Monday, December 30, 2013

Using to Abuse

In June of 2013, Korean TV ran the first advertisement for condoms. A young man is busy in the house attaching something to furniture and even to a tree outside the house. He hears the door bell ring and rushes to open the  front door. His girl friend outside has just dropped her handbag and is picking up the contents, which includes a pack of condoms made by the largest multinational in the field. 

Writing in the Kyeongyang magazine, a specialist in promoting the culture of life discusses the methods used in selling condoms in Korea. Referring to the ad, he asks: Why does it put two incompatible items together: a rosary ring on the finger of the girl friend as she leans down to pick up the contents of her bag, which contains a pack of condoms. 

The obvious intention is to show the use of condoms in a positive light, a part of ordinary life. Though this attempt is easily accomplished with the younger generation in Korea, it is not so easy with the older generation. The marketing objective is clearly focused on desensitizing us from one way of thinking, and moving us along to another. The young girl, portrayed as a chaste, simple Catholic, has come to her boy friend's house prepared to have a "safe" sexual encounter.

All are familiar with the Church's teaching on premarital sex and artificial contraception--not exactly what would increase the bottom line for condom manufacturers, who feel the need to counter this influence--if they are to increase their share of the market--by ads that encourage sexual activity among those least likely to do so. The multinational is working to create a new type of culture. The writer shows this by the way they have treated the Catholic way of life in their advertisements in the West. One example shows a father of 12 children who he is calling them by name from a second story house window. Each one has a saint's name, and as he calls each one he begins to stumble in the middle of the name calling, finding it difficult to remember all the names. He wants them to come in to eat, and as the ad ends, we see the tired face of the father and the words: "If only he had known about condoms, he would not have had so many children to worry about."
Of course the  company is not doing this in a vacuum: The Church's teaching is not taken seriously by the Catholics themselves. There is no need for a frontal attack on the Church when Catholics do not see any problem with condoms and premarital sex. More of a problem, he says, is aiming their words to the younger generation. In the advertising segment shown on TV,  we are shown a young man, alone at home, attaching condoms all over the house and a tree outside, waiting for his girl friend to arrive for sex.

The writer recommends to parents a number of responses to this kind of advertising. First, to complain about the marketing of sex to the young. Second, be a wise consumer.  Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of the condoms, makes many household articles, any of which could be the object of a shopper's boycott. (When one of their humidifiers recently caused the death of a number of children, there was no apology or compensation from the company.) Third, educating their children about the media (media literacy) is necessary. Showing sex as something without consequences is a lie, and should be exposed. Fourth, simply becoming more aware of the many conditioning forces surrounding us. We can excuse a commander who fails in battle, but one who has the job of protecting and doesn't do the job is something quite different. In the world of media, we have to be alert so as not to be deceived. The company is spending big money to silently educate viewers with their up-to-date tactics on how to influence us through the media. We also should be as wise in combating this assault on our values.

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