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Unhooking Ourselves

by Joe Kelly 05-01-2000
Breaking our deadly addiction to advertising

As an activist in the girls’ movement and father of two girls, I’ve always known that far too many advertising images were bad for girls. In a brilliant and logical argument, author Jean Kilbourne makes the connection between the premises of advertising and the scourge of addiction. Denial is the most intractable symptom of addiction, and Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising is among the most potent interventions available for our addiction to advertising, consumerism, and the immoral ways in which our commercial culture so often undermines our integrity.

For years, Kilbourne has taken her powerful, funny, and life-changing presentations to college campuses, businesses, and the federal government. Now she has combined this huge mine of information, insight, and critique into one outstanding book.

As Kilbourne shows, we are what’s for sale. Media outlets aren’t selling products to us so much as they are selling us to the products’ manufacturers. It works—what industry would spend $200 billion annually on something that doesn’t work? All we have to do is read the pages of advertising’s trade journals, where we see media ads proclaiming "Buy this 24-year-old and get all his friends absolutely free," or "We deliver Gen-X," or "One magazine delivers an audience spending $38 billion annually on American Express cards." It’s easy to see the underlying attitude that suggests that we use people as products and objects. This is the same mindset as pornography, and we are harmed in the same way by it.