Temptations for Ageism

December 30, 2011

Now for a growed-up, snack-packy edition of…


Jell-O. And they’re little Temptations pudding advertising. See, the idea is that it’s not like their other desserts (somehow). I mean, it probably still contains the exact same ingredients. But somehow this one isn’t for kids. They’re not only saying so. They’re forbidding kids from getting free samples of it through fancy machines!

The current offer is for Temptations by Jell-O, the brand’s first product designed specifically for adults. The machine is equipped with technology to determine the age of the person requesting a sample. If the machine senses a child, a panel lights up with the words, “Sorry, kid. You’re too young to experience indulgence like this. Please step away so the adults can get their free treat.”

You’re too young to experience indulgence like this? Even if I weren’t outraged on youth rights grounds, I’d want to smack the person who came up with this. Are they actually implying eating this particular pudding constitutes sex?

We’ve been discussing this a bit on the NYRA board e-mail list, and Eric Goldstein suggested the restriction could be for liability purposes. And he’s probably right. Except if that were all it is, you’d think they could at least try to be respectful about it. Having a machine say the equivalent of “ha ha, you can’t have this!” pretty much shows there’s more to it than that.

Unless it’s 50% vodka, there’s nothing “adult” about Temptations, no matter how much Kraft tries to implicitly sexualize it. No, they are very obviously taking the alcohol and cigarette tactic of using age restrictions to boost youth desire for the product. To make them want to be “adult”. As well as making adults want to use the product because it’s not for kids, so they can quench their adult insecurity by indulging in what might be usually pegged a kids’ dessert but not feel young doing it because kids can’t have it.

We see this with so many products, that kids can’t have or can’t have fully usually under the guise of safety. But that’s an excuse. I’ll bet more adults support the drinking age not so much becase of desire to keep youth healthy, but because they see youth as “other”, as inferior, and that they have some right to be superior to them and to have things those inferior others can’t have. And this makes them feel good and triumphant, that they’ve won over those evil youth, who’ve committed the horrible sin of existing when they haven’t existed long enough. Hell, I’ve seen ads for parental controls on things that promote it not to keep kids safe but to be able to block them and say/think “haha, you’re blocked, you stupid kid!” It’s a dangerous combination to set something where one group can feel super privileged and superior over the other, all with the excuse of “safety”. Safety, my ass!

And youth aren’t the only ones victim to this method, though they fall victim to it perhaps most severely. Dr Pepper Ten ads are promoting themselves explicitly that “It’s Not For Women!” Why? Because the idea is men don’t want to drink Diet Dr Pepper because “oh noes, diet soda is for women!” So they have this product that’s pretty much identical, just with added sweetener and caffeine, that’s not only marketed to men but supposedly only men. Because nothing kills manliness like using the same product women use. Men can’t be women!

And so we have Temptations, despite containing nothing uniquely harmful to youth (any more than any other sweet dessert anyway), promoting itself as “just for adults” so adults don’t have to feel degraded by eating the same product kids eat. Men don’t want to be women. Adults don’t want to be children. That’s the idea that is being promoted here to sell products.

Maybe we all need to get over our insecurities, and loudly, and make clear this kind of advertising doesn’t appeal to us. Because you don’t need to tell me a product will make me feel more adult. I don’t need something to do that for me, and I’m not stupid enough to think your product will do that.