Friday, January 2, 2009

Available at Target, Walgreens, and CVS

Leo is quickly approaching his 5th birthday and his grasp of the world around him continues to expand. Latest on his horizon is the world of TV commercials. The kid has been a TV fan for much of his life, reared primarily on Noggin, the Nickelodeon networks' commercial-free pre-school channel. In the last year or so he has picked up some Disney Channel shows, but those, too, run in largely commercial-free blocks. I'm not kidding myself that any of this is non-commercial, despite the absence of conventional commercial spots appearing throughout the shows. This programming has well prepared him to participate in American consumer culture, chock full as it is of Dora games and Mickey Mouse nightlights and Backyardigans CDs. But until very recently the boy had seen very, very few commercial spots. Not only were his shows commercial-free they were also watched via DVR and so could be fast-forwarded, stopped, etc. at parental will.

But now he has discovered commercials. AND HE LOVES THEM.

He's been encountering conventional commercial messages in several ways: during the football games he has taken to watching with his dad, during shows in the Qubo block of programming that runs on Sunday mornings on NBC, even during some of his long-time faves I recorded to DVD off of Nickelodeon (rather than Noggin) in order to bring them along while traveling. The first signs of his fascination with actual commercials--those 20 or 30 second spots I spend much of my life fast-forwarding in my own TV vieiwng--was his use of the phrase "for real." As in, "I really like these chicken nuggets. For real." So cute, I thought, then I began to hear the phrase repeated ad nasuem on the Chucky Cheese sponsorship message running before many Disney Channel shows.

Increasingly, he has asked us to leave the commercials playing rather than fast-forwarding them (as on the home-burned DVDs I mentioned) and often seems more intrigued by the commercials than the football during his sports-bonding time with dad. But I really knew how very enamored he was of commercials when, a couple of days ago, he announced, apropos of nothing, "Available at Target, Walgreens, and CVS."

What did you say?

Available at Target, Walgreens, and CVS.

To M: Did you hear what he said?

Leo: Available at Target Walgreens,and CVS.

Yes, this delightful turn of phrase comes straight from the Chia commercial (as in Chia pets) running during Turbo Dogs, his fave of the NBC-run Qubo block, and a show during which he now expressly forbids fast-forwarding of ads.

The next day we got another of these, this time, "Canada and Puerto Rico!" As in, available for shipping to the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

There is only so long one can shield one's children from the horrors of the world.

2 comments:

Michelle Detorie said...

Interesting. I remember liking commercials (or anything, really) if it seemed clear that the target audience was "kids." I was also very curious about and sometimes covetous for the things that my parents did not like me consuming (sugary cereals, madonna's "burning up" video). I'm no longer a big fan of fruity pebbles, but I still like Madonna. I wonder how long the boy's enchantment with commercials will last? Keep us posted.

Jonathan said...

I think commercials and kids are natural companions since they're mini-essays on culture and expectation, so while kids are trying to soak up the world (learning important things like which country is Canada's natural companion, I see!), ads probably seem god-sent. When I worked at a kids daycamp for 6 years, half the discussion was ad-centered, it seemed. Makes one worry all the more about the morbid warnings that follow ads for medicine ("after 4 hours, consult doctor," and so forth)!