Age Compression


It is interesting how the real life and reel life always collide. I mean we all know that cinema or a lot of serials (not the saans bahu crap) are a reflection of the popular culture and they show the trends or in many cases suss out the trend in its infancy and push it forward.

So why am I talking about this? Couple of days back there was an episode of Boston Legal (have become a big fan of the serial) about this very sexually overt doll for 6 year olds and it described this whole age compression theory of how toy manufacturers propagate the kids to look at toys which really are not meant for their age. It did make me wonder about how right that theory is. When NFS (Need For Speed) mentions 12+ or 15+ or 18+ on the jacket, it, in a very subliminal way, is provoking the kids. Now Boston Legal episodes are obviously a rerun since this particular episode is from 2007 season… so whats the connection.

It is what happened at Modern School in New Delhi last week. The kind of language that was used by 6th graders during the bullying. Extremely sexual and violent…

So where do 11-year-old kids learn this from… Environment and access brought about by the digital connect. As parents, we like to believe that we are monitoring our kids to make sure that they are brought up in the right way. Sure we are… but somewhere some parents are not doing it right and those kids become a big influence on others around them. Ever seen a guy jumping the red light with his kids in the car? Ever seen a guy making his young child sit with him in the driver’s seat and manage the steering wheel? That really is the beginning of the end actually..

Digital connect has also led to the end of innocence. There will be millions who will turn around and tell me that internet has also led to a lot of awareness and how the kids of today are so well-informed and how they check what the kids do on the net… Really? do you??

We are so clueless today about what is happening with our kids. We live in a state of denial and yet when you look around, you see kids doing stuff which we as kids didn’t even know. Sure some of it is good and has led to kids being geniuses but like all things in life, it’s the taboo that titillate and tempts and makes the kids want to experience and catches their attention…

That episode of Boston Legal in 2007 was reflecting what was happening in US back then. And it resonates with what is happening in this country now and where we are headed.

I don’t know if there is a solution to this or will we also go through the cycle of degradation before getting back on our feet…

Only time will tell if the foundation of our culture is strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the western decadence that led to moral corruption of the west.. I think the foundation will collapse. For the simple reason that what we project as a strong value foundation is so hollow.. tolerance and value system that has not been followed by people of this country ever.. these are just nice sounding words…

Age compression is here to stay and we in our busy lives do not have the time or we even know how to manage this turbulence…

A Culture gone horribly wrong


 

We were supposedly never like this. The word tolerance epitomized the Indian culture. A culture that not only let other cultures integrate within its own but also changed and adapted itself to a changing environment. Of course to many, this would be a truism but to me… it sounds like a lot of hogwash.

And the more I read the newspapers nowadays, the more my belief gets strengthened.

Maybe it is the ever-present media that exposes our hypocrisy or maybe we have actually moved from being tolerant to intolerant… the truth is that this country and the people are on a down hill and the brakes have failed. And I think all of us  are to be blamed for the situation.

Read in the newspapers today about exodus of North-East people from various cities in south and west because of some vigilante threats! Why? and of course for once, since the typical Hindu organizations are not part of this, they are looking at milking this opportunity to present their ‘secular’ credentials by exhorting the people not to leave.

I wont talk about the culture police who raided a private party in Mangalore or the molestation case in Assam. Enough has been said about these two  but it sure is a reflection that this country is moving back into dark ages.

Various news reports about women being told not to wear jeans or there will be acid attacks. People being cruel to their househelps. People being cruel to each other… road rage… abetting suicide…. parents accused of killing their daughters.. khaps… the list is endless.

Why is this happening? Or is it that it was happening for years but it is just that media in their hunger for “breaking news” and TRPs have aimed their spotlight at these issues?

And where is the political view on all of this? Politically quiet because 2014 is round the corner?

The economy is in trouble. The volcano is bubbling under the surface… will explode soon enough. We don’t see it yet because we are too busy leading our lives or trying very hard to, not counting the “inflation-proof people” who continue to revel in conspicuous consumption. The number of BMW X1 on the road would suggest that everything is fine, people are moving up economically. Disposable income is going through the roof. But is that really happening? Or is the economic divide only getting wider?

