Violent Television/Internet Commercials: Behavioral Effects on the Minds/Emotions of American Youth

I was recently pondering the effect that television and Internet commercials have on the day-to-day behavior of human beings, especially of those millions of impressionable adolescent and preadolescent American boys and girls, primarily between 5 and 19 years of age. Much like computer video games, which are designed to get the person, or persons, playing the games (80 percent of Americans who regularly play video games are between the ages of five and nineteen) cognitively and emotionally detached from their real environmental surroundings and immersed into the games’ virtual (fantasy) environments, commercials are usually three-to-five minutes in length and carefully designed by television, computer, advertising, and social psychology experts to get the television viewers immersed, for those few important minutes, in persuasive product scenarios. These scenarios are meticulously designed to persuasively lead the human beings watching them to remember why it is, both, needful and important to purchase the advertised products. The combination of computer graphics and animation with television electronics has made the creation of commercials for industrial domestic products and government propaganda almost like the production of very short movies. Unlike video games, however, television and Internet commercials are not a matter of personal choice. You have to be very deliberately plugged-in to play computer video games according to personal decision, but commercials are interspaced between segments of television programs, documentaries, or television movies with intentional purpose. Unless people want to avoid commercials by turning-off their televisions or PC, or switching momentarily to other channels or websites not, at that particular time, in commercial mode, they are forced to watch, and listen to, the commercials. Believe it or not, approximately 99 percent of all Americans who subscribe to, and watch, cable television and Internet programs watch the commercials along with the scheduled shows that they are viewing. This is especially true for children, especially those youngsters 5-to-13 years of age.

In connection with my foregoing surmise of broadcasted network television commercials, I happened to watch, a while back, a particular snack food commercial on cable television that, to me, carried with it some grave social implications; and it was, as I saw it, but an example of many such commercials currently conveying the same negative implications. It was an approximately one-minute “Cheetos” commercial that involved computer animation, computer graphics, and precise acting choreography. It had suspenseful action music and an action scenario that showed a young boy, six-or-seven years of age dressed-up like a sniper, his older sister, and a male adult, sneaking up behind the boy’s mother, who was busily exercising, with a blow-gun through with which he hit her on her backside with a “Cheeto,” causing her alarm. In all of my formative years, from 1952 until 1969, growing-up in East Texas, I don’t ever recall seeing any type of television food commercial showing a child sneaking upon a mother, or any adult, and shooting her with a blow-gun. That’s simply because such television commercials were socially unacceptable at that time in history. That was when the main television station in my part of the country was KLTV, broadcasting from Tyler, Texas, which was plugged into the NBC Network. It was the time of the Chet Huntley and David Brinkley news reporting, “Bonanza,” and the original “Fugitive,” with David Janssen, and a totally different collective national mindset about morals and electronic advertising. My dad had proudly erected a 60 foot television antenna that drew in channels from Dallas, Shreveport, Fort Worth, and other television stations within a 100 mile radius. Television programming, and commercial production, at that time during the 20th Century, were geared to idealism and morality, which declared that there were definite and clearly delineated rights and wrongs to all social issues, not the pragmatism that flippantly proclaimed that the end results of endeavors, or investments, justified the means used to achieve them.

When I first saw this socially suggestive commercial, I recalled the spit-wads, and other types of projectiles, strategically discharged from straws by prankish public school students, against other students, in classrooms behind the backs of teachers. I personally saw this happen several times while busily engaged in my school work during elementary and junior high school, but never did I do it. I was taught better by may parents, and, if caught by teachers in such an act, harsh penalties were regularly imposed by, both, the classroom teacher and the school principal, and I was sure to receive stern additional punishment from my parents if punishment was imposed on me at school. As an aside, at that time in history, unlike today, parents totally supported the discipline administered by classroom teachers, who were empowered to do so. On one occasion, a student, a boy with a severe attitude problem, went from spit-wads to straight-pins as projectiles, and a customized blowing straw, that allowed the pin to be propelled for quite a distance across a room. The youngster had thought that, since a spit-wad hadn’t hurt the class geek, the quiet guy who never spoke in class and had the best grades, and upgrade in weaponry wouldn’t matter. So during a test, the perpetrator thought he would send a pin into the ear of the smart kid, but his aim was off and the metal missile went into the child’s eye, permanently blinding him. The child’s parents were devastated, but no city, county, state, or federal representatives became involved with the issue, and no laws were passed to ban straws and spit-wads from schools. Instead, it remained a school matter, and the boy offender was punished severely for his action and made to feel like a worm for what he had done. The parents of the blinded boy didn’t sue the parents of the offending child, but, instead, were allowed to privately talk to the boy. When they did, he, like the normal human being he was, realized the seriousness of what he had done and sincerely apologized to the parents and their son. whom he had hurt. The boy’s father, not a court of law, imposed a sentence of restitution on his son to work for the blinded boy’s father for two hours every day after school, and for six hours on Saturdays. This sentence of work lasted for two years. Now, by today’s standards, you might think that the offending boy was, himself, offended by the work he was forced to do in penance. Nonetheless, the blinded boy’s father owned his own automotive repair service and was a good person, not a vindictive taskmaster; and during the two years he became like a second father to the offending boy and taught him how to work on cars and trucks. Eventually the boy began working for the man after he graduated from high school, and, while the father’s injured son eventually became a college professor, the repentant offender eventually owned and operated his own repair garage. What’s that you say? Not all such scenarios turn out like poetic fiction? When you radically change the environment and the standards of morality such scenarios aren’t allowed to turn out positively.

