Enlisting Mouskateers

My girlfriend and I broke our yearlong hiatus from filmgoing this weekend by attending the adorable and surprisingly weighty Happy Feet. We attended a matinee ($12 at Silvercity Yonge & Eglinton, Toronto) where we were welcomed with a full but cheerful theatre full of starry eyed pips and their parents.

In the way of pre-movie commercials the 25 minute double-dip hadn’t subsided much at all since we saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last year. What had changed, however, was what passes for a commercial:


Above is a compilation of the Canadian Army recruiting propaganda currently propagating on Canadian television. Despite Canada’s traditional role and image as peacekeepers, these ads unabashedly show individuals carrying and firing assault weapons, tactfully surveying ruins and homes, deploying in hot zones in helicopters, and carting away wounded civilians.

One such advertisement played, in all its big screen and surround sound glory, before a gaggle of kindergartners. And then the penguins started tap dancing.

What does the army have to do with a children’s (rated PG) movie? What indeed.

The purpose behind these ads is that Canada’s Conservative government wishes to transform our military from support and humanitarian troops to a front-line aggressor. The goal: to fill our newly desert-coloured camouflage fatigues (our fighting force was green in more than experience in the early 90’s gulf war) with temporarily warm Canadian bodies.

To glamorize war to children is unnerving and irresponsible. Highlighting action-packed yet safe clips of wartime deployment forcefeeds an unrealistic soft-lensed idealism upon our impressionable youth.

But really, to sell anything to naive children, MUCH less war, is immoral. On this topic, the Canadian Marketing Association has this to say in their Code of Ethics and Standards of Practise:

Marketing to children must not exploit children’s credulity, lack of experience or sense of loyalty.

And what is marketing if not the exploitation of these human traits?

Our Conservatives largely won our vote for putting a megaphone in front of the Liberal party’s floundering following a sponsorship scandal in which corporate and individual political sponsors were overly compensated monetarily for their assistance. They completed this one-two punch with a smear campaign showing Canadian citizens shaking their heads in disapproval while listening to the promises of the Liberal party. In my opinion the Conservatives won the vote by capitalizing on the now active Federal Accountability Act which was claimed, or perhaps just implied, to help enforce policies on campaign sponsorship.

It is therefore confusing to see the same Conservatives, mere months after enacting the policies, propose a loophole amendment to exempt them from having to rationalize millions of dollars in unaccounted lobbyist donations.

Steven Harper and the gang are simply bait-and-switch artists who dangle a carrot in front of the populace and don’t tell them about the maggots within and pesticides without until after they convince us to enjoy a good crunchy bite. The Conservative party is poisoning our government with its lies and sabotaging our youth with its half truths.

After many years of disillusionment I was convinced to cast my vote in the last federal election. By researching the issues and choosing the party that matched my ideals I hoped to assist the increase of mass transit service, preservation of environmental resources, reduction of gun violence in urban centres, assistance to the underprivileged, continuation of social programs, continued abstinence from war, increased unity with Quebec, and strengthening of Canadian identity. The Conservatives were elected and they have worked tirelessly to ensure the opposite of each of my wishes occurs.

Remind me please, why am I voting again?

By brian

About Brian Damage:

Who is Brian really?
I live in Toronto, Canada, and work for an IT firm. That's about as much real-world info I'm comfortable divulging here. What you read on my blog is the real Brian, but, for the sake of freedom of speech, I feel most comfortable leaving a gulf between my cyberspace and meatspace personae.

Who is Brian at work?
My ridiculous job title is "Marketing Specialist" since I wear so many hats at work. I'm a technical writer, a specialist in enterprise search technologies, an electronic forms designer, a newsletter author, system administrator... but I'm in the Marketing department so for the time being I'm stuck with this inauspicious title.

Who is Brian at play?

Who is Brian

10 replies on “Enlisting Mouskateers”

You, like me vote because you know that even if it doesn’t make a difference, your vote still counts in the eyes of the party you voted for, because every vote for your preferred party is one less vote the other side has.