Corporates, with their strategists and forecasters have probably figured out the downward trend and have started tightening their belts. Strange though… they can see it and government can’t or rather refuses to. The Prime Minister said in his Independence day speech that he expects GDP this year will be around 6.5%… seriously?? How?? How can a paralyzed government which spends more time on figuring out how their candidate can become President & Vice-President have the time to look at the people it governs. Living in denial sure helps. Damn the foreign rating agencies.. they have no clue what they are talking about. After all, they could not predict the crash of 2008 so why should we believe them!

As a country, as a culture we have gone back in times. As an economy we are sitting on a powder keg. I guess our country needs an explosion, a revolution of sorts to come out of the mess we are in. And no… Anna Hazare and Ramdeo Baba are not the ones who can lead the revolution.

 

Randomness


Quite a few people have asked me why have I not written any post so I decided to write one. And thanks to those who missed my posts and mentioned it.

First up… wonder if snapdeal.com would mention the name of the sucker who paid 50K for a date with Gul Panang! seriously 50K?? On the other hand they might not mention the fact that nobody wanted to pay that kind of money… Gul might become the laughing-stock and go into serious depression that no one wanted a date with her!

Cricket World Cup starts this week and I thought I was the one who was missing the buzz but as read in the newspaper, it is pretty much a general feeling. The only people who are going hyper about it are the various brands who are exhorting team India to win and want consumer also to win. Don’t think consumer is seriously interested in all the shams that are peddled by way of price offs and contests and stuff.

The general viewer is either in a state of ennui when it comes to cricket or 1. has become comfortable with the thought of India winning the World Cup 2. is not setting his expectations high this time (after the fiasco in 2007).

And staying with cricket, I don’t know if I am the one who has noticed the mistake in ESPN-StarSports promotion or others have too. But the promo says that India will be getting into the battle for World Cup glory after 28 years! Sure they are harking about the 1983 World Cup but India has of course played in every Cup since then. It is  not as if that we had not played in the World Cup since 1983.

Scammed India – Ok so enough in the news about the 2G scam and all the skeletons are falling out of the cupboard. Nothing new over there. We all know that irrespective of which political party is in power, they all make money. Arun Shourie would now be a pariah and his political career is finished after claiming what he has on Karan Thapar show.

Truth is that for any business to prosper in this country, one needs a “well oiled” government machinery. Now if it was lubricant that was required, likes of Castrol would have India as their biggest market. But in this case it is the Swiss Banks which are laughing their way into their own vaults. We should just forget about it.  Nothing ever will come out by discussing it.

And life goes on in the country… rapes, murders, police inaction or misguided action, selective judiciary activism… corruption.. inflation etc.

About advertising – can somebody put a ban on Max Bupa and Future Generali advertising for their various policies and shit? The stuff is getting morbid now.

Signing off… can somebody put pressure on all the corporates and brands not to put intense pressure on the guys with this sham called Valentine’s day. It can’t be love if it is measured in the size of the gift or the price of the gift. All the stuff in newspapers, TV and radio about valentine’s day and various offers.. makes me sick and makes me want to throw up. Won’t even want to log on to Facebook to see the kind of messages that would be going back and forth and all the sugary status messages.

Enough of the random grumbling. Hope I have something nice to write about for the next post…

Does it really matter?


So yet again media created the hype and then moved on.  The whatshisname ex cop who was the breaking news or the unbreaking news has disappeared from the pages of the newspapers and from the channels. I don’t remember his name and I bet many others also do not remember.

