Ratner look at issues regarding advertising and children in this memoir and parenting-advice book.
The author’s father, a Minneapolis marketing executive, brought home the family’s first television set when Ratner was in kindergarten. The young boy watched a variety of TV shows, including Dragnet and The Ernie Kovacs Show—and even sometimes watched test patterns. Ratner also consumed all sorts of other media, from magazines to radio, and even created his own block-wide radio broadcast as a kid. As an adult, he talked his way into a job selling radio advertising time and then voiced the ads and took on other on-air work. That led to his big break as the voice of Flint for the 1980s animated series G.I. Joe. But although Ratner was steeped in the world of media and messaging, he had a healthy distrust of it. He’d learned from his father how advertisers manipulate viewers, particularly children, so he went on to create an educational program for grade-schoolers about the effects of ads. The personal anecdotes that make up the bulk of this book are lively and warm. He includes tidbits about how he raised his own daughters with far stricter limits on media exposure than he had, as well as longer passages about the marketing efforts behind juggernauts such as the Barbie and G.I. Joe franchises. The best parts of Ratner’s story, however, are rooted in the past. The true complexity of today’s parenting, when TV is the least of one’s digital worries, never comes through. As a result, the promise of the book’s subtitle, “The Truth Behind the Media’s Effect on Children and What to Do About It,” is never fulfilled. This is too bad, as Ratner’s stories of his childhood and his later adult skepticism didn’t need to be wrapped up in a “digital-age parenting” package—they could have stood very well on their own.
A fine personal narrative, but readers will likely want more practical parenting tips.