Skip to main content

There's a reason why they call it Black

Photo by Richard Sennott*, Star Tribune

It can be a very enjoyable outing to go shopping with friends or family the day after Thanksgiving. Can be. Used to be. While I know that some people truly enjoy camping out on a sidewalk to get into a big-box store before the rest of their fellow shoppers, I also think that this kind of "enjoyment" is a little like enjoying illegal drugs. It is remarkable--and frightening--what we Americans will tolerate having thrown at us in the way of messages that push, push, push us to buy, buy, buy. A man or woman selling drugs to children could not outdo these ads.



Have you seen the latest Target ad? I bet you have, but if not, you can see it here.  The You Tube title even calls the ad "Crazy Target Lady."

Target is a great store. I shop there a lot. This is not a great ad. And it is a worse message. But, Target will be far from alone in this kind of messaging.  You've probably also seen the news item about the Target employee who began a petition to fight back against these increasing retail hours. Here is the Minneapolis Star Tribune article about it.  And it is a reminder that all us shopping folk forget about those poor working folk whose holidays are decimated while others go on shopping "sprees."

I remember hearing about lemmings at a young age. Science has now proven that they do not all go over a cliff together, just because they see each other doing it. However, when I was young, we were told this was true. I'm delighted to hear it is not true of the lemmings, but very disturbed to see the society I live in turning into a chapter of the lemming mythology.

I do not see Black Friday as an opportunity for saving money by spending it. I do see it as a day taken away from our rest time and from our families. I see it as a day that comes after we give thanks for our blessings and then go tearing out of our houses to buy more "blessings." I see it as a time when retailers, stock holders, advertisers, and others hope that we--you and I and our children--will indeed act like the lemmings of story time, hope that we can all be herded into a fast-running mass, so wound up, so single-minded about getting in store doors that we will forget all else...perhaps even that sharp drop-off up ahead.



__________________________________________________

*Richard Sennot Bio
A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Richard Sennott has published photographs in Newsweek, the New York Times, Life magazine, and the Washington Post. The recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board, Sennott also received a Humanitarian Award from the Minnesota Associated Press in 1990. As a documentary photographer, he has traveled to El Salvador, Bosnia, Israel, and Iraq. He also has given lectures at Carlton College and the College of Saint Thomas. See his wonderful photos and learn more about his work here.

Comments

Gnarly Mesquite said…
If the advertising agencies would advertise things that benefit society then we would be much better off. Remember when they advertised that smoking was cool? Yicch.
Yes! I do remember that. And I remember how much the right kind of advertising helped people to stop smoking ... which proves your point!I have always thought of the Friday after Thanksgiving as a special, pressure-free time .... I hope at least some folks will experience it that way this year and in the years to come.

Popular posts from this blog

Life without Television, Part 2

I began life without television with relief, which was consistent Monday through Friday. The first few weekends, though, felt awkward, anxious, lonely. When PBS has good programming on Saturday nights, it is extraordinarily good. Father Brown, Phryne Fisher, New Tricks... Extraordinary acting, high production values, and I fantasize about the pudgy, brilliant priest just perhaps having an innocent crush on one of his special parishioners, which would be moi. 

I called a friend one Sunday. "Maybe television helped with my anxiety more than I realized," I said. She told me about her aunt who, after her husband's death, kept the television on in his "man cave" 24/7. He has been gone years now. The television goes on, everlasting, in his absence. I don't blame her. Much of my frequent and prolonged television viewing began with grief.

After my sister died, I would watch almost anything, especially late at night when sleep eluded me. I even watched Convoy with …

Our Texas, My Texas: "Memories we carry like scars and diamonds"

This post title includes a quote from Hermine Pinson's poem, "Four Sisters and the Dance." As you read, it will become clear why.

I was 7 when my father earned his Ph.D. from Duke. He then accepted a teaching position at a small private college in a rural Texas town in the 1960s. Population was 5,000, give or take a few. Our Texas roots ran deep, and we saw this return to the Lone Star State as a homecoming. So, I left the lyrical landscape of the Carolinas and the small private school where I had become nearly fluent in French. Then, I entered the hot, dry world of that small town. 

We did not yet have a place to live. Our family of five, including our infant brother, camped out in the girls' dorm for several weeks. Our furniture was stored on the university theater stage while my parents searched for a home. I was riding in the car with my dad and a member of the university administration and overheard their conversation. My father wondered where he could find help …

Whose day?

Years ago, I made some collages using pages from a desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The image that leads this post is one. Inside the hearts and flowers is a picture from the MMA collection of  a Japanese screen made in the 16th century. It is titled Tagasode, which means Whose sleeves?  The title comes from a 10th-century poem:


The fragrance seems even more alluring than the hue, Whose sleeves have brushed past? Or would it be this plum tree blossoming here at home?
Iro yori mo ka koso awaredo omohoyure tagasode fureshi ado no ume zo mo
The word haunts: tagasode. Whose sleeves? The question floats in my mind like a cloud on a still day. The sleeves materialize in my mind's eye. I hear them move through hushed air. I can imagine, though not name, the scent of the person to whom those sleeves belong. It's not unlike smelling the scent of your infant's clothes, or holding the perfume bottle that belonged to your mother...you don't need to open it... you know tha…