Get them while they’re young

Once upon a time, Lego’s were a genderneutral toy. Now they are no longer, as exemplified by the fact that Scheels has a set of children’s winter coats, with the “boys” coats having a lego design, while the “girls” coats have a butterfly design; or the fact that Lego now has “girls” sets, that come in pink boxes and have pink bricks, and are designed to make girly things.
And it’s not just Lego. The visit to almost any children’s toy site asks, as the first question before you can see the products, whether you’re shopping for a girl or a boy, or at the very least sorts all its toys into a “boy” and a “girl” category; the categories are usually non-overlapping, too. Because boys and girls are just SO different that they wouldn’t ever play with each other’s toys, and just picking from a general selection of toys might result in buying a toy for the “wrong” gender? And ads are just as bad, as This video explains (And looky there, Sweden comes out as the most progressive country again :-p). I’m sure the banning of ads to kids is helpful, but until stores stop gendering their toy-sections, and adults stop buying such highly gendered toys for their kids, the stupid gender stereotypes will continue, and will give adults an excuse to perpetuate the stereotypes; after all, all little girls naturally like to be told they’re pretty, right? Can’t be that they’ve been socialized from birth into this, right?

*sigh*

***today’s post is almost entirely made up from the gender: children/youth tag as Sociological Images. I encourage everyone to go look through the rest of it, because it’s really a fascinating topic.***

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31 comments on “Get them while they’re young

  1. David Marjanović says:

    I feel a bit sick now after watching some of the videos at your links. At least some of the commenters in the last link keep the mansplainers in check.

    Only 3 % of open-source programmers are women!?! That’s downright scary. And I thought it was bad that only 7 % (tendency rising) of full professors at Austrian universities were women a few years ago.

    ========================

    The excruciatingly pink Lego Paradisa® (probably with a pink heart as the i dot, I forgot) was introduced something like 20 years ago. My sisters both loathed it. I wonder if their searing hatred for pink is cause or effect.

    I wonder if it was introduced when some marketing guy (…yes, male) suddenly thought “ZOMG, we’ve got all that Lego Technic® and the spaceship stuff and the medieval castle stuff and the pirate stuff, but that’s all for boys only!!1!! We haven’t got anything for girls!eleventy!! That’s unfair in this emancipated world!!one!! We’ve completely neglected them (and their parents’ money)!”

    One of the sisters occasionally played with the huge, multi-part spaceship we have. We all also played a lot with the stuff in your first two links.

    ======================

    And looky there, Sweden comes out as the most progressive country again :-p

    Country, yes. But Québec surpasses it in not allowing ads targeted to 12-year-old children. <toothy grin>

    That video has a really awesome end, BTW.

  2. Paul says:

    Only 3 % of open-source programmers are women!?! That’s downright scary.

    If you spend some time in open-source spheres the reason becomes clear. Can’t check out Jade’s links right now so not sure which your comment is anchored to, but there is a heavy libertarian bent, and lots of people like a certain k.k. lamsey (I really don’t want him to pop up here if he googlewatches his name). Not everyone, but a very sizable contingent. Much worse than Pharyngula, and there is no dedicated effort to keeping them away or straighten out their nuttiness (after all, they give free software, don’t want to rock the boat…just smile and nod, it’s hard enough to get people interested and zealous about OSS in the first place).

  3. johannes says:

    The excruciatingly pink Lego Paradisa® (probably with a pink heart as the i dot, I forgot) was introduced something like 20 years ago.

    Paradisa wasn’t THAT bad. At least it was in minifig scale, and therefore compatible with other Lego stuff. And it added some much needed civilian infrastructure, like cafes, restaurants, beach fronts etc. to the town theme (remember there were no modular houses in 1995). Belville, of course, is truly evil :D

    http://belville.lego.com/de-DE/default.aspx?icmp=COFranchiseDEBelville

    That video has a really awesome end, BTW.

    I don’t know. Putting fun on Larian, who is already bullied by Mattel, a huge multinational corporation, and racist juries? Not fair IMHO :-/

    http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/07/28/mgas-isaac-larian-the-verdict-was-based-on-racism/

    BTW, in the German market, Bandai – who imported Bratz in the early noughties – did not target children, but goths, psychobillies and the like, gramciist demi-intellectuals from German provincial towns (Bratz were discussed in music magazines like intro).

