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Those of us who write books on manners, as well as parents and educators who are trying to raise children to become civil, nice human beings, are only voices crying in the wilderness. The TV commercials are hurting, not helping.

There's a marked increase in milking laughs from blatantly rude people in order to sell products. People in the commercials who exhibit anti-social behavior are wonderfully funny for one second and then appalling the second. Just two recent examples:

In the Fat-free Snackwell's Cereal Bars commercial (Nabisco), a Caspar Milquetoast-type is handing out samples in the supermarket. A woman tries and likes one of the cookies and asks for more. He tells her there's not nearly enough to go around. She then empties his tray into her bag-stealing them, in a child's eyes, and preventing anyone else from having them. (A really nice way to act!)

In the Diet Sprite commercial an upset young woman takes a seat at the counter next to a handsome young stranger. She tells him all men are liars and bad news. She keeps asking him what he's drinking; he replies "Diet Sprite" each time. Yelling "Liar!" she takes his full glass and throws all of it in his face and over his clothes. Really great comportment to teach a child. Why waste time on a woman who's obviously ready for the loony bin when there are so many great people out there who are clever and attractive?

We have a tough enough time trying to bring up a society of children who will be kind and polite. We don't need the ad industry to make it worse. Help us out-use that wonderful creativity of yours to make people behave better, not worse!

Letitia Baldrige


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