When you consider the awful changes, and the sad results of those changes, which have occurred in the American family, and in American society as a whole, since around 1970, the disappearance of moral idealism and the propounding of pragmatic immorality, with its sore lack of definition as to what is right and wrong, is no doubt the reason for such a blatant distinction between those segments of the 20th Century. What’s really amazing about the American boys and girls who grew to adulthood prior to 1970 was the effect of the twelve-year Vietnam War on those boys and girls who later served as GIs in Vietnam. These were the American children exposed to the television and media morality of the 1950s and 60s. The lack of violence shown by returning Vietnam veterans, between 1964 and 1987, was vastly different from the displays of mass violence demonstrated by military veterans, and American citizens in general, who were born after 1980. The general social behavior of children produced by American parents, between 20 and 30 years of age, after 1985 was greatly marred with dysfunction in the public schools. This is a matter of public record, and the educational success curve began to plunge from its extraordinarily high marks from 1950 through 1969, and with it came behavioral degradation in the public school classroom. As revealed by reliable and replicable university studies, preadolescents in the typical American homes were given very few moral ideals by parents to which they could developmentally aspire. These young men and women suddenly became adolescents (teenagers) with a sore lack of gender and psycho-sexual balance, and moral direction, as to what was right and wrong. The type of public school children that have, since 1994, been produced by this same type of diffident and un-nurturing parents have produced an even lower, and more dismal, educational curve with 70 percent more incidents of social deviance. With all of this behavioral deviance being perpetrated by preadolescents and adolescents, and systematically recorded, in the public school classrooms (and on the streets of the typical cities with populations exceeding 100,000) why would American television networks allow the type of aggressively violent commercials, as I have previously explicated, and the equally violent entertainment programming, to be aired before the eyes of these morally ungrounded boys and girls, just to increase the number of Americans watching those programs? Perhaps there is a school of pragmatic social psychology that persists in proclaiming that this aberrance is merely a natural swing of the social pendulum. I, nonetheless, heartily disagree that a deliberate effort to effect social disorder and deviance, or the application of gross social negligence, is hardly a natural swing of the pendulum.

What disturbs me most about the “Cheetos” television commercial is the voice of the animated tiger, seen by the television views emanating from the tiger, but apparently invisible to the eyes of the actors in the commercial (the tiger is sitting with the adult, the sister, and the boy sniper hidden from the mother behind a couch). The voice of the tiger is directing the actions of the young boy, just as many young people, under the influence of SSRIs (prescribed psychotropic drugs for psycho-physiological behavior modification) claim to hear voices telling them to do socially inappropriate things. Relationships between mothers and children have become quite different since 1970 due to the great amount of time mothers spend away from the home in professional work endeavors. In most cases, where mothers and fathers work 40-or-more hours per week and the preadolescent children in the home spend more time during the week in day-care, or at public school, than with their parents, the children develop quite a resentment against their natural, but delinquent, caregivers. As such, the idea placed in a child’s mind, while repeatedly watching the Cheetos commercial during a television show, might trigger an emotional desire in the prepubescent child to use a blowgun with, perhaps, something much sharper and injurious than a “Cheeto” to make mom pay for her delinquency. The voice of the tiger is heard to say, “You’ve been preparing and waiting for this moment,” just before the preadolescent boy hits his mother on her backside with the “Cheeto.”

For what it’s worth, I believe that all such commercials should be eliminated from network television, not by imposed state and federal laws and legislations, but by the willingness of the CEOs and boards of directors, of the corporations and businesses seeking to sell their products via electronic advertising, to change their ways and return to the age of idealism and the conscious reality that there is a clearly delineated right and wrong associated with every social issue. Morality cannot be legislated and forced upon a people. It must be accepted as natural law in the hearts and minds of that people, just like an acceptance of Christianity and the holy laws and commandments set down through the advent of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for the sins of the world. A return to natural law and its wonderful moral consequences in America would, indeed, be a grand thing to behold.