  4. Walton says:

    I’m sure the banning of ads to kids is helpful,

    I have a serious problem with this, on free speech grounds. The solution seems to me to be much worse than the problem.

  5. Jadehawk says:

    commercial speech is not, and has never been, “free speech”. and corporations aren’t people, so they aren’t entitled to “free speech” either. you’re confusing capitalism and democracy again.

  6. Walton says:

    commercial speech is not, and has never been, “free speech”.

    I don’t know what you mean by this. Commercial speech is (by definition) a form of speech: and laws regulating commercial speech therefore, by definition, restrict people’s freedom of speech.

    It is certainly true that the laws of many jurisdictions (the US included) afford less protection to freedom of commercial speech than they do to freedom of political or religious speech: but that doesn’t mean that laws restricting commercial speech are not restraints on freedom of speech. It merely means that freedom of commercial speech is considered (in some countries) less socially valuable than other forms of speech, and therefore more amenable to restriction.

    (It’s much the same as obscenity and pornography. The US courts accord less protection under the First Amendment to pornography than they do to political or religious speech, based on a value-judgment about the relative social value of the former and the latter. But this doesn’t mean we should pretend that restrictions on pornography are not restrictions on freedom of speech.)

    You can argue, of course, that your proposed ban is a justified restraint on freedom of speech. And I don’t think anyone would argue that advertising (or, indeed, speech in general) should be completely unregulated. (I certainly wouldn’t.) Free speech is a qualified right, not an absolute right, and all countries have laws which restrict speech for various reasons. (Libel and slander laws, prohibition of child porn, political campaigning restrictions, laws against making death threats, and the like generlaly exist even in the most civil-libertarian countries.)

    But the question is whether any given restraint on free speech is objectively justified. And to my mind, a blanket ban on advertising to children is disproportionate. You may well disagree (for good reasons), but I don’t think you can reasonably argue that considerations of freedom of speech are irrelevant.

    and corporations aren’t people, so they aren’t entitled to “free speech” either.

    Accepting this premise for the moment (though the reality is more complex), advertising restrictions don’t, typically, apply exclusively to corporations. Granted, it is mostly corporations that engage in advertising, but, in most countries, the same legal regulations would apply if a natural person wanted to place an advertisement (something which is certainly not unheard of).

    If I, as a natural person, wanted to place, say, a tobacco advertisement on British TV, or an advertisement in a British newspaper supporting a political candidate without registering it under campaign spending laws, I would be prevented by law from doing so, just as I would if I were a corporation.

    I’m certainly not saying those particular restrictions are unjustified (in fact, I think both are very much justified). But they are, nonetheless, restraints on free speech, and should be analyzed as such.

  7. Walton says:

    (I apologize for derailing this thread, btw… but I agree with the main point of your post. I simply disagree with the idea that banning advertising to kids would make anything better. Trying to force social and cultural change by outlawing things is very rarely an effective path, and usually makes things worse – cf the “War on Drugs”, anti-porn and anti-sex-work laws, and so on.)

  8. Paul says:

    Jadehawk, if you don’t want this stuff here just say so and I’ll leave it.

    Trying to force social and cultural change by outlawing things is very rarely an effective path, and usually makes things worse

    You say that the solution seems worse than the problem, when it comes to advertisements aimed at kids. Adding this newer statement, why are you not against laws keeping kids from smoking and drinking? Or laws keeping adults from selling cigarettes to kids, which unduly limit the adults’ freedom of expression via which products they sell to whom? Cultural change by outlawing things is ineffective, so we should tend towards freedom no?

    Outlawing advertising is (or should be) simply a part of a strategy, but because it is not the whole does not mean it should be dismissed out of hand.

  9. Walton says:

    You say that the solution seems worse than the problem, when it comes to advertisements aimed at kids. Adding this newer statement, why are you not against laws keeping kids from smoking and drinking? Or laws keeping adults from selling cigarettes to kids, which unduly limit the adults’ freedom of expression via which products they sell to whom?

    It’s all a matter of proportion. As I said, freedom of speech is a qualified right, and no one argues that advertising or sales to children should be completely unregulated. It’s a question of whether any given restriction can be shown, through actual evidence, to serve a sufficiently important social goal to justify restricting freedom.

