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For a very long time, it was the Wiggles. 2-year-old son was so powerfully into the Wiggles that his dad braved the two-hour drive from Charlottesville, Virginia, to D. Murray and the other guys at a live show. I actually first learned this lesson—about targeted advertising’s mixture of creepy attentiveness and rote obliviousness—the hardest way, even before my computer was overtaken by Australian kid rock. When my boys were small, my computer was a pipeline to their imaginative lives. For years, I was served ads for small plastic raincoats and Spider-Man accouterments. And then my eldest son started middle school and got a Chromebook and it all stopped.
Two years later his little brother started middle school, got a Chromebook, and it really all stopped. My initial relief at no longer being the target of the tween boy advertising industrial complex was short-lived. To be sure, I still hate Club Penguin and its extortionate ways with the heat of a million melted ice caps. But as any parent will tell you, you come to mourn the last thing only because nobody told you it was the last thing. And maybe even the Wiggles a little. I now love to watch TV commercials with my sons, who are currently in seventh and ninth grade, because they are hilariously and singularly bitter about manipulation and branding in ways that only children whose asshole parents deprived them of television as kids can be.