Thursday, January 8, 2009
The Bubble Popped
I was a kid back in the early 70's. It was the age of Rock Em Sock Em Robots, GI Joe, Action Jackson, and Major Matt Mason. President Nixon was in office at the time, but he really did not seem to care about the boring tedium of my work at school. His enlarged head would pop onto the TV in the evenings and all the adults would pay attention when he promised a freeze on prices for inflation, whatever the heck that was. Who cares, that stuff is for adults.
Saturday mornings in those days were programmed for kids time on TV. This was way before cable or internet stations, and one was limited to the stations that were in receiving distance of a local antennae, usually perched on the top of the family's house. As with other kids across America, I would sit there in my PJ's eating sugary cereal watching such shows as Captain Scarlett (one of my favorites, featuring marionettes as the characters, cars and buildings that blew up, and of course, the alien Mysterons,) Scooby Doo, HR Pufinstuff, and a really cool animated version of Fantastic Voyage. The Filmation cartoons were particularly appealing to me as they required a little brainwork and the artistry did not seem as "kiddie-time" as some of the other lame offerings of the day.
Anyhow, into this Saturday morning lineup was inserted bunches and bunches of advertising commercials, aimed straight for kids. This one commercial was pretty cool, it was for these animated robots called the Ding-a-Lings! They would go on this plastic railroad track and had this music jingle that I would bop my head up and down to. The announcer would state loudly, "They're the DING-A-LINGS! They are here! They are there! They are EVERYWHERE!!!" And the music would come on, and I would eat my sugary cereal and think these things were pretty cool. So I asked mom and dad to get me one for Christmas.
Being an inquisitive, curious and intelligent lad, (and also a bit daring) I quickly found one of the storage places my parents were hiding the stash, above the closet in my father's den. And yes, among the boxes was, The Ding-a-Lings! Woot! I was going to get the Ding-a-Lings for Christmas!
Christmas rolled around and the day was filled with much glee, as it is for any kid on Christmas day. Wrapped packages filled with toys, and the occasional piece of clothing that was ceremoniously dumped behind my back. I recognised the package by its shape and tore into it with gutso. Yes! Joy of joys, day of days, it was here! After the unwrapping ceremony was completed, I opened my new box to try it out. Thankfully, my parents had the foresight to buy batteries.
I assembled the railroad track and put the robot into motion. Bzzzzzzzzz it went as it crept slowly along its plastic course. I watched it in anticipation.
Hey! Where is the music? Where is the fun?
Where is the head bopping? When is it going to be here, there, and everywhere?
Ya know, this thing is kind of STUPID!
Realization slowly dawned on me. I had been HAD! I had become the victim of a cleverly appealing advertising campaign. So had my parents for that matter, although my concept of money at the time was limited to what their resources could purchase for me, in front of my young eyes. My view of commercialism changed on that day, from being an annoying interruption of my shows to that of outright lies. A small part of my childhood died that day, but it was a good lesson learned. The bubble had popped.
I had gone from wanting to enjoy the toy to wanting to blow it up. Fortunately, I did not entertain the idea of buying 10 boxes of toy gun caps to acquire the gunpowder necessary to perform such a hand-wringing, chemically-inspired, parent-abhorring action.
So, what other lies were being told to me? What are to be considered trusted sources of information? My young mind tried to grapple with the implications of what I had learned. The world it seemed, was not all snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Oh well, Fantastic Voyage is coming on.
Note: The below movie is *not* the commercial I saw in the above narrative, but a different one for the same product.