I don't watch TV, but I'm not so crazy as to ban my kids from it. Mostly we hang out on PBS, since it's one of two kids channels we get. I prefer it not because it's educational, but because it doesn't have commercials.
Dude, commercials are scary.
I never gave it much thought until I had kids. Commercials were mostly stupid—I could see through their little mind tricks and selling tactics no problem. I figured, for the most part, advertising didn't really work that well.
Then one day Dino Boy comes into the kitchen while I'm cooking dinner, and he says, "Mom?"
He sighs. "I think I need a Pillow Pet."
I stop, realizing he must have seen this on the other kid channel we have—the one riddled with infomercials. "Why do you think you need a Pillow Pet?"
"They are soft to sleep on, and good friends."
My jaw dropped. He was totally convinced! One commercial, and my kid had been brain washed into thinking he needed something he really didn't need at all. Something he'd never actually want. It scared me, how easy it was.
And it didn't stop there.
While Nick was mopping the floor: "Daddy, you need a Shark Steamer! They get all the germs out!"
While I was baking: "Mommy, eggs are hard to crack with your hands. They get all over. You should get an Egg Cracker like on TV."
When we were doing laundry: "We need Wonder Hangers! We need more room in our closet! Wonder Hangers help!"
Now, Dino Boy is only four, but I started wondering when this impressionability would wear off. Or is the human mind always this susceptible to the power of suggestion? I mean, there are lots of advertisements for adults...and it wouldn't be a huge industry if it didn't actually work.
Then I started thinking about my writing. Lots of people say, "I just tell the story, and it's up to the reader to decide what they think." I'm not saying we should all be out there moralizing, but I'm starting to wonder just how much of an impact we have as writers. Words, images, sounds—they are much more powerful than I think we sometimes give them credit for.
And I'm not talking just for kids, either, but even adults. Are we letting the media, advertisements, push us in directions we've been convinced we want, but we don't really? I wonder about myself sometimes. Do I wear mascara because I've been told it makes my eyes prettier? Do I love shoes because I'm told that's what girls love? Which opinions are my own, and which were fabricated by outside forces?
The lines blur more than I want to admit, but it's interesting to think about.