Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Our Collective Experiment on the Minds of Children

The ad for Molson Canadian beer that the clip below is from apparently (according to HuffPost) got a lot of play on the Internet around February of 2013 before it vanished forever (not clear if this had anything to do with this post I wrote...).  The ad leveraged our human instinct to feel "special" (nationalistic) about our Canadian tribe, but it strangely has this tiny clip in it of two girls kissing underwater:

So what's so interesting about that? The target is young males, in Canada and abroad and, having worked on beer ads for many years, I can replay the creative/account team's pitch to the breweries senior management:
"You see, we know that young guys grow up on hard-core porn online these days, gentlemen, and, let's face it, guys LOVE the idea of girl-on-girl sex and 'three-ways' with two girls, so we have to put in a shot of two girls making out to 'push that hot button'! Hey, if anyone complains we'll say it's a shout-out to the lesbian/gay community!"
Well here's the thing, that little snippet thrown in there has NOTHING to do with LGBT-friendliness.  It has EVERYTHING to do with female exploitation.

Readers of my stuff know that I have an issue with marketers leveraging our baser human instincts to sell shit (despite having built a career upon it, I think there's room for exercising moral judgement in corporate decision making).  Yes, I came up through the age of ardent feminism and bear the scars, but exactly the opposite social undercurrent is happening today, aided by two key things:
  1. The fact that there are sufficient checks and balances in place in today's educational system and workplace that give most young women fairly equal opportunity, so the pressure to be 'on-guard' about equality and 'fight for it' has largely disappeared.  
  2. Online pornography is free, highly stimulating at an instinctual level, simple to access, and kids are both curious and dare each other to watch things that most adults would turn off in disgust.  Watching porn has become a 'right of passage' for today's kids (yes, even your kids!).
Why are these two points so salient?  Because:
  1. A large enough body of research to have educated us that there are very REAL differences between men and women that have nothing to do with 'nurture' and everything to do with 'nature'.  There are good reasons why most women aren't interested in going into engineering or politics and will become stay-at-home mom's with great enthusiasm if they get the opportunity.  The 'bonding hormone' oxytocin is addictive -- it's impossible for either sex to resist the effects of it.
  2. Study has proven that the human brain lays down it's life-long neural pathways through the teen years, only fully forming the complex connections that enable the ability to understand the long term consequences of short term actions at 25.   This means that, without the censorship previous generations had that kept hardcore pornography away from us until we were in at least our late teens, today's young kids are literally immersed in it.  This 'familiarity' during a time that permanent neural connections are being formed breeds a conviction that 'the new normal' is for girls to give boys what, apparently (judging by the bulk of the pornography they are exposed to), they want most: instantaneous female arousal without any romantic foreplay, girl on girl, two girls on one guy, deep-throating, lots of slapping, etc.
This is combined with a very serious underlying sense of 'entitlement' that comes NOT from their parents/family environment (no matter how liberal or conservative it is), but rather from the sum of all the shows, movies, songs and cultural stimulation they are exposed to everywhere (the World Wide Web is a very big place!).

What we're seeing in young women today is a disturbing 'sexualization' at a very young age that leads them to 'dare each other' to adhere to the 'new normal': wearing platform high-heels designed to rotate the pelvis forward and buttocks out, hemlines that are so short their private parts are on display, and
'going commando' (panty-less).  Getting the attention of young males used to be easy for girls, they just had to show up.  Today the guys don't really need them, they have video games and hardcore porn free and instantaneously anytime.  This means the girls have to 'step-up' and work very hard to get the attention of the lads and offer them what they've become accustomed to expecting.  It encourages sexual behaviour that matches what they've seen so often as they were growing up, performing for the lads, giving them what they've been encouraged to find appealing by watching very graphic, explicit sex online anytime, all the time.  College-age sexual activities these days have evolved and are no longer the simple experimentation/exploration they used to be, there's a lot more 'group activity' than we'd like to believe or hear about and not a lot of 'romantic bonding'.

