What Would Mall Madness Do?: Unlimited corporate spending

Posted at 5:00 AM Jan 28, 2010

By Tolly Moseley


This week's "What Would __ Do?" post is brought to you by VICTORIA'S SECRET! On behalf of awesome Heartless Doll writers with equally awesome boobs, we encourage you to read this post! At HEARTLESS DOLL and VICTORIA'S SECRET, we support women, and we support boobs, too. Thank you, America.

I'm just kidding. This week's post is not brought to you by a corporate sponsor. You see, I'm still trying to sort out my thoughts regarding last week's Supreme Court ruling on unlimited corporate spending on elections, and wanted to know, however briefly, what it would feel like to conflate my own "free speech" with a company that paid for it. From the Los Angeles Times:

"In a landmark 5-4 decision, the court's conservative bloc said that corporations had the same right to free speech as individuals, and for that reason the government could not stop corporations from spending to help their favored candidates."

What a GRAND IDEA. By which I mean, WTF SRSLY, Supreme Court?

I'm sorry, but personally, I don't buy the argument that this is purely a "free speech" issue. Especially since this decision was reached by five justices who were Republican nominees, but that is beside the point. The point is: corporations and people ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Now, it's my right as a natural born citizen of the United States, operating under the First Amendment, that allows me to say that. Thank you, First Amendment! (Seriously, no snark here.) Of course, Wal-Mart could issue a press release right now saying it plans to watch Sex & The City and paint its fingernails next Tuesday, but that would be silly, wouldn't it? It would never do that, because we know how to distinguish speech from a person and speech from a corporation.

But. If you walk your fingers down a few amendments to the Fourteenth, corporations are legally "people," and as such are accorded equal rights to free speech. They are 100 percent allowed to personify their corporations through ads, and now, run as many ads for political candidates as they want to. And that is the deploringly ridiculous reason that Hillary: The Movie helped undo 100 years of campaign finance restrictions.

So let's not pretend this is a lofty point of free speech contention and that's that. This is not a straight-up Democrat vs. Republican thing, either, as one majorly important Republican co-authored a bill 8 years ago limiting party contributions, and the ruling also applies to labor unions. No, what we are arguing about here is the larger balance between government and corporations (and yes, that does appear to be what we it's always about). We are arguing whether or not the speech from a single working mom should be treated as the same speech from Exxon-Mobile. Because, you know, her ability to sway millions of Americans on their elected leaders may be a little different than fucking Exxon's.

Since this column is actually not about campaign finance laws, but about people and things from our collective memory of the '80s and '90s, I got to thinking ... was there ever a time when a corporation DID speak to me? And then I remembered a little game called Mall Madness, which literally talked to me all the time. Out of a small, battery-activated box. How did I feel about the Mall Voice talking to me then? Pretty pumped! How would I feel about the Mall Voice talking to me now? In light of this way more grown-up version of personified corporations, I am not so sure. What would Mall Madness do with regard to corporate campaign spending, then? It's after the jump.


1. We never questioned "Mall Voice."

In Mall Madness, you had the option of paying for things in cash, or paying with your credit card. But it was ALWAYS more fun to pay with a credit card, because then the Mall Voice would talk to you. And whether it said, "Ohh, long line! Try again later!" or "All players go to the ATM!" we always obeyed whatever it told us. Now that I am currently watching an ad by the Corn Refiners Association explaining to me that high fructose corn syrup is both "Natural!" and "Fine in moderation!" I am wishing I had played a game that taught me to do the exact opposite, i.e, QUESTION EVERYTHING A CORPORATE ENTITY MIGHT TELL ME.

(Sidenote: Corporate ads = boo; corporate-funded political ads = DOUBLE boo, but DIY ads like this one = big win. Why exactly is Diane Benson illustrating her political experience with images of her scooping up dog poop? Made all the more delightful by the fact that the opening trumpet note sounds exactly like a fart? I don't know, but I'll take it.)

2. Mall Voice would tell you how you messed up.

Case in point: "You left your lights on. Go to the parking lot." This was always so frustrating, as the whole point of the game was to out-shop everyone else and THEN head out to the parking lot. But as with the credit card directives, we always obeyed the rules. Now, leaping over to commercials: we've all seen those ads that like to focus on our mistakes, maybe even use a little fear-mongering (such as this one, which likens internet porn to a cheetah). And again, I'm slightly uncomfortable by how early I was conditioned to drop everything and go do what a STORE instructed, even if that was to correct a fictional mistake I never actually made in the first place.

3. Sometimes, the Mall Voice would tell you how to feel.

For example: "You're hungry. Meet a friend at the Pizza Place!" What? I'm not hungry. Wait, am I? As an adult lady, I cannot tell you how many times I am encouraged to "listen to my body,"  or to "give my body what it needs," and so on. But it's really hard when food ads mix up your signals, and also if you played a little bit of Mall Madness as a kid. Stop telling me how my stomach and I feel, Mall Voice.

4. The Mall Madness mall had a "Men's Shop," but not a "Women's Shop."

I'm not sure if I have anything to say about that with regards to corporate advertising or campaign finance reform, but, weird?

5. Today's version of Mall Madness is brought to you by Hannah Montana.

From the manufacturer:

"Hit the stores to see what bling bling you can cha ching! Get some steals and deals on clearance but be careful not to totally max out. Hook up with your friends and catch a movie or head out for some ice cream. Then meet up with Hannah Montana and you can borrow her credit card and charge up a storm. Buy six items and reach your final destination first and you are the shopping queen of this make-believe mall scene!"

So now, instead of the Mall Voice telling young girls what to do/feel, we've got a teen idol telling young girls what to do/feel. Awesome.

Note to political candidates: If Hannah Montana graces one of your campaign ads, EVER, there will be serious hell to pay.


Susan said:

This whole corporations are people thing needs some reworking, mostly because of the whole lack of conscience thing. But who I am to argue with some two hundred or so years of precedent. It's clearly gone well so far.

josie said:

...just one more toy my future possible children will NEVER own.

Allison said:

This whole corporation=person thing brings up a lot of interesting points, including:
1. If corporations are people, does that mean business acquisitions are outlawed under the Thirteenth Amendment? Because technically, that's a person buying a person. AKA SLAVERY.
2. Also, doesn't this mean that porn companies shouldn't be able to buy their own products until they're 18 years old?


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