    But I would certainly argue that alcohol sales and gambling, in particular, are grossly over-regulated in the UK and in most US states. The defenders of such measures (and of other nanny-statish measures, such as censoring the internet to “protect” children from porn and other “inappropriate” content) usually rely on “protecting children” as the pretext for implementing bans on, or intrusive regulation of, various perfectly legitimate activities. Hence why I’m always very, very wary of “protecting children” as an argument for increasing restrictions on personal freedom.

    (As a side point, those laws are pretty ineffective, in the UK at any rate. Lots of the kids in my school were drinking and smoking well before the legal age. From what I’ve heard about US college campuses, ignoring the law is even more common there, given the ridiculous minimum drinking age of 21.)

    Outlawing advertising is (or should be) simply a part of a strategy, but because it is not the whole does not mean it should be dismissed out of hand.

    A strategy to do what?

  10. Jadehawk says:

    I don’t know what you mean by this. Commercial speech is (by definition) a form of speech: and laws regulating commercial speech therefore, by definition, restrict people’s freedom of speech.

    see, this is what I meant by you confusing capitalism with democracy.
    Free speech is the concept that no person should be prevented by the government from voicing an opinion.
    It is not the right to buy a product (airtime and advertising space), it is not the right to sell a product (the product’s advertising rights itself to the ad company).
    Those two are free market, not free speech issues. Advertisement is a product, and a part of the free market, not of the democratic citizenry. There simply isn’t such a right as that to spend money to be heard by a larger audience than that which will hear you voluntarily.

    But the question is whether any given restraint on free speech is objectively justified. And to my mind, a blanket ban on advertising to children is disproportionate.

    disproportionate to what? the bans don’t just exist because of gender issues, but because children that young don’t have the capacity to understand them. There’s a reason these advertisements aren’t targeted at the parents, after all: parents will be able to see through the bullshit. The advertisement bans are a general acknowledgement that raising kids to be consumers and nothing but consumers is a bad thing. They do massive cultural and psychological damage to people, basically addicting them to consumerism, an addiction that does more harm than many of the other addictions our society sees as destructive and dangerous. And the kids don’t know any better, because they haven’t developed the faculties to understand what’s being done to them. Advertisement targeted at children is exactly the same as cigarette and alcohol (and illegal drug) sales to the under-12 crowd: a way to create a permanent customer base via addiction, while the victims don’t yet have the ability to defend themselves. They should be all equally banned.

    Accepting this premise for the moment (though the reality is more complex), advertising restrictions don’t, typically, apply exclusively to corporations. Granted, it is mostly corporations that engage in advertising, but, in most countries, the same legal regulations would apply if a natural person wanted to place an advertisement (something which is certainly not unheard of).

    and, again, no one stops this person from organizing meetings at which to shout the awesomeness of a product or candidate to everyone willing to listen. There is no right to buy yourself a large audience though (and just why would anyone want to pay to privately advertise a product, anyway?). And I’m very much against “one dollar, one vote” politics, anyway.

    Trying to force social and cultural change by outlawing things is very rarely an effective path, and usually makes things worse – cf the “War on Drugs”, anti-porn and anti-sex-work laws, and so on.

    Because advertisements aimed at children are a mutually agreed upon activity by mentally fully able people? I think not.
    We don’t let the under-12 crowd do a whole bunch of things that we let adults do, because they don’t have the mental abilities to make these decisions. why is being subjected to advertisement somehow exempt from this?

    A strategy to do what?

    to end the tight grip that corporations have on the development of people, and development, design, and direction of society as a whole. we didn’t elect them to rule our lives, so they have no right to do that.

  11. Jadehawk says:

    Jadehawk, if you don’t want this stuff here just say so and I’ll leave it.

    I actually encourage discussion on here, because it makes this whole blogging thing more interesting. I’m really only against derails that are tediously repetitive, stubbornly ignorant and incredibly insulting.

