Was watching Hardball, or something of the sort, and during a break Walmart aired a commercial that struck me. It featured several children, and each wanted something for Christmas. “I want a dinosaur,” etc. At the end, it flashed to a “mother” of the children, who stated, “This Christmas, I want my children to follow their imaginations.” Brilliant advertising, especially to any children who happened to be watching, as it empowers them to demand that their parents buy them shit. It is yet another example of what Juliet Schor wrote about in her book Born to Buy.
What’s interesting to me in this case is the reduction of a child’s imagination to their ability to isolate particular consumables and then nag their parents to buy it for them. In a way, we might see this as symbolic of the consumer society as a whole, where as individuals or as society our imagination becomes an instrument of desire. The end served by our imagination is the purchase of the commodity, to direct the brain accordingly. Rather than imagining a better politics, we imagine what life would be like with a shiny new laptop. We’re all guilty of this, myself included (just purchased a shiny new laptop), but it is disturbing to see the effect on someone so young. That the child’s imagination is not soaring through a book but imagining the euphoria of possessing a commodity is a danger to a society that seeks to be more than an aggregation of individual consumers.