“Pay to Opt-Out” Advertising

I hate the circus. I will not be taking my kid(s) to a circus. I reckon this will warrant an eye roll from some. I’m OK with that. That’s how much I hate the circus.

There are few things I am passionate about. There are even fewer things I have deemed off limits when it comes to how I raise my son. My kid is allowed to watch TV. He is allowed to play with iPads, iPhones, and computers. He’s allowed to play games. He eats candy, drinks cocoa and consumes dessert every day. He’s allowed to stay up late and sleep in his clothes sometimes. I’ve taken him to Disney World. He’s even been to the Bronx Zoo.

But circuses (and Sea World!) are off limits.

I realize this might open me up to attack. Given what I’ve written above, it likely stinks of hypocrisy. But until the circus stops enslaving/abusing animals, we won’t be giving them a dime.

Today I was cleaning the apartment while Em was playing. He brought out a bunch of books and started building a “car” around himself and a stuffed bear. I asked him what he was doing and he said, “We’re going to the circus!”

I laughed and then asked, “Where did you hear about the circus?”

“On the television.”

“Which show were you watching about the circus?”

“It was a commercial, mama.”

Em doesn’t watch much live TV. We will rent family movies via our AppleTV. He watches shows on OnDemand or previously recorded TV shows. Very, very rarely do I turn on Nick Jr or PBS, but they don’t show circus advertisements. They don’t really show advertisements at all. So I wondered, again, what had he been watching that showed him a circus?

“Do you remember what TV show you were watching?” I asked him again.

“Nope.” He answered, still playing.

My guess is that it was one of the seasonal shows we had on during the holidays. We do watch soccer and football together, but they don’t usually show circus advertisements. They show fast food advertisements (almost as bad) and ads featuring chesty, hot women and beer toting idiots, but that’s a different type of circus, one he doesn’t yet care for or understand.

“Em, we won’t be going to the circus as a family. I will take you almost anywhere else you want to go, but the circus is a no-no.”

“I’m just pretending, mama.”

And then I just felt bad—too political and uppity for a 3-year-old and his active imagination. He has no desire to actually go to the circus. He was just pretending. But his mama had to get all indignant.

I felt like an ass.

Networks often refuse ads from certain companies. In 2009, NBC refused to air a Super Bowl ad created by Peta. It was deemed too sexually explicit. (Which is hilarious given what they show every other year, but that’s a post for another day.) I was annoyed with NBC’s decision to block the Peta advertisement. But as a cable consumer, I am nothing.

Peta wasn’t the only company turned away. In 2010 an ad from the gay dating Web site ManCrunch.com was rejected as well.

Talking to my son gave me a brainstorm. Since cable companies pick and choose what it is we’re shown, would you, the cable consumer, pay your cable provider a small amount each month to opt out of seeing certain advertisements from certain companies? Like, say you could tell them, “I don’t want to see anything from McDonald’s.” Behold, no more McDonald’s ads.

Now, I obviously have no idea what type of software and/or programming would go into such a thing, but the idealist in me wonders: if it were possible, would people use it?

Because I would.

And I’d start with the circus. ;]


  1. Actually, I love most ads more than most tv. Besides, I can’t imagine how expensive that technology would be for them to implement, so I’m sure the reaming they give me each month would be even higher. I do wish that I could pick and choose what stations to get and not have to skim past stations that I never watch (CMT for example) when I’m channel surfing.


  2. Mostly I’m a lurker here (I think I may have commented on something last year), and I love your blog and your outlook in general. Your “let’s try it and see” spirit to cooking is inspiring, and I love hearing about your feline shenanigans.

    That said, I can’t agree with your broad indictment of circuses. Not all circuses are created evil.

    The circus I grew up with, the Big Apple Circus, doesn’t use exotic animals at all. The animals it does use (horses, dogs, sometimes birds) have all been trained using the same techniques we would use raising them as pets. Still others (Cirque du Soleil being the most notable) use no animals at all, relying instead on
    human talent and ingenuity to entertain.

    The kind of joy, wonder, and care generated by people-circuses is a celebration of what makes us special, and is antithetical to the blast-your-ears-out spectacle of the big three-ring circuses that use and abuse animals (and performers). Please be mindful of this before painting the two with the same brush.

    Joy in the capability of the human brain to create humor, and wonderment at the extraordinary things we are can do with dedication and love deserve to be celebrated. Joy at sharing these abilities with others, and joy at the connection we all feel when bound with rapt attention, merits sharing. Happiness, which can only be gotten humanely, should be spread :)

    Also: If the paid-tv companies would let us opt out of commercials, I might actually consider owning a TV again. I grew up on PBS, with weekend freebies for cartoons, and can’t stand advertisements. It may not be legal, but watching my shows (I can’t believe I just said that phrase) on the internet saves me that hassle, and saves about 15 minutes for every “hourlong” show.


    1. I actually wrote that I don’t include Cirque du Soleil in my circus boycott. I then deleted it because I figured that was a given. Cirque du Soleil is amazing. The human spectacle is absolutely stunning. The circus and Cirque du Soleil are two very different things in my eyes. I assumed, based on what I wrote above, that I people would understand I meant circuses that include animals.

      My son will get joy in many, many ways. I promise everyone of that. But a circus (that includes animals, specifically exotic ones) won’t be one of those ways. :]


  3. I agree with you about the circus (that uses animals). I was offered 2 tickets to a circus that comes through this town and turned them down because I WILL NOT attend. I’ve never taken my 5 year old to a circus, and never plan to. If he wants to go, he can take himself when he has his own money and car.

    I’m going to stop because the whole thing makes me angry!

    P.S. I LOVE Cirque du Soleil. No animals. Lots of hard work by human beings.


  4. I actually have found that commercials are a good conversation starter with my kids. We, too, are opposed to the circus. When the commercials were on, it provided a great opportunity to discuss it with my kids. My 6 year old definitely understands our reasons; my 3.5 year old is just starting to really get it. It’s been really interesting to watch my 6 year old’s ability to digest what we tell him about the treatment of animals. We would have had those discussions without commercials, but I think seeing them did spur on some of his thinking about it.


  5. Cool idea! I just wish the cable/satellite companies would let us just pay for the channels we want, rather than a giant bundle of channels I don’t give a rat’s ass for. I end up just making a favorites list with just the ones I want to see anyway!

    PS. You’re right, animal circuses are terrible things.


  6. I agree with everything in this post! My kids won’t be going to Sea World or the Circus. I don’t like either places.

    I also didn’t like the zoo, but after research & with a college professor going into detail the work that the zoos do…I changed my mind.

    After the Sea World killer whale incidents as well as watching “The Cove”, I just can’t bear Sea World. The circus is scary- the loud noises & horribly trapped animals is just horrendous to watch. I didn’t stay for the whole thing because the tigers didn’t seem happy & I could see myself on “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” or something.


  7. Oh yes!
    We don’t have a tv, but if we did, I’d certainly pay for an opt out of certain comercials.
    Circus, mcdonalds, nestlé, and oh so many others.
    Because, you know, we’ve never gone to a cricus with animals either. And we won’t until they stop abusing the animals (so sadly, probably never).


  8. “Since cable companies pick and choose what it is we’re shown, would you, the cable consumer, pay your cable provider a small amount each month to opt out of seeing certain advertisements from certain companies?”

    If it was possible, absolutely! No more loud, screeching commercials!

    I’m also not a huge fan of circuses that use animals for entertainment. Elephants and tigers really aren’t meant to be in those kind of environments so it’s confusing when they go nuts and people act all surprised..


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