Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nothing Sells Like Fear - Of Teenagers

Check out this commercial I saw on TV this past weekend.  It features an incredibly messy room that is supposed to belong to a teen-ager.  The commercial is for Hyundai autos and the tag line is, "you may not have to share a room with a 16 year old, but you do have to share the road."  The Hyundai is supposed to be the car of choice for this endeavor because of its safety.  The ad has generated quite a reaction on youtube, and you can read the comments yourself, but beware, they are very explicit.

Never mind the ugly stereotyping and prejudice toward young people in this ad - what about the soundtrack?  The tune is from the Sound of Music.  It is the young Rolf singing to Liesl persuading her to find refuge in him.  He is later recruited or conscripted to be with the Nazis and "blows the whistle" on Liesl's family who barely evades them.  The message of his song - the one in this commercial - is to "grow up" put trust in in the things that can provide and abandon childhood.  But it is Rolf who decides to put his trust in a fascist regime.  Now here is Rolf singing his song to the consumers of America wooing them to grow up and buy a car that will protect them from those foolish teenagers who are on the road like the fascist resisting Liesl, I suppose.  What does this say about youth?

It is an unintended consequence of this commercial that protecting oneself from the dangers of youthfulness is associated with consumerism.  Isn't it young people themselves who are stereotyped as being uber-consumers?  This stereotype should be examined and dismantled.  It is consumerism that in fact spoils the soul of the living and especially of the young.  But instead, Hyundai, and many other people and institutions capitalize off fear of young people to push their product and consequently consumerism.  But what is there to fear?

Don't young people in fact learn their behavior from adults?  And if young people imagine new ways of living, should this change be feared?  How can negative stereotypes of young people be avoided?

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