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Review: Calvin Klein As Kiddie Porn

Geier, T. (1995, September, 11). Really Blue Jeans. U.S. News & World Report, 119(10), 12.

Summary

(Download Really Blue Jeans overview as a PDF)

“You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” This statement is exactly what 15-year-old Brooke Shields said in 1980 while wearing a pair of skintight Calvin Klein denim jeans.

Critics are now clapping because they feel like they have finally won a small battle against Klein and what columnist John Leo refers to as his “kiddie porn.” After many years of sexually explicit advertisements, Klein “abruptly withdrew his ad campaigns” that feature “denim-clad teenagers in provocative poses…”.

However, many experts advise that critics should not celebrate too soon. Although Klein has withdrawn his ad campaign, he has at the same time drawn a good deal of attention to himself, and more importantly, to his jeans. Advertisers want public exposure, lots of it. This is exactly what Klein is getting. But does he deserve it? “While the company spent relatively small sums on the ads, the controversy has produced bushels of gratis media exposure. All the fuss appears to have lifted Klein’s jeans sales out of a five-year slump.”

Furthermore, who are the critics of these “kiddie porn” ads? Geier argues that “The in-your-face ads seem to have resonated with the target audience. Retailers are reporting the jeans are a hot-ticket item in this back-to-school shopping season.” This could also be a generational conflict, with parents fighting their children. Youth are not only accepting these “kiddie porn” images, but they are spending money because of them.

Questions for Reflections and Discussion

  1. Why are the people these ads are most detrimental to (youth), literally buying into the very ads that depict them in negative ways?
  2. In your opinion, what is pornography?
  3. What does this advertising campaign-and the revolt against it-say about our society, specifically in regards to youth and adults?
  4. Would you boycott a brand of clothing because of its provocative or negative advertisements? Explain.
  5. Do you think youth admired Brooke Shields? Is this good or bad?

Implications

Advertisements are constantly bombarding youth. Youth workers need to understand what is so intriguing about these ads and why youth are willing to spend money on the products these ads sell? Young people also need to understand why adults are the greatest critics of the very ads that they love most. Without open discussion, rebellion will occur, and youth will get hurt because they are learning their values from ads instead of from parents.

Patricia Morrison Batten
© 2018 CYS

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