I would just like to ask you, based on that code of ethics:

“Marketing to children must not exploit children’s credulity, lack of experience or sense of loyalty.”

Are there any advertisements that don’t exploit children? Is it possible to abide by that and still create an advert?

And what makes our military any worse than say… kraft dinner? Both can kill. At least military service has some benefits.

I do question the ethics blanketing all marketing to children, but I think there’s a distinction to be made between products and military service. Kraft Dinner isn’t exactly a cornucopia of Flintstones Vitamins, but one would be pretty hard pressed to murder someone with a cheesy spoonful. Pretty much any topic of concern regarding Kraft Dinner is on the box if not in the ad. Other ads (toys for example) show disclaimers and clarifications in (questionably) legible text during the commercial. I think it’s safe to say that there are more pressing gotchas on the army box label.

Enlisting in the army means to dedicate your life, hopefully temporarily, to the service of the country. Children may not drink alcohol or smoke in Canada, nor may they vote. Why, then, are they deemed old enough to risk their lives in the military?

So then would advertising voting be bad as well?
Is it just that it leads to death that’s your beef?
The chances of dying in the military, while they are slightly higher than most professions, are not that high in Canada. And what better an environment than in a theater with your parents to watch and learn about Canada’s military?

But I have only seen the second advert in theaters, which shows more domestic issues and saving people’s lives…. did you see the first one?

I used kraft dinner as a quick example, but there are so many worse examples. Advertising to children is a bad idea. Plain and simple. Be it for the military or cheese doodle yogurt blast of “flavour” crystals infused sugar drink.

But as far as age limits go, I will completely agree that we’ve got it backwards. You can strip but you can’t drink? Seriously? Who comes up with this?

Here’s a quick list:
Criminal Responsibility – 12
Age of Consent – 14
Military Availability – 16
Driving Age – 16 (Ontario)
Marriage Age – 18 generally, 16 with parental consent, 14 with judicial consent
Voting Age – Canada: 18
Stripping Age – 18
Drinking Age – 19 (Ontario)
Car Rental – Essentially 25 (because of painfully high insurance)

Crazy eh?

Military service leads to death and to killing. That’s my real beef. I feel that there are more constructive (rather than literally destructive) ways of asserting and securing one’s future than through military service – especially when one lives in a country that is not in significant danger of being invaded by another military.

Advertising military service to children seems like an act of desperation to me. Paradoxically it is both despite and thanks to our military that Canada’s youth have the freedom to not even have to think about war and oppression. Let’s teach them to revel in this fortuitous state while they can.

But driving a car leads to more death then military service…

I just think there are greater injustices besides military advertising.
Let us worry less about the content of the ads, and more about the ads themselves.

[…] Since taking power the Conservatives have inexplicably lowered the GST while ballooning military spending, eliminated government-sponsored child care and ended women’s support services in a double-whammy assault on women’s rights, stepped up efforts to deport even well accepted and loved illegal immigrants, and preceded children’s movies with army recruitment ads. […]

These ads are marketing WAR. That’s what I find most offensive. We should be encouraging children to visualize and problem-solve for peaceful solutions to problems. It is inapproprate in the extreme to target young children who are not of age to enlist, and do not by any means have the skill of visual literacy required to really decode these messages in a critical way. It’s just a plain insidious and very deliberate program to change our culture and make militarization acceptable to the next generation. If you don’t believe it’s deliberate, just google ‘General Hillier’, and go to his Oct. 2006 speech. You could also google the Bi-National Planning Group. Come one Canada wake up and get back in the drivers’ seat!!!!!

I agree with you 100%, neil. I found this a dastardly abuse of influence and a real low blow. I’m revolted that my taxes paid for these ads and disappointed that my votes were insufficient to keep the Conservatives out of office, but that’s what happens to Canadians sometimes. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next regime change, though our Liberals are looking rather spineless nowadays (not that I vote for them, but they’re forever Canada’s old standby).

Thanks for writing, neil.

Military is a proper job – but then, I would still say kids should be communicated about peace making, not the wars.

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