Shiv Sena got some mileage with all  its empty threats and helped MNIK (ever noticed that most of Karan Johar movies get into these short ones so quickly) enough for the producer and the investors to start thinking if they can beat 3 Idiots. Sometimes I wonder if this whole shindig about not letting the movie release was a marketing gimmick… a la Wag the Dog… Media went to town.. Kabir Bedi was pretty much saying the same things across channels. Some wierdo from Shiv Sena was fighting with him with pretty much the same language across channels… And yeah Rahul Gandhi got some great mileage too (I bet he has got some very sharp PR brain managing his perception strategy)

The whole thing about racism and attacks and killing of Indians in Australia and threatening postures by the government… seriously if they really want to protect Indians… how about protecting them first in India itself! there are worse attacks that happen on Indians in India but these attacks are more often than not two column articles on the city page or sensationalized on Aaj Tak or India TV… nobody cares

These stories and many more… they happen and disappear.. catering to the shortening attention span of people who are logged in to digital media – channels, websites, social media networks… Media moves on because we move on. We don’t have the time or the inclination to stop and ponder…

Been reading yet another book by my favorite author Mr Michael Connelly – The Scarecrow.  Jack the lead character who works with LA Times is getting pink slipped because we now consume news as and when it happens.. in real time and correspondents who are expert in uploading the story instantly are the ones who run the newspaper… The depth be damned… its all about getting the two lines in right now… Because that is all that is read. (people actually spend more time reading the status messages on facebook and twitter than reading newspaper)

Wonder how the scenario would be ummm 5 years from now… all the day’s news crammed into character lengths less than 160 characters?

I am now probably old school who likes to read and read in depth and not 160 characters. I don’t want to just read the scroll at the bottom of the screen about whats happening in the world while the images on the screen are something really meaningless… Wonder if there is anyone in the media who wants audience or readers like me? I guess not. Because they are chasing the mindsets that are driven by status messages… videos and downloads…

So nope it doesn’t really matter what me or people like me think. We have stopped being the target audience probably 5 years back…

News and lives of people have just become a snippet to be addressed and archived…

Reality (Shows) dredging bottom of the barrel


So what is it with reality shows?? Are the producers so bereft of ideas that all they can think of are the shows currently on air? Every single day, across channels, there is at least one Reality(???) show happening! And then there is this huge population hungry for their 15 mins of fame… or ridicule… And if the reality show doesnt get you, then there are completely banal serials, full of tacky and garish sets where camera focuses on at least 4 different people with absolutely stupefying expression ( a response to supposedly earth shattering comment by one of the character). But let me come back to the reality shows.

Raakhi ka Swayamwar – A bunch of losers vying for attention of another loser who stays in media by being scandalous. Yet on the show, she is like holier than thou. Nothing about the show is real. Questions and comments and reactions are all forced and directed (I bet there would have been takes and retakes). What amazes me is that someone actually thought of the concept and found a sucker too (NDTV Imagine) to air it!

Then there is a show called Jungle se Bachao!… again full of “celebrities”… And I dont even know any of them, except for couple of faces I can recognize… Who decided they are celebrities? The real celebrity probably would let loose his/her pit bull on the producers if they were to venture anywhere near their house…

Sach ka Samna – a reality show where the people being interviewed bare it all (their lives and not their….. everybody cannot be Denise Richards) and I wonder why??? Why would you want the world to know about your sordid life!!! And of course given our penchant of voyeurism, there would be many glued to the sets, watching every moment… By the way, the Producer of the Program was on one of the news channels and was asked if he would go through baring it all… candid confession – He said NO! and then he actually says something to the effect that he respects the participants for going through the ordeal!!

I could go on and on… India has got talent, Boogie Woogie… each one worse than the other and yet people are participating and many others watching… Sometimes I wonder if I am not normal or the people are not normal. I guess it is the former because channels manage to get big brands to sponsor these shows too!

Now I have a very important question to ask… Any show that is canned and then aired prime time… how can it be real? The concept of reality show should be live… as it happens… without takes or retakes and without editing. Two examples for this – One is the Jim Carrey movie where everything around him is a set (that is all reality shows are) and then there is Ed TV where every moment in Ed’s life is shown as it happens. So which is one is the REAL reality show??

SO CAN WE HAVE A REALITY SHOW WHICH IS REAL??

Culture Engineering


Culture engineering as a concept has been practiced forever. In ancient times, it was the invaders who did that. In modern times it is the people who move from one geographical location to another, do that. Brands do it too. And engineering happens in very different ways for people than it does for brands.

