from the grocery store. My guys were adding hot sauce. (Ohhh and he eats no veggis that are not cooked.) After he left to spit out the taco bite in the trash can, BR leans in and says that he thinks RL’s mom shouldn’t give him back-up food so he would learn to find food he likes in what I make. Oh yea, kiss up but there was a glimmer of truth and appreciation for what he has learned this year.

    • montessorimatters May 9, 2010 at 1:51 am #

      EV, I love BR’s kiss up, but he definitely has a point! It amazes me how they KNOW what the right thing is, but following it… That’s a different story. 🙂

      It reminded me of Roland yesterday… I asked him what he appreciated about his mom, and he said that he was glad his mom didn’t let him eat too many sweets because moms who let kids eat sugar are not taking good care of them. I could tell they had just butted heads on this issue and he was trying her argument on me. A couple of hours later, during the mother’s day celebration, he pestered me for half an hour wanting to know if he could have a second piece of the banana cake we had baked. So much for not eating too many sweets… 🙂

      PS: My parents were just like you. They didn’t mind paying for fancy food as long as we enjoyed it and it was good for us. Now that I have to pay, I realize the sacrifice they made!

  4. Sue VanHattum May 9, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    Torn, I tell you! It was much easier when he was little, and only knew what I gave him. But actually, he also knew what he was fed by his godmother, who took him to McDonalds, and other things I cringe over. But they have a deep connection, and he’s always known different ways of life…

    It would help if I cooked, but I am a single parent, and work fulltime. I don’t cook much. I just try to find really well-prepared foods, which I’m lucky to have available locally.

    My son likes sushi, when we go out for it. But I haven’t found a good way to get it for his lunchbox.

    Thanks for giving me space to think about this. (He just asked for some pickles. Not too terrible…)

  5. Annicles May 9, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    Oh that junk is just revolting.
    I have taught my children (my real ones, not at school ones!) to understand what advertising is and how it works. Now when they watch an advert and come to me saying they really want X we work out what was so great about the ad – because whatever is being advertised it makes the product look so much more. We are protected here in the UK to some extent but laws are being put forward to ban any food advertising during childrens programmes.

    As for food, I keep it simple and home-made. We have a bread maker and rarely buy shop bread. The children all have a hot lunch at school which is freshly prepared and healthy. In the evening we have stir fries and pasta with home made sauces that were prepared at the weekend and sandwiches and salad.

    I took the same approach as another of your commenters – if a child didn’t like a food then they went hungry. It doesn’t hurt and it prevents the child from crossing that boundry between independence and too much liberty.

    Three years ago, I was in the supermarket with my three children then aged 7,5 and 2 and we were in the checkout queue. A couple in the next queue to us looked into my trolley and started discussing it. Apparently, as there were no biscuits, crips, pizzas, sausages, chips, orange squash (that revolting drink syrup you have to dilute) coke or fizzy drinks or sweeties I was a dreadful, cruel and neglectful mum. Of course my kids like that stuff, but they only have a little and then they’ve had enough. They don’t like it enough for me to buy it, they have a little when we’re out. It never lives up to expectation! We also have a lovely time out with our three adventurous eaters, never have to compromise on where we go and they will try anything.

    Here endeth the rant!

    • montessorimatters May 9, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

      Annicles, what a well-stated rant! 🙂 I love the part about letting kids go hungry if they don’t like what’s on their plate… “It doesn’t hurt and it prevents the child from crossing that boundry between independence and too much liberty.” Brilliant… Every parent should follow your advice (I know my mom did, and we rarely had food struggles growing up because of this). Thanks for your comment!

    • Uly May 9, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

      We used to go to the local children’s museum most days for their toddler program, before my nieces started school.

      We were actually just talking about this today with my nieces, in the general context of “why we eat healthy” (usually, that is – toDAY our dinner was “chocolate pancakes with bacon and orange juice, but, you know, it’s better to have an occasional treat than to want it want it want it, and they did have fruit for breakfast and veggies for lunch), how when I went to the children’s museum I used to come back so frustrated and tell their mom all about how THE OTHER people ate.

      Because I’d pack a healthy lunch – leftovers, or a sandwich with fruit and vegetables on the side, and water or maybe juice to drink, and more fruit as a snack – and I’d have to sit and listen to people be AMAZED at how “much work” I put into this lunch. Five minutes to make a sandwich is too much work? Three minutes to throw some leftovers into a plastic container is too much work?

      And then these people, who week after week brought McDonalds for lunch, or Lunchables, or brought no lunch at all and bought – for their THREE YEAR OLDS, mind you! – a bag of chips and some candy (!!!!!) would ask me “How do you get them to eat that?” about our perfectly normal food. How could I answer that? “Oh, I get them to eat that by not buying them crap. And if they don’t eat, they go hungry, I don’t instead chase them around with a cookie and try to convince them to take just one bite. We don’t play that game – when they get up from the table, the food goes away and it doesn’t come out again until snack time… which is fruit, not garbage, thanks”. I wish I could say that, but I saw these people week after week, I wasn’t about to!

      But what really bugged me, still bugs me to this DAY to think about, were the “pushers”. THEY brought their kids those Welch’s “fruit snacks”, THEY brought their kids Goldfish crackers (which my nieces couldn’t have at all because they really can’t eat cow’s milk products), and I guess they felt bad about their choices because it wasn’t enough for their kids to eat this “reward” (a concept I abhor to begin with when it comes to food – a treat is a treat, not payment for eating your carrots) but they had to try to get MY nieces to eat it too…

      “Oh, can she have this candy?”
      “Oh, no thank you!”
      “But it’s just a little bit of candy!”
      “Well, we had a cookie before we came. I don’t think she needs any more treats.”
      “But it has vitamins!”
      “So does her apple.”
      “But it’s not really *candy*, you know!”

      WTF? One day I finally TOOK the damn candy just to read the ingredients. Let’s see… sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors, artificial colors, and… oh, right. “Vitamins”. No thanks. This time it finally sunk in that I really thought little of this family’s food choices, because they didn’t do this again. I hadn’t *wanted* to say they fed their kids garbage every week (because honestly, I don’t think a little candy, even every day, was a real problem – I just wanted no party of that) but until I did they refused to let the matter drop. I don’t go up to THEIR kids and shove grapes in their face.

      • montessorimatters May 10, 2010 at 12:13 am #

        Uly, every parent – nay, every person involved in helping raise a child – should read your comment. It holds so many truths, and yet it takes someone with a backbone to stand up to some of these folks. If one really loves the children, then one will only do what’s best for them, even if what’s best is letting them go hungry once in a while to get the point across that food is not a bribe, nor a reward, but a way of nourishing our body. Thanks for your brave words and actions, more kids should have aunts like you in their lives, and more parents should follow your lead!!

  6. Jennifer May 11, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    I think the simple answer is that the majority of the population have been raised in the public school system, watching television and reading magazines. Hence our society of drones. Non-critical thinkers heck non-thinkers. Governments and companies have succeeded in getting exactly what they wanted, a society of followers that don’t think for themselves.
    I find this constantly, everyday now that I am raising a child. Why don’t I give my child sweets, sugar and salt? Because I don’t want to be the one responsible for her being addicted to these things at two and a half so that by the time she’s able to make her own informed descisions it’s too late.
    If I had known what meat was before I was given it I would have been a vegetarian all of my life(but that’s another conversation!)

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