catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 2 :: 2003.01.17 — 2003.01.30


Cheaper, bigger, better and more convenient than ever

I admit I’ve been watching too much TV lately, more than I should. What draws me in is the idea of relaxing my mind, resting in someone else’s story for a while instead of obsessing over the intense work of the day.

And that’s exactly the state they want me in when it comes time for commercials.

Diatribes against advertising can often take on the tone of inane conspiracy theories, but I don’t doubt that there’s an unofficial effort on the part of advertisers to create a certain type of person with certain desires and “needs.” After all, their goal is to sell a product and the achievement of that goal becomes far easier if the target subject is only dully aware of what’s being presented and willing to accept what’s offered as a means of escape from anything that remotely causes suffering.

Provided we’re at least partially aware of what’s going on around us after we turn off the TV, overexposure to advertising sets us up for inner conflict between who the ads tell us we should be and who we need to be according to the application of biblical principles to today’s society. In my lucid moments, these distinctions are clear. We are told by advertisers to:

  • Be thin.
  • Be tan.
  • Get the lowest price.
  • Shop for brand names.
  • Overindulge in certain things like food, alcohol, and personal pampering.
  • Always pursue convenience.
  • Buy now, pay later.

Ultimately, we are told to be discontent because there’s always a lower price, there’s always someone thinner and tanner, there’s always a new trend (i.e. teeth whitening) in which you must indulge or risk losing your potential soulmate over. There’s always an easier way to get from point A to point B, even if point B is not the place you want to be… but you can get there easier! And faster!

Maybe instead we should:

  • Appreciate our unique bodies and show our gratitude to God by keeping them healthy.
  • Be aware of the potential of overexposure to the sun to harm our bodies permanently.
  • Support local businesses and/or buy fairly traded goods so we have a better idea of what we are supporting.
  • Shop for quality.
  • Savor the enjoyment of God’s good gifts.
  • Always pursue the opportunity to love our God and our neighbor.
  • Buy now, pay now, so that we are in a better position to be charitable and flexible according to God’s will.

This seems a lot like a Sunday School lesson, but it’s one that I need to hear over and over again, even as I’m tempted to justify my unnecessary purchases by shopping at a thrift store. The fact is — get ready for the Flannel graph — there are two forces at work within us, each subtly willing us in a certain direction. We need to actively choose to go the right direction.

Is this all to say that advertising is entirely evil? No. I’ve found out about numerous worthwhile companies and organizations through ads, including Pura Vida Coffee and American Apparel. I’ve also successfully endured countless commercials to view worthwhile television shows. But I’m still a long way from being entirely discerning in regards to advertising. My goals in this respect are to:

  1. Set values in advance.
  2. Be fully awake when viewing.

It’s a lot of work to put all knowledge into action, but we at least need to try. Out of respect for ourselves, our neighbors and our God, we shouldn’t enslave ourselves to advertising, but we should always be considering the effects of our faith on our daily choices. And sometimes the right choice will involve some sort of suffering, but in making that choice, we participate in the suffering of Christ, who died to make the world right. That might seem like a jump in reasoning, but if you’ve been a good a consumer of the twenty-first century, you can make it. 

The advertisers know you can.

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