    I do this for fun, after all, and I don’t have a horde to eviscerate all the ignorant morons. I have to do this myself :-p

  12. Paul says:

    I was actually pretty aware of your opinions on those regulations, Walton, although I must admit I was curious if you’d advocate removing laws against selling drugs and alcohol (although I don’t know why we always say it twice) to minors. You say:

    As a side point, those laws are pretty ineffective, in the UK at any rate. Lots of the kids in my school were drinking and smoking well before the legal age.

    So I come back to my original point. Should laws against sales to minors be removed? If you’re arguing a slippery slope about “free speech” (and btw, I agree that you’re confusing capitalism and democracy again) saying that corporations and people are not allowed to advertise to children, but it is hard to see how that varies much in proportion or kind in preventing them from allowing children to patronize their businesses (or personal hobbies). If you’re trying to hold that the former should be protected on civil liberties grounds, I really don’t see how you cannot hold the latter.

    Hence why I’m always very, very wary of “protecting children” as an argument for increasing restrictions on personal freedom.

    Yet you’ll argue against laws that only directly protect children (say, by preventing advertisers from trying to get them to make choices that the pusher knows full-well they are not equipped to rationally or maturely make), instead of the ones that are overbroad and hinder adults while they’re at it? That just makes you seem like an ideologue on the issue. It’s not flattering.

    A strategy to do what?

    I deliberately left that unsaid. Jadehawk answered nicely relevant to the current issue under discussion, although I was mostly making the generic point that saying “x doesn’t halt y” does not mean that “x does no good in the attempt to halt or hinder y, and thus should not be done”, which seemed to be assumed in your post (I’m sure someone has a Latin name for the fallacy).

  13. Paul says:

    Hm, that was sloppy. I recognize that you’d argue against “for the children” issues that hinder adults. I was more wondering why you’ll come out full-tilt against issues that are specifically limited to kids, instead of picking your battles to where pointing out that “for the children” is obviously hindering adult rights and freedoms (which do not include “right to place ads on the airwaves aimed at children”).

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Argh. The name Belville rings a bell, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any such stuff. That’s not even Lego anymore, it’s an eldritch crossing of the streams of Lego and Playmobil!

    Agreed on the civilian infrastructure in Paradisa.

    Putting fun on Larian

    That’s the first time I encounter that name.

    =============

    Walton, why is it a justified restriction of free speech to forbid shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre that isn’t actually on fire? Because it prevents more damage (…to jump to the extreme: panicked crowds have trampled people to death) than the good it prevents by repressing that little bit of free speech.

    It seems pretty clear to me that advertising to children regularly damages the sanity of children and gives unelected corporations more power. Are there any studies that show otherwise?

    Poli sci isn’t a branch of philosophy, you know. It doesn’t need to be logically deduced from first principles (as you’re trying to do here). It’s a science; it can — it must — rely on empirical data.

  15. johannes says:

    Regulating the toxic content of the commercial breaks in a cultural industry product? In Sweden, the home of Mankell and Max Martin? To quote Captain Willard; isn’t this a bit like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500, or charging a person with murder on a battlefield? No advertisement could be more sexist than a Britney Spears video, or more reactonary than a crime show that suggests cases should be solved by intuition, rather than logic, and culprits should be dealt with according to the “sound belly feeling of the people” i.e. either be lynched in one way or another, or, if their victim was an evil person, should be allowed to escape.

  16. johannes says:

    Putting fun on Larian

    That’s the first time I encounter that name.

    I meant the makers of the video, not you. BTW, the Bratz video works so well because Bratz are so campy, and so grotesquely over the top, that the idea that they are a bunch of warriors in ritual transvestite garb isn’t counter-intuitive at all.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20051029203402/http://jetcityjimbo.com/awful_wonderful/50.shtml

  17. Walton says:

    Poli sci isn’t a branch of philosophy, you know. It doesn’t need to be logically deduced from first principles (as you’re trying to do here). It’s a science; it can — it must — rely on empirical data.

    But this discussion isn’t (solely) political science. We’re not just observing and analyzing political phenomena. (From an empirical social science perspective, I agree entirely with Jadehawk’s analysis of the gendered nature of advertising, and it’s something that’s been extensively studied and documented by sociologists).

    Rather, Jadehawk was also offering a policy prescription: banning advertising to children. Thus we move from “is” territory into “ought” territory, because proposing a legislative change is a normative position, not a purely empirical one. We’re doing philosophy as well as science.

