Little kids need iron, but Iron Man?
I read this morning in MediaPost that the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is asking Burger King to stop a promotion where it gives away Iron Man toys with its Kids' Meals. And at first, since I had just woken up and hadn't had my cup of caffeine yet, I thought, "This is a good thing. Iron is important to a child's nutrition."
Then half a second later I remembered the 43,000 commercials I've seen for Robert Downey Jr.'s upcoming movie Iron Man and got with the program.
And then I thought: Good for the CCFC.
Now, I'm a realist. I know that if you're going to live in the real world, and if you have TV, you're not going to be able to keep your kids away from commercials, and I don't think you should, frankly. Part of childhood is practicing to be a grownup, and I figure if somehow my daughters got through life without seeing any commercials, someday they'd be 24-years-old and defenseless when watching TV. I imagine them suddenly one night going on a $35,000 infomercial shopping spree with their credit cards, buying up items like George Foreman Grills and Ron Popeil's Rotisseries & BBQs.
When my kids -- currently 4 and 6 years old -- watch children's channels like Nickelodeon and the commercials come on, whether it's for a toy or just showing scenes of a vacation spot, they're often chanting, "I want that, I want that, and, Daddy, I really want THAT."
And it's up to me to usually say, "No, no -- and where would a dolphin sleep in our house, anyway?"
And, indeed, several times, my daughters have gotten all excited about Iron Man, which they know all about because Nickelodeon runs the ads about every 11 seconds, and I've told my girls that they can see the movie -- when they're older, in about 10 years when we rent or are buying movies on our hologram DVD player.
But whether asking Burger King to pull the toys is realistic or not -- and I don't think for a second that the fast food giant will bend on this -- I think the goals of the CCFC are noble. We need groups like this to point out when corporate America is being idiotic, and no offense to whoever greenlighted this promotion, but geez, what were you thinking? You're not a parent, are you? No, it's not like you came up with an idea to have Kids Meals with action figures from Saw or The Exorcist, but you're not making it any easier for moms and dads when you try to get preschoolers and elementary school kids all hyped up on a movie more suitable for hormonal, action-oriented 17-year-old boys.
And, geez, and now listen to me! I sound like one of those uptight grown ups that I snickered at when I was 17 . Thanks A LOT, Burger King!
Geoff Williams is a business journalist, a concerned dad and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).