Holiday commercials are starting to appear in TV and radio. I love to look at them for clues to the current state of things.
For example, one of the TV commercials that Wal-Mart is running for the 2010 holiday season is a cross-cut between two families Christmas morning, the kids opening the presents under the tree to the sound of Andy Williams’ 60s version of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” In both families there are no fathers, only mothers.
Wal-Mart hit the nail on the head of course. Across the country, almost 50% of all children under 18 live without fathers in the home, and among the working poor (you know, people who work at Wal-Mart) and the poor, the percentage is even higher.
You have to commend Wal-Mart for publicly recognizing this demographic group, which is so large as to beg the question, what represents normal in the contemporary family? Of course, the good feeling that the single mother is able to create for her fatherless children on Christmas morning all depends on buying things, another example of the attempt of the U.S. news media to turn our emotional lives into a series of commercial transactions.
Another holiday commercial that reflects American trends in a very twisted way is a radio spot for proflowers.com that recommends in a very ordinary radio voice with not even a hint of campiness that men who want to watch football this Thanksgiving should give their wives or girlfriends a dozen roses and thereby weasel out of the requirement to help prepare the meal and clean up. It must be meant tongue in cheek, but the announcer sure sounded pretty serious. To those who have heard the spot and are considering buying the flowers, let me suggest that whether you buy them or not, you would be prudent to help your significant other in the kitchen.
Before signing off, I wanted to recommend Katha Pollitt’s essay in the November 30 issue of The Nation on the Democrats’ craven capitulation on abortion funding in the health care reform bill. Exactly my view.