A crude stereotype is the hallmark of a lame card
Went to buy a card the other day for a friend’s birthday. Approached the vast card stand along the side of the wall (why are card rows ALWAYS against a wall?) and found the selection on offer was (c)ardly very good.
Cards typically go one of two ways. Both were pretty evident in this newsagency. There’s the “this is your age in fluoro writing! Congratulations!” genre. They’re fine. Nobody has a problem with them. They’re simple and to the point, a little bland for a good friend though. And then there’s the “dirty joke combined with crude stereotype” card.
They are everything that is wrong with the card business. Many makers of these pieces of cardboard at the heart of our present-giving tradition figure that everyone, male or female, fits neatly into a gender stereotype. For instance, if you’re a bloke, Hallmark and co. assume that your mate Jimmy Jones would love a card with a a beer, a sports-car, an electric guitar or a hot cardboard sheila on the front.
Greeting cards, they’re just so arousing.
If you’re a woman, you’ve got a different selection of things on the front of your card. A lot of the time, cartoon stilettos. Cute animals. A near-naked cartoon dude wearing a cop’s hat.
And when you start pushing your mid-twenties, a joke about getting wrinkles. If you’re a woman who loves beer or a man who’s getting wrinkles, then sorry, no card for you.
Now, cards aren’t the most important thing. In most cases, we just do a polite inspection of them (unless they say something substantial and heartfelt) and then we quickly lunge for the present they’re buddied up with.
The folded pieces of paper provide an important service though. It’s great to receive a card sometimes, filled with wishes. They’re a medium through which we can communicate a message, a thought, a hand of kindness to another.
We’re big on cards. The Australian Greeting Card Association website (...yes, there’s an Australian Greeting Card Association. No, I’m not pulling your leg.) claims that the average Australian consumes 22 cards per annum(!) and we’re the third-biggest card consumers in the world.
The industry could consider itself a critical pillar of the Australian economy. It’s involved in the employment of some 22,000 people, the association claim, and card sales are more than $500 million a year. The Punch wasn’t able to verify the figures as the association’s spokesperson was out of the office yesterday, probably away on pressing card-related business.
It’s difficult to predict the card industry being replaced by e-cards. There’s something that seems a little lazy about the electronic version, even if your e-card is a detailed animation of various people you know singing La Cocharacha. They’re computer generated, rather than hand-written. And with physical cards, someone had to at least go to the newsagents and find an appropriate card for you.
Now, the problem with every card being a crude stereotype not matching reality is one of economics. The card industry is dominated by a few big suppliers aiming at the mass-market.
Perhaps the way of the future for customizable cards. A ‘choose-your-own-card-design’ booth in your newsagents. Where there are cards with messages you can print off that recognise that your friend Sally drives a Ferrari and Bobbo is a big gardener.
Or maybe, unless you’ve got something better to say than just “happy birthday”, we could just ditch the card and put its $6.99 cost towards a better present. You were going to get them a present as well, right?
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