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Britney and the cream soda

January 28, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

I was not among those who were fans of Britney Spears when she was popular, and I see no particular reason to pile on with those who are reveling in her misfortune now that she has fallen on hard times.

I will, in fact, make no comment at all concerning Ms. Spears, and will confine my attention to those who have been obsessed with her, either on the way up, or on the way down.

These are the same people who are responsible for me being stuck drinking diet cream soda this weekend.

Perhaps I should explain.

The Spearophiles, and others like them, are frightening creatures.

They make up that enigmatic class otherwise known as the American public.

Spears could be the poster child representing victims of the fickle nature of Americans.

This may be the only way in which Spears and I are alike. We are both victims of volatile consumerism, although in drastically different ways.

Spears illustrates that things can become intensely popular very quickly, in some cases almost overnight.

This phenomenon can be as powerful as it is inexplicable. It seems to stem from a sort of herd mentality.

For some people, being seen to go along with the group is more important than understanding or caring about the subject of the hype.

Those who prefer to think for themselves are often left wondering what all the excitement is about.

Then, just as quickly, the tide of public opinion can turn, and that which was once popular can suddenly become a joke, and the subject of derision and scorn.

Those who blindly jumped on the bandwagon to support a rising star now can’t wait to distance themselves.

This quick change of position can be a bit mean, and a bit sad.

Americans have a remarkably short attention span and an even shorter memory.

Perhaps these fair-weather fans have a flash of realization and are embarrassed because they can’t figure out what they saw in a person or thing in the first place, and now, they are tripping over themselves as they rush to disassociate themselves from that which they once adored.

This embarrassment can make them mean.

Spears is a victim of public opinion. She may not have deserved all of the hype she received earlier, and she may not deserve all of the criticism she is receiving now.

I don’t know, and I really don’t care whether she does or doesn’t. I have not burdened myself with any of the details of her apparently complicated life, other than those that are thrust upon us in the headlines every time one turns around. I can safely say that I am ambivalent about Ms. Spears, and my only interest in her situation is from a popular psychology perspective.

I am a victim of the same capricious public that has been tormenting Spears, but in a very different way, and that brings us to the cream soda.

My woes stem not from public opinion itself, but from the marketing industry’s attempts to outmaneuver the American consumer.

Marketers understand the short attention span of the American public, and its overwhelming need to have only the latest and greatest version of everything.

They know that Americans quickly grow bored, and need frequent change to keep them interested.

It is because of this understanding that marketers are constantly changing the packaging of the products we buy.

Some of these changes are small, some are more dramatic, but the end result is that, in addition to keeping the look of products fresh to satisfy fickle consumers, it can be a bit confusing.

So it was that when I left the office on Friday afternoon and stopped at the local grocery store to lay in some provisions for a frigid Minnesota weekend, I made a terrible mistake.

In my haste to get back on the road, rather than grabbing a certain popular brand of root beer that sounded good at the time, I ended up with a dozen cans of the company’s diet cream soda.

I did not detect this error until several hours later when I kicked back in the La-Z-Boy, popped a top, and found my throat filled with a vile and unexpected liquid.

With all due respect to the manufacturer and those who actually enjoy this stuff, I must make it clear that I have never been a fan.

I do not drink cream soda, and I certainly do not drink diet cream soda.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered the diabolical design that led me to such a horrible fate.

The brand logo was large and prominently displayed on the package. The cream soda part was written, almost as an afterthought, in small, unobtrusive script below and off to the side.

This is a very poor presentation for such an important piece of information. When a guy wants a root beer, he wants root beer, and a cream soda definitely does not satisfy the requirements.

Being a man of limited funds, I will keep the cream soda, but every time I choke down a can of the wretched stuff, I will be reminded of the volatile nature of the American public, and will curse those who drive manufacturers to change the packaging all of the stinking time, and as a result, force us to stop and carefully read labels when we shop.

I might even think about poor Britney Spears and the way this same public built her up and then cast her aside.