The Right to Childhood Should be Protected.
July 22, 2013 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Oh, wow. That -- wow.

I appreciate that. I don't think Ronald McDonald belongs there exactly, though.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:14 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nuclear waste cleanup guys are the real monsters
posted by theodolite at 5:50 PM on July 22, 2013

I don't get the doctor.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 5:58 PM on July 22, 2013

I was scrolling down the top link and the one under his name, thinking, "This is protest as a Benetton ad." Then I saw that he'd actually done some.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:00 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nuclear waste cleanup guys are the real monsters

I don't think it's necessarily calling anyone a monster, just saying that every kid is cruelly affixed to the adults around them.
posted by tychotesla at 6:02 PM on July 22, 2013

The doctor is harvesting the kids organs - he's got an organ carrier and the kid has a scar going down the center of his chest. I'm not sure how prevalent killing children and the harvesting their organs is in third world countries though, so I'm not really sure on the social commentary accuracy. Maybe it's a thing, not sure.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 6:06 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sigh. I think you're right. And that makes it so much less interesting.
posted by tychotesla at 6:10 PM on July 22, 2013

I don't even know if that's sarcasm. Who can tell these days?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 6:40 PM on July 22, 2013

I appreciate that. I don't think Ronald McDonald belongs there exactly, though.

I have a six year old who has never been to McDonald's. We just don't eat there, or at any fast food place for that matter. It's just not within our dietary spectrum. Not that we don't have french fries or ice cream or other stuff like that from time to time -- we just don't do fast food.

But our kid is fascinated, enamored with, obsessed with McDonalds. We have no idea why, but the constant bombardment with billboard advertising has got to be one reason. We underestimate how immersed we are in a sea of commercials. Our son has been reading for about a year, and as we tool down the boulevard on the way to preschool he's absorbing every word and image that flows past his hungry eyes. Maybe we as adults have learned how to tune it out, but think about how many times you see the Golden Arches, even for an instant, in a normal day. If you live in an urban environment like we do, it's probably no fewer than a half dozen times. That can make a deep impression.

I agree with you to the extent that Ronald McDonald is, if anything, too pedestrian and commonplace to make an impression on most viewers. I'd almost rather see Jack or the Burger King or even seemingly-innocent Wendy take his place. But in any case, our youngsters are immersed in a battlefield for their attention and brand loyalty.

I'm sure everyone caught this, but it's no accident that the photographer used a slightly pudgy kid for that photograph. You can't pin the entire childhood obesity epidemic on one company, but that industry isn't doing any favors to anybody whose bodies crave simple nutrition, which, I'd argue, McDonald's only marginally delivers.
posted by vverse23 at 6:50 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was unsure if I was reading the doctor correctly as an organ-harvester, because I felt that conveyed an urban-myth vibe that undermined the seriousness of the overall message. But it sounds like other people caught that, too.

I also thought Ronald McDonald was kind of a cheap shot, but I can't think of another adult figure that works better as visual shorthand for the childhood obesity issue.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:05 PM on July 22, 2013

every kid is cruelly affixed to the adults around them

I saw the kids in the pics as crucified.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:07 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

ishrinkmajeans: It's not sarcasm.

I'm not really interested in easy one tone messages. Reduction is OK, simplicity is OK, but combining the two starts gets ugly. At that point you can just tell me "doing bad things is bad because (FUNDAMENTALLY CUTE!) kids get hurt, mmkay?".

The message I thought was there at first was more challenging and interesting to me: "Your interactions with the world around you, and with kids in particular, is never consensual. They always suffer your actions."
posted by tychotesla at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree on the crucifiction angle... They die for our sins.
posted by chapps at 7:20 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I just noticed that the cleric in the first picture has a red skullcap--he's a cardinal. Meaning his sin was probably failure to protect the child from priests under his control, not that he directly harmed the child himself. Most of the others (a parent? doctor, soldier, nuclear worker) are, similarly, figures whose primary role with regard to a child is that of protector. Not so much Red Hoodie Guy or Ronald. Still, maybe a child would tend to see them as trustworthy, not scary. It seems a heavy dose of betrayal is part of the message.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:39 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think it's a little sad and telling that we can't see Red Hoodie Guy as a protector when older teens should absolutely be protecting little kids. Like we've demonised teen males to the point that we can't even see what they should be. Same with McDonalds - it's food! That supposed to be nourishing! But no, we're mired in this idea that it's bad and always was bad and will always be bad.
posted by geek anachronism at 12:19 AM on July 23, 2013

Easy targets: "Oh, those bad guys whom we all agree are hurting children and getting away with it!" Pedophile priests, sex tourists, bad soldiers, gangsters, etc.

Easy symbolism: "Now let's see... innocent death... bad guys killing the innocents... hmm... how about crucifixion! No one has every thought of that before!"

Easy production: something simple, not hard to make, some costumes, some simple photos, some simple Photoshop, and repeat it until there are enough to call a respectable series.

Easy consumption: something people can reliably "get" like a very easy crossword puzzle with a satisfying moral message that makes them feel good to agree with.
posted by pracowity at 1:08 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ogooglebar's explanation makes this seem a lot more deep and interesting, but i just can't escape the the Ronald just feeling like something a highschool kid who just watched a couple Michael Moore movies and recently started smoking pot would think was "like, deep, man". I audibly groaned.

The entire series would feel a lot more interesting and punchy to me without ending on that flat, weezing note.

And i say this as someone who went to an "alternative" highschool full of neo-hippie types, and generally grew up in that kind of environment. It brought me right back there. ughhhhhh.
posted by emptythought at 3:33 AM on July 23, 2013

I thought the Ronald McDonald image was entirely appropriate. Many of my students don't eat anything except McDonald's and commodity food (school breakfast and lunch). As a result, their taste is starting to fossilize around calorie-dense, nutrient-poor, flavor-enhanced food. Because you can buy a whole "meal" for a fairly low price, it seems like a good value. However, though the food may be briefly filling, it's not satisfying, and they're always hungry, and so they're always eating, snacking on soda, chips and candy. Most of their households have a tv in every room, and the marketing is relentless. In a poor neighborhood, even the trash on the ground is hustling you, because it's ALL branded packaging.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:02 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

From a general standpoint, any time I see a reference to Mickey D's, or fast food in general, I see it as a reference to the "food as for-profit-industry" and not one specific brand name. I have my suspicions that putting the comically cartoonish king would be as quickly related, and Jack would be met with as many "who's that?"s as people wondering what the artist/author had against one specific chain.

The aforementioned Ronald is both easily recognizable and a symbol of the entire industry.

Also. Weren't there like half a dozen actual children harmed in the making of this? (Or was this just some sort of lifelike wax sculpture thing? Being at work with a screen of several half-naked children is somewhat frowned upon at my workplace. So I didn't have time to rtfa.)
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:09 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just pointing out, for those who might have missed it, that the soldier is supposed to be a Syrian government soldier.

I'm a little mystified by the surgeon.
posted by Dreadnought at 7:31 AM on July 23, 2013

Easy consumption
Spot on. It's so simple and evangelist. It's more fruitfully understood as "various warning label submissions for the backside of Velcro packaging"
posted by relish at 8:52 AM on July 23, 2013

Chills. Great piece.
posted by KyleH at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2013

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