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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Smiling Bob… In Your Living Room?

Unfortunately paying hundreds of dollars for cable television doesn’t spare you from the commercials. In the 1990s, commercials predominantly showcased the latest Barbie,’ Transformer or Power Ranger toy. Parents must have hated way their kids were asking for a different toy every five minutes, but if they knew what was coming they might have happily bought those’ toys.

Medical commercials, which started airing in 2000, can lead people to become hypochondriacs.’ For example, being achy, tired, and not wanting to get out of bed can indicate both depression and the flu. Those are two very different’ diagnoses, and taking unnecessary medication because of commercials that stress the former can be dangerous. While I’m not trying to downplay the’ seriousness of depression,’ using the bouncing rock commercials to ask the viewers general questions about fatigue can suggest ‘ a serious mental illness prematurely.’

Here in 2009, we’ve grown familiar with smiling Enzyte Bob, Viagra, stool softener and personal vibrator commercials. While some of them are laughable, others are woefully indiscreet. The majority of these more sensitive commercials were, until recently, shown at night when only adults, or hopefully only adults, were awake and watching TV. The later it gets, the more graphic the commercials get; presumably, few 5 year olds watch Comedy Central at 2:00 in the morning.

With these informal standards in mind, would you expect to see a KY personal lubrication commercial on a standard TV channel around, say, 3:00pm? I certainly wouldn’t.

Many children watch TV when they get home from school, from 2:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. I’ve seen at least two K-Y commercials at that time, and on national holidays when schools, libraries, and other businesses are closed. While children may not understand everything these commercials suggest, they have had practice associating the colorful packaging with the lively commercials. Can you envision a 2nd grader grabbing a box of K.Y. as he or she passes it in the store?

Even healthcare centers, including cancer treatment facilities, advertise their level of care and results, all the while using a disclaimer on the bottom to emphasize how atypical good results are. I think this is appalling; when you see a commercial for a toy, you expect it to work as demonstrated. A patient with any illness may choose a well-publicized facility over one which spent money on the latest equipment or individualized care; a good advertising campaign doesn’t guarantee a better level of care.’

What does this new norm for commercials indicate about society? Sitcoms used to include separate beds for husband and wife, and now children are being coached in personal lubrication practices. Parents can control the TV stations and shows their children watch, but not ‘ what their kids see in commercials.’

Inappropriate commercials may be exacerbating some of our problems with teenage pregnancy and pre-teen promiscuity. The more kids see a commercial the bigger impression they can get from it. Kids aren’t as oblivious to innuendo as we tend to assume they are. Why not establish a rating system, similar to what we already have for TV shows, for commercials?’ A rating and time coordination schedule for commercials has already been established in Australia. I hope to see Congress take similar action soon.

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