11 March 2009

Selling Sex, er, I Mean Food

Like all former high school athletes of a certain age who see the jowls staring back at them in the mirror (and can no longer hide the paunch), we fancy ourselves in the category of "good time Charlie" emeritus. We're ready to be called back in "the game" (or the scene) if the coach ever needs us. Nothing quite as cool or hip as a pudgy, bald guy with a mysterious past. Oooooooh, old guys! That's hot.

But seriously, I think that most of us who are parents view ourselves as being far from prudish teetotalers trying to throw a wet blanket on America's collective good time. That's how the mainstream media portrays us ordinary, conservative types. We who live in a modern America cannot help but be connected to the Internet at whizzing speeds, with smartphones that give us music, the Web, photos of our kids, and email at a touch ... all while watching our kid's soccer games or driving on the 405 fwy. We're all cool. We're all connected. We just don't want to be corrupted.

If you're like me, you have had it with the pornification of America, the very America that our kids are growing up in. Whether it's the magazines in the doctor's waiting room; the billboard that you and your brood drive past daily on the way to school; or every parent's nightmare, those pesky cable tv ads, it's obvious that Madison Ave. believes that sex sells. And, now, sex is personified in plump female chocolate-filled hard-shelled candies. It's bad enough that every new doll targeted at our young daughters are all whorish in appearance, with Barbie's new tat on her shoulder, and Bratz in stripper pumps. GP are ya with me?! (Arcane Kirk Franklin reference alert.)

Just type "M&M ad" in Google or its subsidiary YouTube, and you'll find results with several U.S. ads featuring a green female M&M in high heals putting on a strip-tease show of sorts. The foreign territories feature even racier ads with swimsuit photo shoots with swinging tassels. (joking about the tassels, but it won't be far behind, trust me.) Green M&M's have developed a folklore of sexual potency over the years, and now Mars is actually capitalizing on what was once a juvenile urban legend of sorts. Green candy soft-core porn is now actually being monetized by this large Fortune 500 type company! (And, I can't even eat a burger at Carl's Jr. without worrying about finding Paris Hilton's soapy thong bikini bottoms in my Carl's Superstar with Cheese!)

There are recent ads for other products colored with the same lusty, breathy overtones, like other chocolate candies, and even Chapstick is getting in on the act with a dress that keeps falling off. It is getting beyond surreal when a company believes that sales of a diminutive plastic silo filled with waxy material can be improved by sexing up the packaging. Remarkably, this was all predicted 50 years ago by Professor Lewis.

CS Lewis was quite prescient in this prediction (which I guess is a tautology. Damn those tautologies!) As many of us Clive Staples fans know all too well, his writings are as fresh today (and important) as ever. He wrote in Mere Christianity (ch. 15) about Sexual Morality, with insight into the differences between the cultural notions of modesty and decency. Here are his comments about young men and their sexual appetites:

One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving. He meant, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation.
Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.
Lewis had this spot-on, to a degree. He recognized our natures to be sexualized, at whatever age, and by whatever happens to be the imprintable material in our respective lives. That's why we find movies like American Pie so discomfiting: they're funny because they're (some parts of them at any rate) true. He just did not realize that our culture (British and American) would actually have companies paying millions of dollars to indeed show food stripping, during the family hour.

Even stuffed Americans who've gorged on (been force-fed?) sexual advertising for the better part of our lives are still titillated by Chapstick, Barbie, and M&M ads. I have spent the best part of my parenting years trying to forget the garbage I've allowed to seep (nay, seer?) into my conscience. Much of it is downright bad. Taking captive certain thoughts and making a down payment on renewing my mind is about the best I can do right now for myself.

But as for my two sons, they are getting a dad who is trying his best to give them a childhood that stretches as far into the future without losing that innocence and child-like spirit of adventure. Every day is new and exciting still for them, until that dreaded day when the veil is lifted on the everyday porn endemic in our society. Childhood will end for them on that day, and I don't need the pornification of America to speed that along.


AuthorMama said...

How can such a hip webzine have 0 pithy remarks? Let me be the first to leave behind some pith.
We miss you, J. It's good to see your writing online.

JGregg said...

Thanks for the pith!! A "hip webzine" is a compliment to be appreciated ...