Core Response No. 3 - Week 6
Television, Right on Target
by Bobby Sevenich
Like most kids, I frequently (and begrudgingly) ran errands with mom, and Target was a habitual stop on the route. Of course, when I was very young I was required to stay at my mom’s side while she shopped, but I savored the moments when we passed by the aisles of toys and games. As I got older, my recreational preferences shifted from playing with action figures to watching movies. After a certain age, I was allowed to temporarily separate from my mom so she could look for what she wanted and I could peruse through the movie section. Browsing through the electronics section helped pass the time while I waited for my mom to complete her shopping.
At the ends of VCR/DVD racks, TVs monitors were mounted and played looped programs advertising a given month’s upcoming video and music releases through alacritous montages film clips. Though I salivated while gazing at the DVDs on the shelves, I also used that solitary time to watch the promotional video so I was on top of the home video release calendar. I distinctly remember that the looped videos delineated the time I spent away from my mother; two cycles of the video accounted for roughly ten minutes away from my mom. Once I measured two cycles, I knew it was time to meet my mom at the front of the store. From an early age, television was not only an omnipresence in many of my public experiences, but TV monitors also validated my wait time while shopping with my mom – corroborating McCarthy’s argument that “watching is a way of passing time suddenly legitimized when it takes place in waiting environments” (Television While You Wait, 199).
This past weekend, I took a customary trip to Target and ventured into the electronics section (as I often do, but typically without a critical agenda). Thank goodness for consistency, because just as before the TV screens—though more conspicuous—loomed above the plastic shelves of new Blu-ray/DVD releases. It was evident that the TV screens served an obvious hegemonic purpose; they were merely marketing tools for Target. Equally, the adjacent section promoted interactive video games on assorted flat-screen TVs for purchase. These set not only showcased the ideal videogames for which the TVs were meant to bolster but also promote themselves through the demonstration. This is an obvious observation. While Target is an explicitly concerned with consumerism and the Target shoppers are “well aware of the store’s commercial purpose” (Ibid, 214), I couldn’t help but consider McCarthy’s claim that TVs in these spaces “have a key structural role in the flow economy of television, working to direct attention toward a commercial address during a period of waiting” (Ibid, 214). I wonder how—or even if—the screens and their cyclical promotional programs in Target and other retail stores continue to demarcate wait time for me and other shoppers.