    (Though I will be the first to acknowledge that policy certainly should be grounded in empirical social science: a political argument that doesn’t engage with actual social reality is, of course, completely useless. And I did say above that I’m willing to accept certain limited restrictions on freedom of speech if there’s empirical evidence that a specific restriction is absolutely necessary to pursue a given legitimate objective of social policy. Even the staunchest civil-libertarians would generally agree with this.)

  18. Jadehawk says:

    isn’t this a bit like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500, or charging a person with murder on a battlefield? No advertisement could be more sexist than a Britney Spears video, or more reactonary than a crime show that suggests cases should be solved by intuition, rather than logic, and culprits should be dealt with according to the “sound belly feeling of the people” i.e. either be lynched in one way or another, or, if their victim was an evil person, should be allowed to escape.

    well, you’re certainly right that all of media culture is sexist (and, to stay on topic, this is also true for children’s shows, most of which either only have a “token chick”, or whose main female characters perpetuate soo many stereotypes, it’s not even funny). But as I said, the banning is not, to my knowledge, just because of the gender stereotypes, but primarily because of the blatant spreading of consumerism to children. The gender stuff then is merely a side-effect.

    As I said on facebook, if I ever spawn, I’ll have to find a non-consumerist community to raise such a spawn in, precisely because banning a TV in a “regular” social environment is more likely to create a miserable child, but I’m sure as hell not getting a TV just to appease the spawn :-p

    Rather, Jadehawk was also offering a policy prescription: banning advertising to children. Thus we move from “is” territory into “ought” territory, because proposing a legislative change is a normative position, not a purely empirical one. We’re doing philosophy as well as science.

    no. “philosophy” only enters this debate in the very basic way of “what’s our goal”. for me, that goal is more human happiness, less human suffering. After that, it’s pure empiricism: what leads to more happiness, and less suffering? That’s what the social sciences are for. And consumerist addiction has been shown to be bad at any level of resolution: for the individuals, for the nations, for the world as a whole connected system. Implanting gender (and race; please not that most, if not all, the kids in these ads are white) stereotypes and hierarchies in kids’ minds is bad, as well, but as johannes and paul (I need a markus, lukas, matthias, or even jesus to start commenting here…)said and as I said in the OP, it’s just a small aspect of the whole.
    IOW, if it was just gender imbalance at stake, then it might simply not make enough of a difference to warrant banning ads to children. but they never were banned JUST because of gender stereotypes, and the weight of the evidence suggests that de-consumerising children’s lives outweighs any hypothetical violation of rights of corporations to access to the desired demographic.
    Now, to be fair, it would be important to study the effects of the ad bans on children’s development, to see if this really works as desired; but, again, that’s empirical, not philosophical.

  19. Walton says:

    for me, that goal is more human happiness, less human suffering. After that, it’s pure empiricism: what leads to more happiness, and less suffering?

    While I have plenty of sympathy with utilitarianism as the foundation of political morality, I’d also say that we do, sometimes, need to protect certain principles of freedom consistently even if it transpires that abrogating them in a particular case might reduce human suffering: because the principles, taken as a whole, are what allows us to live in a free society, something which does far more good than harm. The price of freedom is that some people will exercise that freedom in ways we dislike or disagree with: but that isn’t a good reason, in general, to abandon freedom.

    In itself, for instance, it would probably reduce human suffering to ban Fred Phelps and his family from protesting outside the funerals of soldiers and gay people. But should that be done? No. Because the principle of free speech is fundamental, and empowering governments and courts to ban speech they find offensive can lead, very quickly, to authoritarianism and the end of free and open debate. (As is happening in Britain with laws against “incitement to hatred” and “glorifying terrorism”, police attacking peaceful demonstrators, and so on.)

    It’s very easy and tempting for governments to see a social phenomenon that is harming someone, and to ban that phenomenon and attempt to use coercive force to stamp it out. But this is an instinct that needs to be resisted. Because freedom is important, and we need to think very carefully before giving any government more power over people’s lives.

