I remember that when I was young it was always a special day when I got to stay home from school. Whatever the reason, one thing was always for certain. I would get to watch the Price is Right.
Recently, I began to watch this show again. My interest in it now is quite different. Where I used to marvel at the prizes, now I am enthralled by the very idea of this game. The issue that I take with the Price is Right is that it builds young capitalists - and in a unique way that is not really matched elsewhere.
So let's start off with the basics. The Price is Right is about winning prizes. Right? Well, although that is true, it is centred (as the title suggests) on knowing the price for a wide variety of goods and services. Accordingly, this show helps to shape, even from a young age, notions of value. Rather than teaching people that value is a social construct, the Price is Right reinforces the "absolute" nature of value. This differentiation is quite important - it promotes the supremacy of the capitalist system by affixing concrete monetary value to all things.
Obviously, the Price is Right isn't the only place that reinforces notions of value, status symbols, or a wide array of other facets of our advanced individualist and capitalist system. Young people are indoctrinated into our system with allowances from parents, with various programmes in school, with television advertisements, and through conversations with peers. However, none of these other media have the same impact as the Price is Right. Although contestants and the audience are always trying to estimate the price (which is the goal is every single challenge), there are millions of people who are playing alone at home, yelling at their televisions. And again, youth make up a good component of this group.
The most unfortunate part of this socialisation is that it is so subtle. Since the Price is Right is a game show, the focus is on "entertainment", and serious questions surrounding indoctrination of young people will be invariably met with dismissal. The show and the network have been making a mint on the idea for decades, and the companies who showcase their products have a vested interest in disguising their marketing as "entertainment".
With all of this said, I still find the show interesting. And often I find myself enraptured by the game - all the while forgetting that I am being told how to fit into our economic system. And that is how powerful the Price is Right is when it comes to socialising us about value and the American dream.