Talk to Your Family About the Dangers of Emotional Porn

This morning I woke up with the infectious strains of “Hardnose Mrs. Hatcher” stuck in my head.

“Hardnose Mrs. Hatcher” was a 60-second McDonald’s television commercial that aired during a network broadcast of The Wizard of Oz in 1988, which I happened to tape and watch over and over again when I was in the 4th grade.  As a result, I have every inflection, every angelic facial expression of this advertisement permanently etched in the ol’ brainbase, along with countless other marketing jingles absorbed under similar circumstances.  I never know which shrapnel is going to surface when.

The soft-focused sentimentality of this commercial makes it seem to me like it stepped right out of a print of a Norman Rockwell painting my aunt, an elementary school teacher, had hanging in her house:

Norman Rockwell - Surprise

Norman Rockwell. Surprise. Cover for Saturday Evening Post, 3/17/1956.

Norman Rockwell is an artist many aesthetes love to hate.  His cloying illustrations seem desperate to sell us on a slack-jawed nostalgia for a small-town America that never quite existed in real life.

Like much of Norman Rockwell’s work, the “Hardnose Mrs. Hatcher” ad falls into a category I have come to identify as emotional pornography. Emotional pornography is emotionally explicit material with little to no artistic value beyond the arousal of intense emotional identification.

Anne Geddes‘s photographs are emotional porn. So is a great deal of popular music.  Emotional porn is not particularly destructive in small doses consumed knowinglingly (commonly known as the “guilty pleasure”).  But the effects are troubling when emotional pornography is cynically employed for the purpose of politics or marketing.

sad puppy

A sad puppy. Some scientists believe looking at images like this one might make you willing to spend more money on frivolous crap.

In recent years, cognitive scientists have increasingly been able to demonstrate something that advertisers have known forever:  emotions dramatically influence the brain’s ability to make reasoned decisions.  A 2005 study at Emory University found that emotional bias was a stronger predictor for the formation of political opinions than the facts a subject was given.  In 2008, a team of researchers from several American universities reported that consumers who had been shown sad images were subsequently willing to pay almost 300% as much as their neutral-image counterparts to buy the same products.

Which brings us back to Hardnose Mrs. Hatcher.  There can be little doubt that the emotional porn in this advertisement sold the hell out of some burgers.  For these 60 tearful seconds, we do not care that McDonald’s clears rainforests to feed their livestock, or that poor Mrs. Hatcher is gonna die of colon cancer before those kids hit junior high.  All that matters is our insatiable nostalgia for a mythic moment in which young children heartlily appreciate being challenged by an anachronistic schoolmarm and McDLTs are appropriate tokens of that gratitude.

McDonald's Big Mac child's costume

McDonald's Big Mac child size costume. Image via thesituationist.wordpress.com

Needless to say, emotional pornography can have devastating consequences on a community, and unfortunately the temptation to indulge is at its strongest for many Americans during the holiday season.  That’s why I would like to urge you to talk to your family about the dangers of emotional porn.  Be especially aware of the warning signs of an addiction:

  • a dull, glassy-eyed stare

If you or someone you love has fallen victim to this soul-destroying affliction, do not be afraid to seek help or stage an intervention.  Inform yourself about good aesthetic values and become a resource to help those around you make healthier choices.  Together we can keep the scourge of emotional porn from polluting our communities.

Anne Geddes - Santa

Emotional pornography by Anne Geddes. Studies have linked the indulgence in images such as this one with a risk of making dangerously stupid purchases.

~ by emilypothast on December 22, 2009.

2 Responses to “Talk to Your Family About the Dangers of Emotional Porn”

  1. […] posted here: Talk to Your Family About the Dangers of Emotional Porn … Share and Enjoy: Diese Icons verlinken auf Bookmark Dienste bei denen Nutzer neue Inhalte finden […]

  2. […] more here: Talk to Your Family About the Dangers of Emotional Porn … Share and Enjoy: Diese Icons verlinken auf Bookmark Dienste bei denen Nutzer neue Inhalte finden […]

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