  20. Jadehawk says:

    I’m against principles, on principle.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    sound belly feeling of the people

    Ugh. Let me digress a little just to compulsively point out what that actually means: an authority will just tell you which feelings are sound and which aren’t. An ancient joke expresses it best: the law has grown much too complicated, so all laws are to be simplified into the following…

    1. Wer etwas unternimmt oder unterlässt, wird bestraft.
    2. Die Strafe richtet sich nach dem gesunden Volksempfinden.
    3. Das Volksempfinden wird durch den Gauleiter festgelegt.

    I’ll translate that on request.

    I meant the makers of the video, not you.

    Well, I thought you meant me for liking the video…

    banning a TV in a “regular” social environment is more likely to create a miserable child

    More likely, yes, probably — but it’s not absolute. All four of us have put up with… I think… not watching anything that our mother hadn’t introduced us to. For instance, my friends played Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles all the time, and my brother and I had no contact with either the TV series or the comics. What happened? They simply explained the essentials, and we happily played along. We never got the idea of, you know, switching the TV on and learning about the Ghostbusters or the Teenage Mutant Hero/Ninja Turtles firsthand.

    I watched lots of nature documentaries, science shows, and the like… and the news every day… I think it shows :-)

    (I remember seeing Raygun on TV. When he left his office, I was 6 years old. *boast*)

    no. philosophy only enters this debate in the very basic way of “what’s our goal”. for me, that goal is more human happiness, less human suffering.

    Or, as Dawkins said it in response to “science is evil because it has given us the nuke”… paraphrasing: science won’t define “good” or “evil” for you, but whatever you want to do, science can give you the tools and methods to do it the most efficient and/or effective way possible.

    I need a markus, lukas, matthias or even jesus to start commenting here…

    ROTFL!

    johannes… Paul… Maybe I can organize a b/Benedikt? My sister knows one. <duck & cover>

    because the principles, taken as a whole, are what allows us to live in a free society, something which does far more good than harm.

    Except when they aren’t.

    Never take anything as a whole. Never judge a scientist on the impact factor of the journals they have managed to publish in, at least not only.* Never accept collateral damage for the sake of a principle. Never make slippery-slope arguments if they can at all be avoided.

    The idea behind criminalising “incitement to hatred” and “glorifying terrorism” is that both tend to end up as incitement to violence and are therefore comparable to death threats, which are already forbidden. I do hope the courts judge each such case on its own merits (I said “tend to” — it’s a slippery-slope argument and a statement of principle), but I can see what the idea is, and I don’t think it does anywhere near more harm than good.

    I don’t see how “police attacking peaceful demonstrators” is on the same slope, or why that supposed slope would be slippery. By definition, peaceful demonstrators aren’t a threat to anyone’s life, limb, or even property, so there’s no reason to attack them, and any such attack should be prosecuted as assault & battery or whatever the appropriate term is.

    * But of course that’s the easiest way, so that’s what many institutions do.

    I’m against principles, on principle.

    *hug* ^_^ ^_^ ^_^

  22. David Marjanović says:

    There is a Markus who comments on Tet Zoo (as “sordes”) and has his own blog, too… but I don’t think he blogs about toothy goodness much…

  23. johannes says:

    IMHO, the media and cultural industry basically can be divided up into this sections:

    1.Trash, or camp, products are so cheaply made the remains of the production process can be found in the finished product, which might subvert itself for this reason (Example: Galloway in the Big Brother Container; rather than being an effective propagandist for Siemens’ Iranian compradores, georgeous George made a complete fool of himself, effectively ending his political career; much of continental Europe’s ringtone popular culture) ca. 10% 90% in Italy :-D

    2. Evil. Either propaganda that is professional enough to be effective (Example: Titanic, Avatar, Last Samurai, Schätzing, Mankell) or simply dumbing down the people by repeating the same boring stuff over and over again (Example: romantic comedy, adult oriented rock) ca. 70%

    3. Social commentary. Might be occassionaly enlightening (Example: Mad Men, Simpsons, South Park, Buffy, Firefly), but keep aware of fauxialist conformist rebellion (Example: Rage Against the Machine, Pink, Michael Moore) ca. 10%

    4. The classics (Examples: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who) ca. 5%

    5. Art (Example: Guillermo del Toro doing At the Mountains of Madness) ca. 5%

    The result is, that we can’t live with it – because of 2, and the more toxic parts of 1 and 3 – nor without it – because we will miss 4,5 and the better parts of 3 in this case.

