Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Energy Hog

Josh Levin has an interesting slide show on Slate today called "Smokey Bear Nation" (here) about the uses of animals to teach children. The site has some nice images and film clips, including Disney's 1944 poster for the U.S. Forest Service featuring characters from Bambi (1942) and the 1952 Federal Civil Defense Administration "Duck and Cover" campaign featuring Bert the Turtle, although you won't get much in-depth analysis of how and why images of animals have been used at different moments in history. Levin does argue that "for Smokey Bear and his animal friends, life is harder now that it was 20 years ago" as a result of the end of compulsory public service announcements that brought widespread public awareness of characters such as Smokey the Bear or Woodsy Owl. Perhaps a sign of how much has changed is the Energy Hog campaign, which creates a villain to loathe rather than a character to emulate. This energy efficiency campaign, launched in 2004 by the Ad Council, The Alliance to Save Energy, and a host of other groups, including Home Depot, is targeted at kids, who are encouraged to play on-line games to defeat the Energy Hog (left) and become a "Hog Buster." You can try to play the game "Hog and Seek" for yourself here. There are also tips for adults about energy conservation at the main site, It's a rather odd campaign, one that plays off all the worst stereotypes about sus scrofa. It might just be me, but there's also something vaguely creepy about the way they've anthropomorphized the pig to create the Energy Hog, who seems vaguely ethnic. Weird.

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