Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When is it Selling Out?, or, the Eye Roll Effect

Yesterday I saw where a certain Food Network personality (I just can’t call them “Stars,” for it sounds so silly and pretentious) not only has several shows on FN, but as well is on a network game show, and now has made a commercial for insurance. This Food Network personality isn’t the only one who has saturated the airwaves with their face and products to where every time I turn around, there they are, grinning at me.

I compare that with a FN personality such as Ina Garten—the ever gracious, classy, and beautiful Ina Garten has one FN show and in that show I know what to expect, I feel comforted by her and the way she is The Same even as I am learning something new--her food and recipes are accessible and delicious. She does have a few products out there for those of us who need a little extra help, but I’ve never seen her do a commercial for Her Product or anything else. And I continue to adore watching Ina Garten.

I used to watch quite a bit of Food Network, but I find I’m switching channels more and more often. Somehow it’s become more about selling Product—whether that Product is food or kitchen related, or the Product is the “personalities” themselves. Over the last couple of years, things have shifted. I am quickly becoming annoyed. Everywhere I look certain “personalities” are there, grinning in the camera, their eyes gleaming with their good fortune and their growing bank accounts. I believe in success, but when is it excess?

On the news last night, I listened to the newscaster speak of an author whose book about “a spiritual quest” went viral and was made into a movie and now has gone further with its success and decided to make trinkets and candles and other doodle dee dahs. When asked about “selling out her original idea of the book” the author said, in defense, something to the effect that if a person couldn’t take the journey as she did, why, then they could buy a candle. I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help it—it seemed such a funny thing to say. I guess I expected her to be slightly embarrassed and maybe just admit it all got away from her, became this huge monster, and shrug her shoulders in a bit of an overwhelmed "Dang!" But, I wondered at the backlash that is happening because of, in the words of the newscaster, potential “Selling Out.” Is it selling out? We don’t always think this, or do we?, when a writer makes it big and the STUFF machine cranks out STUFF. Still . . .

It has me thinking: how much is too much? When does it become about Greed and not about the original purpose? Does it matter? Is it really all about making as much money as we can when we can do it? When does a personality become too big for their own britches—so big that they topple over from their own success/excess/access?

One may point out that Oprah is Too Big—but I don't know: somehow she climbed up without “selling out,” didn’t she? She did her show, and later, her magazine—do you see Oprah perfume, or Oprah clothing, Oprah Spatulas, or Oprah this and that and the other please buy me buy me buy me and anything I attach my name to even if it has nothing to do with Me? Other than the one Superbowl commercial, do you see her touting insurance or butter spreads or cheese or spatulas or restaurants or fast food places? Is she on another show other than her own that has nothing to do with her original show? Unless I’m missing something (and feel free to correct me!), the answer to those questions is No. Oprah knows what she is good at and she concentrated her efforts in those areas. She became a name, a force, but she never sold out, right?

We as consumers of whatever is being sold to us—whether it is a product, a show, an idea, a book, a Pesonality, et cetera—have the power to Turn the Channel, or Not Buy, or Say Enough is Enough. So are these people who saturate the airwaves and the shelves and put their fingers in every little pie both sweet and savory doing themselves a favor, or are they placing themselves at risk of the old “I AM SO SICK OF (fill in blank). . ." *eye roll*

Most everyone can understand we want to make a good living for ourselves and our families; most everyone can understand “hitting it while it’s hot;” most everyone can understand the need to be noticed and heard and loved—but, again, when does it become Too Too Too much. I know I will be turning the channel, or Not Buying the product, when I feel someone or something is shoved down my throat, because it all comes down to the Eye Roll Effect. Once I have the Eye Roll Effect, my respect is gone and it’s all down hill for that product or personality until they, or someone, pulls back the reins on that runaway horse. Only I know when the Eye Roll Effect comes and why and for whom. A few have recovered from my Eye Roll Effect and some never have. It's the single most telling way I know when I Am Done.

What do you think?


Kelly Bryson said...

I won't let you take the joy out of my character action figures. Those things are going to make me rich, I say! *laughs*

I'm with you. We can tell when we're being sold a bill of goods, can't we. Now, excuse me, I am eat lunch off of my Secret Graces plastic plates. I love those things.

Diane said...

I feel we have to constantly check our hearts and see what our motives are. It's eye opening what we may find..... :O)

Teresa said...

I was surprised to find out that the author in question was paid a large advance to fund her "spiritual journey." Rather than a sincere willingness to help others, it seems there is merely a sincere willingness to make money.

I think it's kind of sad that people have lives that are so empty, they actually believe that buying a candle (or any such other rot) will help them develop spiritually.

I think Diane said it best: we have to search ourselves for our motives.

JudithAlef said...

I have doctor's orders to stay away from talk and reality shows. I got my eyes stuck in the over the rainbow position watching a certain author describe her gradual ascendancy to 'spiritual master'after living with a shaman. She now holds retreats for large sums of money. cue applause.

Janna Qualman said...

It seems the thing of late, doesn't it? Everyone is crossing over and double-doing and plugging each of all their talents.

Whatever happened to finding your niche and growing within it, not from it?

john bord said...

No matter the status people live in it is driven by emotion, most of time sensibilities goes out to the back porch. To a certain level, most everybody has lust for something..... fill in space.
So often we are our own worst enemies. People that buy the stuff are saying it is okay to be greedy/lustful, not directly but by condoning others actions we fall into the trap also.

To bad there are not more off buttons.
Interesting read, thx

demery bader-saye said...

K -
I find myself thinking about these things a lot these days as I make my way onto the social media scene. Sometimes I feel (when I'm on twitter or "pinging" my blog or trying to post my blog on reddit) - like I'm just in a big cyber room with a lot of other people and we're all yelling and jumping up and down, trying to sell our "products" - whatever they may be. I guess what helps it feel genuine is when it's clear that someone is doing what they love and "selling" or better offering something that is genuinely important and meaningful to them. Your eye roll response seems to be a good measuring stick.

Genuine interactions among colleagues/fellow writers help a lot. So thanks for posting and welcoming comments.


Debbie said...

That saturation is far too much and does cause many of us to turn away. Celebs who design clothing lines to sell at Kmart and those sort of things drive me nuts. The "buy a candle" line cracks me up. But, as a culture, we jump on this stuff. The day after the flight attendant bailed on the emergency chute, I heard them talking about who would play him in a movie. It's too much.
Having said that, if someone called me today offering to put my face on shirts and a line of kitchen items as well as patio furniture and men's socks, I'd say "sure". Who am I to deprive the public?

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Jill of All Trades said...

Totally agree with you and I LOVE Ina! She is my fav. I think everyone is so focused on making that buck or hitting the big time that they forget the passion that put them on the path (Guy F). It's all about marketing yourself in this day and age I guess.

Marguerite said...

I kinda have a different take on this type of saturation. If people are willing to buy your designer cookware, or candles, or anything else, why not go for it! After all, it's all part of the American dream, and if people didn't like you, then they wouldn't buy your stuff. :)