    precisely because banning a TV in a “regular” social environment is more likely to create a miserable child,

    this might be the reason why the we-don’t-even-have-a-TV mentality is so popular among middle class parents: creating class identity through misery

    http://andrewhammel.typepad.com/german_joys/2008/01/germanys-doughn.html

    and replacing TV by even worse forms of entertainment, like burning tons of fuel to jet to some subtropical hellhole and re-enact white misbehaviour at Simla

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/blog/2008/feb/14/skinsblog

    Within the framework of capitalism, there seems to be no right life in the wrong one*: The cultural industry is overwhelmingly toxic, as is the moral panic that pretends to oppose it

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThinkOfTheChildren

    another example of the Hama**/Cirith Ungol/Ghasts vs Gugs fight of evil vs. evil

    *to quote Adorno; fitting, because this thread tends to gravitate toward the Adorno vs. Popper Positivism dispute anyway http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positivism_dispute

    ** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_massacre

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Well, how popular is not having a TV really? Your link completely fails to provide numbers.

    On the other hand, it talks a lot about the lack of middlebrow TV shows produced in Germany. How is that relevant to what is shown on German TV? The missing stuff just gets imported and dubbed, The Simpsons just as well as House.

    What conformist rebellion has Michael Moore joined?

  25. johannes says:

    Well, how popular is not having a TV really? Your link completely fails to provide numbers.

    That’s, of course, one of the problems that haunts positivism in sociology. If you do a poll, can you trust people to tell the truth, especially if the question touches class, race or other forms of identity? Most of those who claim to not even own a TV seem to be suspiciously well informed about the newest gaffes from Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity*, Get Me Out Of Here… :-/
    Nobody admits to buy tabloids, but everybody knows their content. If you ask people, they say they had read it at their hairdresser ;-D.

    On the other hand, it talks a lot about the lack of middlebrow TV shows produced in Germany. How is that relevant to what is shown on German TV? The missing stuff just gets imported and dubbed, The Simpsons just as well as House.

    Good point. Postwar Western Germany imported literature from Austria (Bernhard) or Switzerland (Dürrenmatt, Frisch) to make up for its deficiencies in this sector. Still, the fact that the central core of the EU, in spite of its size and wealth, can’t compete with the US, Britain or even relatively small nations like Australia or the Scandinavian states when it comes to middlebrow entertainement is somehow unsettling. We have the third largest economy and industrial production in the world, but the bulk of our popular culture (Scooter, Dieter Bohlen, Ringtones) is reminiscent of a middle income country ruled by sunglassed lieutenant colonels.

    What conformist rebellion has Michael Moore joined?

    He is – or looks- permanently angry, or agitated (that’s the rebellious part), and he permanently appeals to authorities – capital, the state – to put things right and give white, male, skilled worker aristocrats from the industrial northeast back what is rightfully theirs (that’s the conformist part).

    *No, you are not. If you were a real celebrity, you wouldn’t be in this TV show in the first place ;-D

  26. Jadehawk says:

    If you do a poll, can you trust people to tell the truth, especially if the question touches class, race or other forms of identity? Most of those who claim to not even own a TV seem to be suspiciously well informed about the newest gaffes from Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity*, Get Me Out Of Here… :-/

    well, as someone who really doesn’t have a TV (well, ok, we do, but it doesn’t work because it doesn’t have a digital adapter), I’d like to point out that not having a TV and not watching TV are not the same. For example, I watch House and Mad Men, Rachel Maddow, and occasionally the Simpsons and the Daily Show, and plenty of movies. All without a TV

    All hail hulu, amazon and netflix :-p (no idea what non-Americans do, but I’m sure there’s European ways of watching TV without having one, too)

  27. Jadehawk says:

    anyway, my original point about the TV was that I don’t have one, and would prefer not to have to get one just for the hypothetical spawn, but this and other life-choices of mine would render the kid an outcast and involuntary nonconformist. So the only solution that isn’t going to make either me or said spawn miserable would be to move to a place where people are more like me, thus lessening the non-conformist status within the immediate community.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Pharyngulite commune in Alaska, then. Imagine raising a child with Jules and Heatherly and Mattir around. ^_^

    I don’t think Michael Moore looks angry at all. He just looks… fat. :o) A bit sad, maybe… perhaps bored… but not angry. And I’ve noticed that he doesn’t talk much about what to do about the problems he films; he just points them out and then spends 5 seconds waffling about some vaguely leftist position.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    We got the latest toy catalogue by Müller (www.mueller.de). There are almost 6 pages of Lego in it.

