Macy’$ parade – no profit$ left behind

By Tom Joyce -
Tom Joyce -

I always considered Thanksgiving one of the few holidays that hasn’t been totally commercialized.

Sure, there’s the Black Friday aspect of the Thanksgiving weekend and its reputation as the biggest shopping day of the year. But as for the holiday itself, that Thursday is still sacred — being set aside for families to sit around, enjoy a feast and be thankful for their blessings.

Yet a notable exception to that Norman Rockwell scene was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday, which provided a hint that Thanksgiving also is an endangered species when it comes to the hard-sell mentality so prevalent today.

Due to work or travel, I haven’t been able to see the parade on TV in several years — but there I was this Thanksgiving, perched in the Lazy Boy with a cup of coffee and watching the celebrated procession pass through the Big Apple.

However, I was only able to make it through about two hours of the three-hour telecast, which had me choking on my java due to the rampant commercialism that was as much on display as the floats and balloons.

The first sign of trouble came with an abundance of commercials every five minutes or so. I was able to combat this by using that little button on the remote control which allows you to go back and forth between two channels — in this case CBS and NBC.

So when the inevitable slew of commercials began on one channel, I immediately switched to the other where the parade was still on — of course, sometimes there were ads on both, but you do what you can.

This method also had a down-side: it quickly made me aware of what a commercialized cesspool the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade itself has become, basically just one big ad.

Sure there were the familiar Charlie Brown, Felix the Cat and other cartoon character floats, the giant turkeys, etc., that have long been parts of the event.

Most of the entries, though, seemed to exist strictly to sell or promote something for commercial gain.

Bands such as Fitz and the Tantrums and other so-called up-and-coming artists stood on floats for lip-synched performances, which as it just so happened, coincided with the release of their new albums or tour schedules, the TV audience was dutifully informed.

In some cases, the artists lacked the decency to ride in the parade at all. For example, the broadcasts included footage of what appeared to be studio or other indoor performances by Sting of rock fame and also country music’s Miranda Lambert.

Those were spliced into the parade coverage as if the performers were really part of the procession. In my view, Sting and the others should only have received such exposure if they were willing to ride atop an open-air float.

The same was true with parade units shamelessly promoting the latest Broadway plays. This included what looked to be a scene from “The Color Purple” which obviously was shot beforehand inside a theater and not on the streets. Somehow it was presented as part of the parade, but actually was just an advertisement for ticket sales.

Even some of the cartoon characters in the Macy’s parade had a sinister side, in terms of blatant commercialism.

When a Hello Kitty balloon rolled by, viewers were reminded of the lineup of Hello Kitty toys, merchandise and clothing sold at retail outlets and online.

The appearance of the Pikachu character on the screen was accompanied by the message of two new video games being released by the Pokemon franchise of which Pikachu is part.

When a float rolled by with venerable singer Tony Bennett aboard alongside Miss Piggy, I thought, well here’s a tribute to nostalgia and a genuine honor for a man who has long been a part of the American music scene.

As it turned out, Bennett and Miss Piggy’s performance of a duet of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was a promotion for a TV special scheduled to be aired next month celebrating Bennett’s 90th birthday.

There were some good moments in Thursday’s parade, such as a stirring rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” performed by a high school marching band from Texas, and an appearance by a band made up of New York City police officers.

While one network devoted a good chunk of time to discussing the history behind the band and the vintage Harold the Policeman balloon accompanying it, the other immediately launched into a series of commercials.

(I guess there’s no money to be made from police, despite officers being out in force Thursday to protect parade-goers.)

Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce Joyce

By Tom Joyce