I know that title won’t parse for my enormous following overseas (salut, mes freres et soeurs!) but what follows is me admittedly being a fussybritches about rock music. And to be fair, other stuff.
Yes, imagine that. Huh.
At any rate, you can read what follows. What I wrote to Hasbro about a, to my mind, problematic music choice in an ad, is almost beside the point. It’s what they chose to do about it - or not do about, as the case may be - that is, to my mind, intriguing.
Here’s the original letter to Hasbro customer service via their web site, which pretty much sums up the situation.
My son came to me the other day after seeing a Nerf Sports ad on Cartoon Network, featuring “What Do You Want From Me?” by Forever The Sickest Kids. Based on the commercial, he told me he loves the song and asked if I could download it. Thinking too quickly that anything used in a Nerf commercial would be appropriate for an 8-year-old boy, I downloaded it and we listened to it in the car together.
Big mistake not to preview the song and the lyrics first. It’s simply totally inappropriate for a product aimed at boys 6-14.
I was annoyed, to say the least, when I had to have a conversation with my son about alcohol abuse among teenagers based on a song he heard in a Nerf commercial (http://bit.ly/aUtd6g). The song begins, “I don’t wanna waste my time again/Like getting wasted with so-called friends” and then again, “Just another day in the life for me/It’s 3am and I can’t sleep/And I’ve been thinking that we’ve been drinking/In hopes to maintain our sanity.” Innocuous for adults. Totally wrong for little boys.
I’m not a prude, and understand that we live in a world where kids are exposed to all kinds of adult topics at an early age. But I had hoped that Nerf and Hasbro’s brand managers could exercise better judgment and not contribute to the problem with their choice of music for their commercials.
The great irony here is that I was (and as Dave Barry would say, “I am not making this up”) voted by the staff of my high school yearbook (they were too lazy or drunk or both to actually stage a poll) “Most Likely To Be Behind Bars For Assaulting Tipper Gore” based on my somewhat, for the time, radical stance on music labeling and the Parent’s Music Resource Center. I even called into the only conservative talk radio show on my college radio station to chastise the hosts for their conservative hypocrisy - real conservatives, I argued, would want the government out of their business when it came to regulating swear words in music, and would instead put it on the parents to maintain a strong enough relationship with their kids to know what they were listening to. I was also seriously considering voting for Frank Zappa for president at the time, but that’s another story.
At any rate, I’m now living my argument. I’m a parent. And I like to think I’m involved enough in my kid’s life that I know what he’s up to. What movies he’s watching, what music he’s listening to, and what books he’s reading. Not so I can censor it (entirely), but so that we can at least have a conversation about it. Violence on film? Good conversation. Suicidal thoughts by a character in a novel we’re reading together? Talking points. And alcohol abuse by teenagers in a Forever the Sickest Kids song? Yep. another conversation.
So what’s my beef with Hasbro? On the face of it, I wanted them to own up. I wanted them to acknowledge that yeah, they screwed up. They had an agency that didn’t do its homework and tricked their brand or product manager into letting a song like “What Do You Want From Me?” into a commercial targeted at 8-year-olds. I was looking for them - get this - to accept responsibility for their decision.
Here was their response:
Thank you for contacting us regarding our Nerf Sports commercial. We apologize for your recent experience and we appreciate your taking the time to bring this matter to our attention.
Hasbro prides itself on its excellent reputation, based on years of experience in planning, designing and constructing safe, dependable and age appropriate products. We do count on parents such as you to help us maintain the high standards we keep for parents and their children. Please be assured that we have shared your concerns with our Quality Assurance team.
Please call us at 1(800) 327-8264 if we can be of further assistance.
What? Quality Assurance team??? Hilarious. Thank god I didn’t have a real beef, like my kid’s eyeball got stuck in his Nerf RPG launcher. Would that also be an issue for Quality Assurance? Thank god too that I’m not a beleaguered Quality Assurance engineer for Hasbro. What aren’t those poor saps responsible for?
Perhaps I was naive to expect responsibility. But c’mon, when the Domino’s head honcho Pat Doyle is going on air to talk about how their pizza has always sucked and Ed Whitacre, the CEO of GM, is airing ads featuring himself to basically admit that GM cars have been garbage for about 40 years, maybe I expected a little more, y’know, accountability. Imagine that.
Or maybe at least a coupon.
But when the flight attendant on an American Airlines flight to Chicago a few weeks ago had nothing more to offer me than napkins when he spilled an entire cup of hot coffee on my lap, maybe I’m being irrationally exuberant about all of corporate America turning over a new leaf. We have a ways to go.