    At 8 items per page, only 1 in total is Belville. Description: “Horse stable. Laura prefers to spend her time in the stable, together with her horse and the new colt. Her favorite place is up on the hayloft. From 5 years onwards.” On the package itself it says “5-10”, and the hayloft is a gharishly pink platform.

    That item is far surpassed by the one next to it: “Girl box. With this special box full of LEGO® bricks in your favorite colors and great building parts like fences, windows, doors and flowers you can build a house, a pony or simply whatever pops up in your mind. From 4 years onwards.” “Your favorite colors” are, naturally, light pink like the lid and dark pink like the box itself; those are the two most common colors depicted on the box. That picture also shows two people figures; they consist of separate bricks, and the ones with the smiley faces on them are actually gender-neutral, but both figures are female as evidenced by their hair “bricks”, the little pink thing put on top of the hair, the pink that occurs in the rest of the figures, and the fact that one has a skirt (made of two blue roof-corner tiles).

    Most of the rest is actually marketed gender-neutrally. This includes all of Technic, all of Hero Factory (sort of… there’s one heroine to four heroes and a “Preston” who is probably male, too), and most of the “much-needed infrastructure” in Duplo and City…

    Oh, wait.

    Of the two villains in Space Police, one is explicitly male. Star Wars only features Star Wars characters: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt… all male. The farmer, the policeman and the fireman in City are all male, and the empty space on that page (there are only 6 City items) is occupied by two little boys. World Racers has one explicitly male racer, Power Miners casually mentions male heroes, Kingdoms features a heroic male knight of the male king who comes to rescue the beautiful princess from the tower of the male dragon knights, Atlantis features male divers.

    The car-racing part of Duplo features male drivers, and most Toy Story characters are of course male. The builders are more or less explicitly male. The pet store features a little girl and a female store owner; the horse stable features a father and a little girl; the zoo only mentions “the whole family”, but the trailer with picnic… ouch. “Trailer. The weather is sunny and warm, and the whole family enjoys another great holiday with their trailer. Mom plays with the baby while Dad prepares dinner on the grill. From 2 years onwards.” The baby looks creepy, too.

    Interestingly, all of the Creator stuff (house with garage, 7-12; cross-country car with quad, 9-12; supersonic jet, 8-12) doesn’t mention any people except “you” — unless “the cool basketball basket” or the lawnmower* have male connotations, Creator is entirely gender-neutral.

    The Duplo box and the non-Duplo non-girl box are neutral or… nearly so. The latter box (4 years onwards) shows a man (short hair, long sleeves), a woman (long hair, sleeveless), and a dog; the woman and a dog are on the lawn (green plate) in front of a house, the woman and the man walk and have lifted their right hands to each other, look at each other (which only means straight ahead for the woman), the man walks not on a plate but on blue background, and obliquely behind him is a mini-truck. Shades of Pleasantville.

    So, most of Lego today is subtly intended for boys, a small part is blatantly gendered (either way), and the small rest is neutral — though probably accidentally so.

    * Men are necessary. After all, a vibrator cannot mow the lawn. </way too old joke>

  30. David Marjanović says:

    Fuck. Could you close the <b> tag behind “Trailer.”?

    There is no Paradisa anymore, and nothing in City is pink.

    And at least 3 of the 4 figures in the car repair shop, which doesn’t mention people except “you” in the description, look male to me. The city quarter with pizzeria, bike store and bus likewise doesn’t mention people, but most or all of the figures are again male, and the same holds for the airport.

    That means my above comment contains a complete list of the neutral stuff. *sigh*

  31. johannes says:

    Atlantis features male divers

    Their boss, Professor Julia Rhodos, is a woman.

    Poor Kaleun Graf von Altberg-Ehrenstein, as if soft Rhinelanders and Alsatians weren’t bad enough ;-D

    http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/thetemple.htm

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