In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about a Jim Beam ad meant to sell hard liquor to young men. I wanted to share what happened when I tried to get on the Jim Beam website. Before letting you on its website, Jim Beam asks you to input your date of birth. If you are old enough to drink legally, you are allowed to go to the site. If you are under age, you go to an anti-underage drinking website by “The Century Council,” an organization of distillers (AKA booze-makers).
As it turns out, virtually every booze-maker asks for your age before letting you on the website, although some, like Johnny Walker don’t redirect you to an anti-drinking site, but merely tells you you’re too young to visit the site.
Let’s first consider the impracticality of this way of keeping the underage off the website. Anyone can lie about his or her date of birth on the registration page of the Jim Beam website. I haven’t done a survey, but I’m willing to bet that a large majority of underage boys who have some fetishist interest in trolling whiskey advertisements have in the past lied about their age to gain entry to a porno site.
What is the hard liquor industry trying to accomplish with this inept attempt at censorship? Last time I checked it was illegal for those under age to drink, but that it was still okay to read about booze. If Jim Beam were truly interested in preventing underage drinking, it would have more about it on the website, which is strangely devoid of any warnings about drinking.
Jim Beam and its competitors are stuck in a conundrum of post-Industrial consumerism. The demographic group to which the booze-hawker wants to appeal has the very same characteristics as the group it is trying to keep out. One of the odd side effects of our post-Industrial society has been an extension of childhood and adolescence deep into adulthood. Some of my past blogs have talked about colleges that compare themselves to the imaginary school in a children’s book, adults who spend a lot of free time playing video games and adult attendance at Disney and other children’s theme parks.
In this case, its buddies getting together to watch sports and do some heavy-weight nonsexual male-bonding. When teenage boys do it, it’s supposed to be without booze, but other than that, it’s the same experience for both the teens and 20- and 30- somethings. Goaded by the commercial exhortations and distorted imagery of normalcy of the news media and mass entertainment, the older demographic group—target for Jim Beam, Captain Morgan and every single beer ad you see on TV—has never grown beyond the immature years of teenaged male herding.
By keeping them boys even as we cultivate new and more expensive products for them, the many individual players in our economic system collectively ensnare these young men in the trap of our consumerist economy. Moreover, by softening the differences between youth and adulthood, we undermine the rationale for having a minimum drinking age, which is usually one of our civilization’s most important milestones in youth’s traditional rite of passage to the full responsibilities and freedoms of adulthood.