Posted by: martinworster | November 19, 2010

107. HAPPY MEALS?

Happy Meals were always sad..

I’ve just read that San Francisco has banned the inclusion of toys with some fast food ‘Happy Meals’ that do not meet nutritional guidelines. So clearly that’s all meals then? When I first read the headline, I thought the reason toys were to be banned with meals was to try and stop the invasive marketing to infants by corporate megaliths. Disney you know who you are.

Fast food is an infrequent treat for my two boys. When they do go they are more excited about the toy than the meal. We have to use the gaudy plastic toy as a post-dinner treat – if they eat their dinner. And of course the toy is always a tie in with the latest Disney film. It’s conditioning malleable minds into the whole all-consuming consumerist life cycle – films, product tie ins, branding, advertising. The summer blockbuster, the Thanksgiving mega release, the slurry of Christmas films, the Easter launch and we’re swiftly back to summer again. See the film, buy the toys, buy the DVD, upgrade and get the Blue Ray version, we’re all really just gullible pawns in the big business game, numbers on a spreadsheet.

But then you can’t – unless you move to an isolated cabin in the wilds – not get caught up in this cycle and world. And to be fair, Tristan and Oliver do enjoy going to the cinema. Consumerism is engrained in us from an early age. Even I remember – in a much less advanced consumerist world of the 1970s – how much I wanted a certain toy. More than wanted, I NEEDED the toy. TV adverts showing shiny plastic toys that I wanted so badly, as if my life would be slightly remiss without it. Pouring over the Kays catalogues looking at all the toys – bright bikes, guns, sport equipment, Mattel games, Action Men, early computer games – and just totally yearning for it ALL. Maybe that was just me though, a never satisfied greedy consumer?

And that’s the whole illusion of consumerism. We are conditioned into wanting (need, desire, fantasty) something – and once we have what we wanted we instantly move onto the next want. Never being satisfied with what we have. The void is never filled. There’s always a new release, the next version, the bigger shinier thing we fetishise and simply could never live without. Until we have it and five minutes later it’s discarded onto the rubbish heap of plastic toys. More than it being a cycle it is more of a downward spiral – you end up at a lower point than where you started and you will most certainly be out of pocket.

I see it with Tristan and Oliver. Extreme consumerism has infected us all. What’s for Christmas?

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