Ciara's Reviews > Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds

Buy, Buy Baby by Susan Gregory Thomas
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's review
Feb 02, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: baby-pregnancy-infertility-parentin, read-in-2012
Read in January, 2012

i was stoked to read this book because i have an incomprhensible obsession with reading about people spending money they don't really have on baby stuff & making crazy helicopter parent decisions. but the book was so tedious that i could barely finish it. it was a big disappointment.

the main problem with the book is that thomas grounds her thesis & research in her bizarre obsession with contrasting gen X parenting styles against baby boomer parenting styles. this was a major theme in her memoir in spite of everything as well, & a major reason why i had a hard time getting into the memoir. thomas herself is a classic gen Xer raised by boomer parents who, to hear her tell it, destroyed her life by getting divorced. thomas was pushing 40 by the time she started having kiddos, around ten years ago. had a book examining gen X parenting strategies & styles been published in 2002 or so, perhaps it would have been very timely, capturing the zeitgeist & all that. but this book was published in 2007.

let's do a little math. thomas herself adheres to the traditionally accepted definition of gen X as folks who were born between the mid 1960s & the late 1970s/early 1980s. (full disclosure: i was born in 1979 & don't feel any kinship with gen Xers, who largely seemed to be in college/in the workforce already by the time i was in junior high in the early 90s.) that's about a fifteen-year spread. thomas shares one story in her book about how boomer/X parenting styles were so radically different that they necessitated completely different advertising approaches. boomer parents seemed to be more concerned with gender equity in child care & attending to their own needs even with a new baby in the house, while X parents were more concerned about putting baby first & making sure baby is being properly stimulated & learning new things. the story thomas shares involves a company that developed a TV commercial for a crib mobile based on market research among new moms, who wound up being the tail end of the boomer generation. by the time the ad was ready to roll, a new breed of mom had taken over & they didn't respond well to the ad at all. more market research was done, the ad was reconceptualized & reshot, & X moms loved it. this incident took place in the early 90s.

so. thomas acknowledges that gen X moms suddenly dominated the baby stuff marketing share fifteen years before her book was published...& that the gen X generations spans about fifteen years. wouldn't it then stand to reason that by the time the book was published, the generational torch had been passed & gen X moms had ceded dominance of the new mom category to women my age & younger? i mean, this even assumes that obsessing over generational differences & how they affect parenting & consumer trends isn't ridiculously hacky & embarrassing in the first place.

my feeling is that thomas just completely whiffed it when it comes to catching the zeitgeist of "baby culture" as a marketing phenomenon. entire chapters of the book were devoted to the rise & market dominance of baby einstein products--you know, the same products that were the subject of a class-action lawsuit within the last few years? she writes a bit about the disney princess phenomenon, which was covered in much more detail & care in peggy orenstein's cinderella ate my daughter. she writes at length about "teletubbies," a program that hasn't even been on the air in the united states since 2001--six years before thomas's book was published. i walked away feeling like everything in the book was probably covered in more detail, & in a more timely & relevant fashion, by someone else.

the title also really bothered me. it is literally punctuated as "buy, buy baby". why? if the baby is being exhorted to buy, it should be "buy, buy, baby," because the baby is being addressed. if the baby is instead being described as a baby that likes to or is compelled to buy things, shouldn't it be something like "buy-buy baby"? there would be no comma is "buy buy" was being employed as an adjective. i can't think of any possible meaning that would necessitate thomas's punctuation choice. how did an editor not catch this? the title is in huge letters on the cover of the book, with a comma as big as a silver dollar. come on, people.


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