Half-pints, alcopops and the well-matured

A new law made terms like “wrinklies” and “coffin-dodgers” potentially illegal when referring to the elderly last week, and I for one am pleased to hear it. Being 29 (or “almost 30”, as an unkind younger and more beautiful friend insists on putting it), and increasingly moving from being merely fat to “portly”, I think we old people need all the help we can get. Which is why it saddens me that this legislation might also outlaw my own beloved terms for youths, such as: “ankle-biter”, “half-pint” (which is extra useful because it’s good for short adults too), “beloved pet” and “the defendant”. Of course it’s unlikely it will apply to young people who are not jobseekers, so we may be able to call the yobs, hoodies and little thugs in our lives whatever we want for a good while longer. Huzzah!

It is odd, however, that in a week where the news was dominated by legislation that aims to eradicate ageism and even age-awareness, other news seemed to go in the opposite direction. ITV seem to have cancelled all their locally made children’s shows because imminent legislation might make it illegal to advertise junk food around them. The office of the Children’s Commissioner has even released a study saying that such bans on advertising are supported by children themselves. An advertising industry publication reporting on the study said: “Children are appealing for the government to impose restrictions on advertising to prevent food companies from licensing cartoons and films and targeting them with special offers and giveaways to endorse unhealthy products.” Really? Because when I venture into the screaming, crying, happy-meal strewn battlefield that is my local McDonalds, I hear them appealing for ice-cream. And chips. Possibly together.

While I fully accept that the mind-control of children through advertising and what cynical marketers call “the nag factor” is pure evil, I am frankly more interested in where they found these weird kids. Are they the ones I see down the grocer, shoplifting carrots? Or perhaps behind the bike-shed sharing that rite of passage, that symbol of rebellion and assumed maturity to so many young people: a stick of celery (low-tar, of course). Children eat badly because everyone eats badly. Go ahead, kill the junk food ads on tv (and while you’re at it, cull the toy ads too, including the feature-length productions by Disney and Pixar posing as family entertainment). But don’t pretend you’ll have healthier young’ns at the end of it.

Similar logic was applied last week to alcohol advertising. The adverts of a couple of alcopops (sweet, alcoholic soda-pops, essentially) were pulled from our screens because authorities decided they were deliberately appealing to children. The Advertising Standards Authority cited, as evidence, that the adverts featured young men engaged in “immature, adolescent or childish behaviour”. Perhaps the ASA are all teetotalers, but in my experience that describes exactly the effects alcohol is intended to produce. It’s the adverts showing drinkers talking seriously, playing a great game of chess or making wise life-decisions one should really worry about. Does anyone really believe advertising is what motivates young people to drink? Is that why you drink? A possible solution to underage drinking might be to ban alcopops altogether, removing all alcohol that tastes like soda-pop from the market. But then what would middle-class twentysomething women drink? Another alternative is, of course, to give young people something else to do. But that seems like too much hard work. I say we stick with blaming someone else. Anyway, all this ignores the most heinous new threat facing our young people: Kylie is writing a children’s book. The horror…

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2 Responses

  1. I’m upset. This new legislation is already causing me untold grief.

    My job title is currently “Senior Communications Analyst” and I went to see HR (remember when they used to be plain old “Personnel” ? Ah, those were the days..) as I was worried that I could no longer use the word “Senior”! I was assured that “Senior” referred to the fact that I had a lot of experience – a narrow escape but I’m sure they’ll extend the legislation at some stage to close this loophole!

    It gets worse.. My kids can now no longer call me an “old git” – that’s ageist, so will it just be plain “git” from now on ? Where’s it all going to end ?

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