How children became a consumer product
The attitude toward children on television programs, especially in the morning, is like they are a product with which it is possible to fill screen time.
While the brain is still operating at half-speed on this New York morning, the talk on the Israeli TV channel is all about children. Israeli “Supernanny” Michal Daliot explains how to deal with them when parents plan to divorce. Meanwhile, “Mini-Michal” − yes, there is such a thing − just wants to “go over to them and touch them.” And, naturally, both women are out to use children to advance their careers.
Children make a good subject of conversation, because children is all we could be before we got big and were compelled to talk about children, in order to pass the time until the commercials. Of course, they are not really talking about children, but about those people who are small in size and young in years. The talk is about “children” in the same sense that people talk about the weather: as filler for time that passes and has to be seized a moment before dying.
The basic point is that everyone has children, just like everyone has weather. Anyone who doesn’t have children doesn’t have weather. In other words, he probably can’t exist on the planet.
The talk about children is accompanied by an unrelenting smile, meant to symbolize gentleness and considerateness. It is neither gentle nor considerate, only an imitation of gentleness and considerateness. Similarly, the children are not children but an imitation of children: weather disguised as little people.
Beneath the gentleness and the smile, something else is constantly simmering; something hidden, not to be talked about, but for which the most accurate term would be “shame.” That’s because, in the most basic sense, the attitude toward children on television programs − especially in the morning, when one’s critiquing faculties are still groggy − is like they are a product with which it is possible to fill screen time.
Television talk does not differentiate between revolving toothbrushes, medical malpractice suits, Instagram photos of Lihi Griner or children.
When Michal Daliot explains on the Channel 2 morning show “Yom Hadash Bekeitz” that, in the event of a divorce, it is crucial to talk to the children and tell them the truth, it’s empty prattle. The only reason she invokes the term “truth” is because, in our time, “truth” possesses a high commercial value. Immediately after insisting on the truth, she explains that the children must not be told that Mom and Dad no longer love each other − because then they are liable to think that love is something that ends, and think that Dad or Mom might stop loving them.
That’s an example of this empty talk about children and how they are exploited as commercial material. What is the significance of the statement “tell them the truth” when it is not possible to tell them the truth? The significance is that terms that bear a fine commercial thrust − “children,” “talk,” “truth” − have been intermingled, so that this whole vast machine, whose role is to pass the time, can arrive at the commercial break with a false sense of satisfaction.
Mini-Michal, a guest on the bizarre morning program hosted by Dana Ron, talks about how she waits for every TV appearance of hers to conclude, just so she can “go over to them and touch them.” It’s as though the children are some sort of erotic object from which one can derive pleasure. Mini-Michal’s lack of awareness betrays something real: Children have indeed become a consumer product that enables their consumers to derive pleasure.
Television, being a symbolic instrument, intimates a larger process that, generally speaking, demonstrates a role reversal. Instead of us serving them, the children serve us. We make use of children as filler for our lives; we exploit them in order to transmit messages to ourselves through a second party; and, above all, we use them in order to fill the time with something we will later call “meaning.”