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Greed Is Good -- Selling the American Dream

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Advertising is such an integral part of our lives that being deluged with ads almost appears to be our natural state. We open a newspaper or magazine and expect to find pages that proclaim the virtues of products and firms. We turn on the television and are assailed with commercials for ten minutes of every half hour. Some social annalysts even claim that the purpose of television is to round up an audience to watch the commercials, that the programs are mere diversions from the medium's real objective of selling products!

Advertising is so powerful that it can produce the desire to consume products for which we previously felt no need whatsoever. U.S. kitchens, filled with gadgets that slice and dice, attest to this power.

Advertising's power to make people gluttons goes beyond kitchen gadgets that are soon consigned to the back drawers and garage sales. Many Americans would not think of going out in public without first shampooing, rinsing, conditioning, and blow-drying their hair. Many feel the need to apply an underarm deodorant so powerful that it overcomes the body's natural need to sweat. For many women, public appearance also demands the application of foundation, lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, and perfume. For many men, after shave lotion is essential. And only after covering the body with clothing that displays designer labels do Americans feel that they are presentable to the public.

Advertising influences not only what we put on our bodies, what we eat, and what we do for recreation, but also how we feel about ourselves. Our ideas of whether we are too fat, too skinny, too hippy, too buxom, whether our hair is too oily or too dry, our body too hairy, or our skin too rough are largely a consequence of advertising. As we weigh our self-image against the idealized images that bombard us in our daily fare of commercials, we conclude that we are lacking something. Advertising assures us that there is salvation--a new product that promises to deliver exactly what we lack.

The approach is ingenious in its simplicity: create discontent by presenting ideal images that are impossible to obtain. And it works. We become dissatisfied with ourselves. And we snatch the advertisers' solution: We strive to consume more of the never-ending products that the corporations offer us, those they have decided we need.

The American Dream...built on greed, discontent,



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