Monday, April 16, 2012

purple hair

There’s a metaphor I can’t get out of my mind. I've been thinking about how popular media, advertising and marketing are flashlights that direct our attention to what they want us to see. If you’ve ever navigated your way with only a flashlight, say through your house when the electricity goes, you know danger lies in what remains shadowed. It’s not the ottoman illumed that you trip over; it’s the laundry basket you didn’t see. Whoever holds the flashlight then has a tremendous amount of power.

They dictate what you see and walk toward, what you don’t see and are thus vulnerable to.  

During a game of hide and seek, our ten year old friend with purple hair was unwilling to hide under our deck because of spiders. The savvy advert that sold her on purple hair dye (turn light on how cool she’d be) probably left out the fact that coal tar, a known carcinogen, and hormone disrupting phthalates were in their product (turn light off long term health impact). Maybe our friend is afraid of spiders rather than the product on her scalp because the lowly garden spider doesn't have good PR.

Why do we accept what we’re shown as all there is to see?

Interestingly we’re directed to fear, avoid or protect ourselves from certain things: spiders, bees, ticks, sunburn, dry skin, chapped lips, poison ivy, wrinkles, hair loss (or growth), germs, weeds, dingy anything, perspiration, cold, heat, natural smells. Even more interestingly, we’re encouraged to BUY protection to combat these foes. There’s an arsenal of home cleaning and health products marketed to defeat household grime or unwanted hair. But why are these things considered more dangerous, more threatening, than the artillery used to defeat them? We don’t bat an eye about the chemicals we slather on from head to toe, clean our homes with, spray on our lawns or ingest. Nor do we question the synergistic impact of the chemical soup we live, breathe and have our being in as long as our lives look like a Target ad.

What we accept or reject should be based on intrinsic merit, not packaging.

Pierce the darkness on one product you currently buy. At the most, a 10 minute internet search is all it takes.  Please consider sharing your discovery in a response to this post. Instead of relying on a flashlight, let's light up the entire room.