The Playgoer: "Feed Your Kids the Arts!"

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

"Feed Your Kids the Arts!"

Forget Republican congressmen. The biggest enemy of arts advocates may be themselves.

Check out the web-"PSA's" Americans for the Arts just unveiled in their latest (no doubt professionally-commissioned*) pr campaign, "Feed Your Kids the Arts!"


This one's the best of the three, since at least it's cleverly produced. But, man, if there's one thing kids hate more than "the arts" it's nutrition!

(Then again, these are obviously aimed at the parents. First mistake.)

Perhaps this one intends to appeal to kids--sorta Dora the Explorer, but blander. And then it goes all Jetsons!

And finally, la pièce de résistance.

Whoever thought the best way to sell the arts in 2009 was to imply that all a middle-class black family needs to give their kids a better life is some dead white European male invading their home...Well, it's just not helping.

And, in the age of Obama, to close on the image of a young African American boy with a long white beard stuck on him...Fuck it, gut that NEA! Even I've had it.

Oh, and by the way, notice: lots of dancing, classical music, painting here. But no theatre.

*Website seems to say these were made in conjunction with Disney! There you go.


Malachy Walsh said...

From a conceptual point of view, these ads are terrible. (I don't find the idea of the arts as an easily consumable packaged good to be clever at all.)

More importantly, from a strategic point of view they're wrongheaded.

They TELL us what they want us to know without SHOWING or DEMONSTRATING the benefits of arts education. And what do they tell us? Nothing new. Not that kids with more robust arts educations have generally higher GPA, are less likely to do drugs and more likely to go to college. Nope, none of the things that might CONVINCE me that arts education is worthwhile.

Which I'm pretty sure you want me to believe.

I've written about this before... Nothing has changed since then, by and large.

Anonymous said...

I'm usually not one who can stomach professional activists easily, but I didn't think the ads were so bad. The Van Gogh one was a little insensitive. The ear thing was the result of mental illness, and tragic. Dare I say it? "Too soon." Perhaps a short joke about Tolouse-Lautrec would have been funnier.

The second ad I'll reserve judgment on, as it is aimed at parents of young children, and I hate parents of young children more than I hate professional activists. Parents should live in the country until their children are in high school.

As far as the third, what is wrong with African-Americans who enjoy Brahms? Are you saying in the age of Obama it should have been a black musician the kids responded to? Sounds a little segregationist to me. Perhaps a more progressive message would have been a white family listening to Miles Davis or Jessye Norman over breakfast... but then four black actors would have been out of work in this commercial.

Oh, and just so you are aware... when African-American men age, their facial hair turns white too. So I don't understand your issue with the long white beards.

Anonymous said...

But who needs an ad advocating theater when you can see such quality Disney Theatrical productions as "The Little Mermaid," "High School Musical 2 On Tour," "Mary Poppins."

I can't even type that with a straight face.

This is a sweeping generalization, but most Ad Council ads seem to be gag-inducing, wincing ads that completely fail to get a point across.

Anonymous said...

So what am I supposed to think after I watch the ads?

What's the take away?

The arts can be picked up at my local Arts market and fed to kids who really love them!

Obviously, these were conceived by people who have never tried to feed a kid broccoli.

Brahms for breakfast? Gimme a break.

Playgoer said...

Dear Anon,

You're correct that putting a white beard on a black boy does not per se turn him "white."

But is it fair to say it ain't such a good idea to make him turn OLD?

Actually, I could argue that in the semiotics established by the ad, the white beard clearly stands IN for Brahms, the dead white mail. (Call it metonymy if you will.) Brahms is clearly transferring the beard to the boy, or the boy adopts Brahms' beard, whatever.

Now I love Brahms. One of my personal favorte composers. Makes me cry. But I hardly think the message we need to be sending America now is that any family--rich/poor, black/white, urban/rural--is that you all need more Brahms in your life.

I mean isn't the "elitism" tag always the problem??? Why PICK Brahms other than the alliteration with "breakfast" & raisin "bran." Lazy.

And no, I don't feel they should have substituted "raisin breakdancin'." But why pick a famous indvidual in the first place, especially one kids (and now many adults) have never heard of who died over 100 years ago.

The ad basically presumes you're already an arts lover to even understand it.

Anonymous said...

The ads stink for all the reasons mentioned above, and more.


Best to just pump Brahms into the kitchen at breakfast time than to make a stupid ad like this.

Brady Westwater said...

All I see are blank white boxes. Did they pull the ads on you?

John Gattis said...

wow, for reals? i saw the brahms one on tv and wanted to find a web clip of it to send to a friend and I found these comments. it's cute and funny and endorses wonderful, yet under appreciated music(albeit in a silly way.) How can you get fussy about it?

Anonymous said...

Those ads are great. You sound like you could use a little bit of arts to open up your mind. And to condone gutting the NEA over this--ridiculous.