Saturday, September 1, 2012

ConsumerLand Inc

In our advertising-swamped world one billboard stood out near my house. i will describe it because i neglected to photograph it and now it has gone.

It showed a head and shoulder shot of a girl of European descent aged about eleven. Her hair was artfully foiled and tousled and she wore a fashionable fedora. She gazed very directly into the camera with steady blue eyes. John Berger in his interesting Marxist critique of art history Ways of Seeing (a bit old now but still valuable) talks about women in art traditionally having nothing but themselves to show.  Men show power or possessions (including women) or ideas or activities. Even adorned or surrounded, women are shown showing themselves. This billboard was just that - head and shoulders, more or less consciously, she shows us herself.

The caption said 'Have the last word before she gets to the mall.' The logo underneath was for OMANZ.

What was OMANZ, i wondered. Could it be an organisation of men, perhaps fathers, who were concerned about the influences on girls? So i googled it, as you do, and OMANZ turned out to be the Outdoor Media Association of New Zealand. In other words, the billboard was advertising itself.  If you google OMANZ you will see the billboard. It suggests the preeminent piece of influence this little tweeny absorbs before she enters ConsumerLand Inc should be yours, dear advertiser.

There has been a lot said about the tween market, especially girls, and especially about its relatively recent creation and its enormous influence. i don't need to go there really. The billboard just assumes all that is prior and public knowledge, and that it is value neutral. Someone is going to be selling this poppet some kinda shit, it might as well be you. Also assumed is that she is going to be buying it. That she has money, for a start, or can influence someone who has money. And that she is a sort of consumerist empty vessel, conventionally attractive, fashionably presented, there for the taking. She has nothing but herself to show you, dear advertiser. So go ahead and take her.

If this is beginning to sound analagous to sexual abuse, well, let it.

What i want, for my daughter, for the daughters of this sometimes wretched world, right now, today, is this. If she has to go to the God damned maul (sic) for her socialisation and her developmental education and her little rites of passage, let the last word before she gets there be from someone who loves her.

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