My older daughter, here referred to as Sarcasm Girl (hey, she's sixteen) has a serious acting jones. She's wanted to be an actress since she saw her first Broadway show at age 4, which means that, like everything else, it's probably all my fault. The kid has talent, and is willing to work for what she wants, so we've tried to support her aspirations without mentioning too often that acting is a worse way to make a living than writing, for crissakes. All this led to me sitting in a hotel ballroom on Sunday morning, listening to a presentation about a school of modeling and acting. Since a lot of the kids at the workshop were not, um, runway material, the presentation to the parents focused on other benefits the program offers: grooming and etiquette training, ability to speak before others, poise, heightened self-esteem. And this last was clearly what they were selling. And why?
Because the number one fear of parents of teenagers is drugs, right? And it's easier to sell almost anything (say, a war in the middle east, or opposition to universal marriage rights) if its going to address a specific fear. So while the kids were in the other room learning to slouch and turn on the runway, we heard numbing statistics about how many thirteen year olds have tried sniffing glue. Only heightened self-esteem can combat the scourge of teen drug use!!!
There's always been a certain amount of anxiety to marketing: if you don't use this deodorant, people will scowl at you in elevators; if you don't keep your floors clean your neighbors will point and laugh. I was just startled at how shrill the approach was, coming from an organization which basically promises to instruct one in the use of eyeliner.