Tuesday, 27 April 2010
By Justin at BeDeviant
Almost every bit of media that you encounter on a daily basis is trying to sell you something. Do you realize this?
Whenever I go to the gym, I engage in “cultural exegesis” by watching MTV. We don’t have cable at our house (for a million different, brilliant reasons), so this is the only time during the week I’m exposed to cable pop culture. An hour is a perfect length to engage this medium–anymore and I’m afraid I’d get hooked.
Bought and Sold, Courtesy of MTV
One of the things I have begun to realize throughout the course of my social experiment is that MTV (and most other channels on TV) are full of television shows that masquerade as commercials. Literally every show is chock-full of advertisements masked as content:
- A ticker crawls at the bottom of the screen, showcasing the song and artist that’s playing during a dramatic scene on “The Hills” (complete with instructions on how to purchase said song.
- Commercial blocks rival content blocks in terms of length.
- Product placement–either subtle or overt–runs amok in literally every show that I watched.
Advertisements for every product you could imagine: Cell phone ring tones, skin care products, back-to-school spots, kitty litter boxes, fragrances, workout equipment, video game consoles … And this was only during one hour of programming! (Lest I pick on MTV too much, this advertising plague is everywhere. Even my beloved “Biggest Loser” has some of the corniest in-show commercials, no doubt to side-step the ruthless DVR fast-forward button!)Advertising Jesus
Why does this matter to those who follow Jesus? If we are not aware of this, we will get suckered. Just like the next guy. We are not immune from the perils of modern-day advertising. I like how Eugene Peterson puts it in his 1987 book, “Working the Angles“. He’s talking specifically in terms of a pastor’s relationship with his congregation, but the point still stands:
If I receive my primary social identity as a consumer, it follows that my primary expectation of the people I meet is that I get something from them for which I am prepared to pay a price. I buy merchandise from the department store, health from the physician, legal power from the lawyer. Does it not follow that in this kind of society my parishoner will have commercialized expectations of me? None of the honored professions has escaped commercializations, so why should the pastorate? This has produced in our time the opprobrious practices of pastors manipulating their so-called flocks on the same principles that managers use to run supermarkets.
Consumerism pushes, while God often pulls.
Consumerism manipulates, while God frees us up to make decisions on our own.
Advertising tells us who we aren’t (not popular, not attractive, not sexy, not smart, etc.) and then gives us a product to turn the “is not” into the “is.” God tells us who we are (image bearer, honored, cherished, loved, work of art, etc.) and then mercifully gives us his word that shows us who we are not.