Take the case of people who move to another country. Culture engineering happens in two ways – Either they engineer themselves to fit in with the environment… or they have such a huge influence on the environment that the environment changes…

If Deepak Chopra had decided to remain in India… would he have been as successful as he is? He has gained success because he moved to a society which was looking for salvation and he engineered their thought process with his philosophy. Of course moving on from there, the world followed what is successful in US and he became a Guru even in India. Steven Covey does that too… so does a Paul Coello or a Robin Sharma. Engineering people’s thoughts towards their philosophy… The reverse is of course the immigrant population. You move to another country and make changes so that you can belong… adapt to the existing culture. Or probably transform themselves. The difference is adapting means you dont let go of your culture but imbibe the values of the environment. Transformation leads to shunning of everything that you were… Somewhere its the need to belong that leads to the engineering.

For brands too it is the need to belong in newer markets (and also at a very subtle level the countries attached to the brand too propogate this culture engineering)

Second World War and then subsequent interventions by US in Asian trouble spots carried the symbols of american culture to these spots and at a very subliminal level led to a cultural imperialism. And of course dollar being the universal currency meant that the american domination was complete.

Communism tried very hard too but failed in the face of glitz and glamor of all the ‘virtues’ of american culture.

But in Modern times, war is not a positive reinforcement of a culture so brands and marketing have taken over. Nobody wants a war but people are happy to accept brands and letting the brands evolve and transform their cultures…

Let us take the Indian example.

In the 70’s all foreign brands were asked to leave the country because they stood for the so called decadent West. Under the garb of protecting our economy we asked brands to leave.

In the 90’s when a global economy became a reality one cannot avoid, the markets were opened and the brands were back with a vengence… Huge population of India had most brands drooling and wanting the share of a huge market… And given the shifts in political scenario, American brands entered in droves.

Satellite TV was the first to invade our homes with images that were so american and yet welcome because we were hungry… hungry to catch up with the world and to mention the cliche – what is banned is always lot more desirable and exciting… The Bold and the Beautiful became staple diet for many (soap operas that were prime time in India!)

And all these shows were also advertisements for brands…

Coke was back and Pepsi too.. so were Macdonalds and KFC and Pizza Hut and Dominoes… and Nike and Adidas and Levi’s… The list can go on across product categories… from apparels to automobiles to banking to everything that was open…

But what is important here while most brands expected that we would accept the lifestyles too attached with the brand… it did not happen… at least not on a large scale as was expected… The large middle class wanted these brands… but on their own terms… we bought into the philosophy but not the cultural cues… And it was a very strong sentiment… And brands that were in for long haul figured it out… MJ and Bobby Brown gave way to Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and cricketers for Pepsi…

Macdonald had veg offerings… Pizza Hut had veg pizzas and very Indian recipes… Automobiles tranformed their communication to be in tune with Indian Culture… Samsung and LG had strategies that connected with Indian sentiments… And more importantly it was like double culture engineering strategy… The brands adapted to the Indian culture and propogated the values of their own cultures… without being overt about it…

Indians used to eat healthy but now they binge on american junk food and obesity (just like in US) is on the rise. Credit culture which used to be a complete taboo for us is the prevalent practice now…

And the thing is that not all influences are bad… Engineering has a way of bringing in negatives as well as positives… We are lot more professional in our working environment.. as compared to maybe couple of decades back… We have forced our governments to give us infrastructure that is on par with the world (it is a slow process but it is happening)

We are moving from our initial years of vice of the internet to the virtues and using technology in a constructive manner… And of course we have used IT as our own way to extend our culture to the other parts of the world… There are more Indians travelling abroad and the popular hot spots are ensuring that they cater to the travelling Indian population. Bollywood has also done it’s bit… cases of Indian movies topping the top 10 charts are very frequent…

In a world where boundaries are disappearing (physical ones remains and cause constant grief) every culture is now in a very subtle war to take over… Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Indians…. the hegemony of US and West is on the decline and who wins the war would not be decided by arms and ammunition but by brands… Brands which handle the culture engineering the best are the brands that will win the war for their countries…