The marketers of Molson Canadian can hide behind "we're just reflecting the reality of young people's lives/interests/modern culture", but I beg to differ.  Much of our experience with the Internet and emerging media and technology had been experimental since the mid-90's -- we didn't know going in what the long term effects would be, but we're learning now and it's time for good corporate citizens to STOP hiding behind claims of innocent "we're just giving customers what they want" and to start behaving with a social conscience.  Using advertising to put out the message to girls that boys not only want them to make out with each other, but that this idea is suitable to promote on mass-market advertising for their product (an inebriation-inducing product, no less), isn't innocent, it is insidious, gratuitous, and profoundly unethical, yet it is very likely the front edge of the wave of the future of advertising. 

When there are no clear lines drawn in the sand, it is up to marketers to self-censor.  Molson has chosen to 'push the envelope'.  Perhaps the net impact is entirely innocuous and therefore moot, but with this ad, we've reached a tipping point.

Make no mistake, that single little clip does not show two girls holding hands, or getting married, or protesting for LGBT rights, it is in the midst of a generic,  directed at the majority, obviously heterosexual-male-oriented ad.  It is what it is, a lewd little promotion to encourage young men to nod in excited approval, nudging their buddies in the ribs with their elbows while hoping the girls will 'get the hint'.  It advertises, in the public forum, that if girls really are cool, if they really do 'get' what is expected of them by the lads, some of them, at least, will get it on with each other in a public place like the wild, drunken party depicted in the ad, and continue with what is implied to come next as the party gets wilder...

This isn't just about some old ad guy ranting about indecency, this is a serious and growing issue that we need to take a hard look at.  Only NOW are we seeing the effects of a bunch of experimental, unregulated new stuff on an entire generation who have grown up being encouraged to give in to things that the young human brain finds highly addictive:
  1. Texting each other on cell phones till 4 am (girls more so than boys)
  2. Playing extremely violent, amoral video games (GTA) on hand-held devices, sometimes for 48 hours straight (boys more so than girls)
  3. Eating highly appealing, empty-calorie convenience foods in large quantities
  4. Watching hard-core pornography from a disturbingly early age
  5. Never being exposed to real failure or disappointments 
  6. And ending every phone call with just about anyone in their immediate circle with 'I love you' (#5 & 6 especially helping to form the real roots of today's plague of 'entitlement')
We didn't know what the consequences of allowing the pharmaceutical lobby to push the government to legalize opium in nice packaging, then incentivize doctors to prescribe it en masse, now many average small and large town folks are addicted to Oxycontin and we have a major societal problem.  Who knew that allowing the gun manufacturers to misuse the second amendment to make a lot of money pumping millions of handguns out of their factories into the hands of a minority of gun-addicted Americans (homes with guns have dropped from 54% in the 70's to less than 35% today), but now America has a HUGE problem with anti-social/criminal individuals having access to an unlimited, cheap supply (6,000,000 BRAND NEW guns, mostly handguns, will be sold in America this year, and more next year, and more the year after that to gradually fewer 'collectors'...).

Big challenges start innocuously, and the ones associated with the Internet and smart phones are just beginning to rear their ugly heads for the Millennial generation.  I'd suggest that this little clip of two hetero girls about to kiss underwater is a red flag, not a red herring.  I believe it's just the tip of the iceberg and that more are coming.  Now I don't know what the consequences or impact will be for this generation and the next (maybe 'publicly broadcast' -- to all intents and purposes -- hardcore porn will be a good thing...), but it's far too close to the inner workings of human consciousness for us to sit back and shrug about.

My interest is NOT with with 'decency' (hey, when sex moves from the bedroom to the public forum, maybe our tendency to over-produce human beings gets eliminated!  All the other species we're steadily squeezing off the planet will be pleased...), but with what this 'trend' indicates about the way men and women will interact in the workplace and in society in general.  Where will things shift as the reality of this new generation's exposure to porn trickles down and becomes the 'new normal'?

Looks like it will be an titillating show.  It will be interesting to see what 'feminism' looks like down the road...

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