In the name of Christmas

Parade / Notes of a TV Junkie / 15 Dec 1982

Christmas is here. There’s no denying the cool evenings and chilly dawns. There’s no missing the storewindows decked out in buntings of red & green & gold, beckoning, inviting, warm and welcoming and enticing, reminding us all, lest we forget, that the holiday season looms straight ahead and it’s time to make Christmas lists, to shop, to be generous, to give in a spirit of love and goodwill.

So, too, with television. Can-afford sponsors have momentarily replaced their regular ads with specially-made Christmas commercials, the better for us to see (in living color yet) and hear about the wondrous joys that are ours for the taking (in exchange for money, of course). The message is clear. Indulge, indulge, this the season to be merry.

I like to think that I’m impervious to it all, that I can watch and not be swept up by the merciless onslaught on the human, the acquisitive, the greedy in me. But it’s a difficult battle. My own children are not in my camp. The commercials that offend me because they tease my children with a cornucopia of material goodies that they don’t really need are the very same commercials that they make abang for, the ones they watch with eyes popping, hearts pumping with excitement, hands craving to touch, to hold, to play. No more shifting to other channels during commercials. At least not where I watch TV, where child power equals, sometimes supersedes, parent power.

Thanks to television commercials, it’s getting harder and harder for parents of normal, growing, impressionable children to explain about values and priorities. Parents are pulled this way and that. What to do? Indulge them, given them their Lego sets and Barbie dolls and Twin Stars and Mighty Kids lest they grow up anxious and envious and frustrated? Or do we give them more credit than that, appeal to their minds, help them understand the difference between essentials and junk, point out the alternative joys that can be derived from other less shiny, less obvious objects?

A balance is difficult to reach, much more to maintain. We end up buying them a sample of everything that our middle-class means can manage and yet I always feel that it’s still too much, they cost too much, we waste hard-earned money on plastic toys that crack, break, splinter, hurt, on not-for-cuddling dolls that cost a small fortune to clothe, house, make happy. Where’s my sense of values? Going, going, gone.

Were I a witch with a magic wand, I’d wave the trusty thing and in a flash commercials would disintegrate and forever be gone. But I don’t have a magic wand so it’s back to the salt mines or I might not survive Christmas. Television’s got me by my tail.