Parents: They’re Lying To You

I’ve always hated commercials. But today, I’m here to tell you why everyone should hate commercials – or at least a certain insidious breed of commercials. I try not to make blanket statements like that. I like to think I have a gentle nature that allows people to take their own course and find their own path. But some commercials are full of exaggerations, half-lies, and outright B.S. They are manipulative, obnoxious, and loaded, and they cause me great pain.

If you haven’t noticed, this blog post is going to be a rant, so stop reading if you don’t like rants. But I just can’t help myself. I’m tired of being silent. Unfortunately, though, I don’t like raising my voice, so I’m just going to scream via my blog. Or rather, I will say it with a stern, steady voice, the way I address my children when they’ve done something really bad.

Parents, they are lying to you.

What initiated this fit of rage was a brief encounter with cable television. I haven’t had cable for five years and have thus lived a relatively commercial-free life since my first child was born in 2008. The other night, though, I decided to head over to my dad’s house and watch some TV with the kids. He has this cute little cottage and also has the magic television set that doesn’t require DVDs to watch movies ad infinitum. We watched reruns of Gilligan’s Island and it was a lot of fun. But it also reminded me of my undying hatred for commercials. In fact, I found that my hatred has grown since becoming a parent. This is why:

Commercials target you, parents. They aim to destroy you and undermine everything you believe in.

The commercial that really got under my skin was this short little piece about some new baby food from Gerber. It begins with a shot of a cute little toddler running around with no pants on. Her mother appears and informs the audience that although little Susie is being obnoxious now, she was a good little girl at lunch – she ate all her food! And apparently, that food was a delicious, healthy serving of “protein, grains, and a side of veggies.” That makes it all okay, right? Who needs pants when you have Gerber?

And then Mom smiled into the camera and held up little Susie’s lunch: a vomit-yellow package with a fun label and photoshop picture of peas next to what looked like plastic chicken.

This commercial insulted my intelligence. Protein? Grains? Veggies? Well played, Baby Gerber, but I don’t believe you. What’s actually in that pretty little package? Let’s have a look at the ingredient label. This is what in Gerber’s “Chef-Inspired Graduates Lil Entrée Selection.”

Sauce (Water, Modified Cornstarch, Chicken Broth, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Maltodextrin, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Flavoring; Celery, Carrot And Onion Juice Concentrates, Natural Flavor, Turmeric Extract Color, Soy Lecithin), Peas, Cooked Enriched Pasta (Water, Wheat Semolina, Egg Whites, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Cooked White Chicken Meat (White Chicken Meat, Water, Salt, Modified Cornstarch, Tapioca Starch), Carrots. Packed In: Seasoned Water (Water, Less Than 1% of: Modified Cornstarch, Sugar, Chicken Broth, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Maltodextrin, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Flavoring, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Celery, Carrot, And Onion Juice Concentrates, Natural Flavor)

So looking at this ingredient list, we know right off the bat that the primary ingredient in this “entrée” is not chicken, or peas, or even pasta, but…sauce. And that sauce is not a rich au jus derived from the bones of a happy, plump cow or chicken, but a concoction of soy, various chemicals, and natural flavors. Healthy?? Nutrient-rich? Come on. Is this a joke?

I will not pretend I sit on a higher horse than any parent out there. I feed my children convenience food on occasion. But when I do, I know exactly why I’m doing it. It’s usually for one of these three reasons:

  • I’m in a hurry and not in a position to find or cook something better.
  • Peer pressure, i.e., my five-year-old has just informed me that she’s the only one who eats apples for a snack and everyone else gets fruit snacks. Surely one bag won’t hurt?
  • I’m just being lazy.

But I do not feed my kids this stuff because it’s healthy. I might tell myself that, or Gerber might tell me that, but it’s just not true.

And one more thing. Maybe little Susie wouldn’t be running around like a crazy person if she had eaten something real. Just a thought.

Don’t fall for it parents. Stay strong and fight the good fight. Your kids need you, and so do I. If you made it through this rant, thank you, and feel free to share your thoughts.

[DISCLAIMER: I fully acknowledge that I am being just as hyperbolic and ridiculous as the Gerber commercial. But at least I’m telling the truth.]

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