Boo-Hiss Award — Target

by Katy on August 12, 2010 · 33 comments

It’s time again to roll out the garbage picked red carpet for the fabulous, glamorous and downright fantabulous Boo-Hiss Awards. So book your stylist and draw up a vial of botulism, because the day you’ve been waiting for is finally here.

Normally, I give out a number of Boo-Hiss Awards at once, but today’s goes entirely to Target.

Yes, Target.

The Target that is not only currently getting flack for a $150,000 donation to an organization that is supporting an anti-gay rights Minnesota State Representative candidate, but is also concurrently running a back-to-school commercial featuring the Free To Be You and Me anthem. The very same song that makes me feel all teary whenever I hear it. A song that was not meant to sell stuff. A song that was written to let children know that they were perfect just the way they were. Not in better clothes, not with better toys and certainly not with fancier school supplies.

For those not in the know, Free To Be You and Me was a compilation project the included a book and TV special from such esteemed folk as Marlo Thomas, Judy Blume, Shel Silverstein, Gloria Steinem, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Carl Reiner. Not Anita Bryant!

The book addressed issues of gender equality with songs and stories such as “William Wants a Doll,”  “Ladies First,” “Boy Meets Girl” and Carol Channing’s classic “Housework.”

Girls didn’t have to be pretty, and boys didn’t have to be tough. It was alright to cry, but also okay to be strong. And it was all irrelevant to gender or consumerism.

I do see that the Target commercial starts with three triplets who are wearing the same school uniforms and ends with three individuals, but a clever commercial does not erase the actuality of a store full of Disney Princess and tough guy consumer goods. A store that normally shows skinny models laughing their heads off while enjoying brooms, cleaners and other items of traditional female drudgery.

So Boo-Hiss to you Target for targeting all of us whose 1970’s childhoods were full of hope of gender equality, to sell yet more crap like plastic rulers and locker organizing systems.

I leave you with a video of Roberta Flack and a young Michael Jackson singing about “When We Grow Up.”  I dare you to watch this video and not get even the least bit steamy.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen August 12, 2010 at 12:30 pm

It’s too bad that Michael didn’t learn from that song.


Marti August 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

That Target ad bugs me on so many levels. I totally agree about the song and way they twisted it.


Christy August 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I live in the Minneapolis area which is where Target is headquartered. Anything Target does is big news here, including the $150,000 donation to the organization that is supporting the anti-gay candidate Tom Emmer. Interestingly, Emmer’s opponent Mark Dayton is the great-grandson of the founder of Dayton’s Department Stores which started Target in the 1960s. Tom Emmer also got a lot of criticism about a month ago because he wanted to cut the minimum wage for restaurant servers because he said some of them make $100,000 a year (not too likely)!

I remember Free To Be You and Me from my childhood. I didn’t think too much about Target using the song in their commerical before but now it definitely bothers me.


Natalie August 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I loved Target – we regularly spent hundreds of dollars there every few months, just getting bits and pieces for our new house and clothes and whatnot.

Not so much any more. They’ve apologised, but as far as I know, haven’t matched their political donation with one to a LGBT organisation. So I won’t be going back. It sucks, but some things are more important than stuff.


Linda August 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I never shop at Target, but my daughter does. When I tell her about the support of the anti-gay candidate, Target will have lost her as a customer!


Anne August 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Very sad and disappointing to read this about Target.


Martha August 12, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I would love to know what Marlo Thomas thinks about Target using “her” music – synonymous, to people of my generation, with acceptance and diversity – in their ad. I think she should sue. I used to like Target, too. No more.


Susan August 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I think she (or at least her representatives) already know, seeing as they would have to have paid for the right to use the song.


Deb August 12, 2010 at 6:08 pm

I saw this in the news and was disgusted as well.

Thanks to the disastrous Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to make unlimited campaign donations, we’ll be seeing a lot more ugly `Target-like’ behavior.

No more Target for us either. We’ve spread the news and want more people to do the same.


Mary August 13, 2010 at 5:16 am

I agree, the supreme court decision is shameful. Corporations are more important that citizens in our country because they have more money to buy elections.
– Shop local!


Beth D. August 13, 2010 at 6:41 am

I also was going to mention about the S.C. ruling that allows unlimited corporate donations to politicians. I think all contributions should be from real people and capped at a certain amount. It seems like all companies donate to horrible candidates as long as they are promised low regulation of their industry!

Lately I’ve been shopping less there anyway due to almost everything they sell is made in China.


Anne August 13, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Agreed. The SC decision is disgusting.


Lena August 12, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Not a big deal to me. I respect people’s opinions. Some people oppose homosexuality on the basis of religion, and I understand that. After all, aren’t we all supposed to be individuals? I think people forget that individuality comes with opposing beliefs/morals some times.


Beth D. August 13, 2010 at 6:43 am

So wouldn’t a corporation benefit more from supporting everyone equally and not alienating a specific group of people?


Beth D. August 13, 2010 at 6:44 am

..because Target IS a corporation, and not an “individual” after all.


Donna Besst August 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

agreed Beth


Anne August 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Agreeing with Beth. Target is a Corporation, not an Individual.

Aleisha August 19, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I agree with Lena. It’s not really that serious and people have a right to their opinions.


Donna Besst August 12, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Hummmm.Free to be you and me.. huh..just not! I was already bothered by Target for so many reasons but will not shop there now. I too believe that people have a right to their own opinions Lena, however when we allow ourselves to just go with the flow and not be bothered by inequality weather we think homosexuality is a religious “problem” or not..we allow the seeds to hatred to sprout. I’m sorry that it’s no big deal to you…It’s a huge deal to many.


Shannon August 13, 2010 at 8:30 am

Others are free to disagree with homosexuality or anything else. And individuals certainly have the right to support candidates who share their beliefs. However, when big companies, who no doubt how their fair share of gay customers, use profits to influence elections, something is just rotten. And I totally agree with what others have said about the Supreme Court decision. I too believe it should be individuals and capped, otherwise big companies or simply the super-rich who can afford unlimited support of candidates would have unbalanced power in every election. Company OWNERS should have every right to give to whatever candidate he or she chooses but not the company itself and not in the hundreds of thousands (or millions).

Needless to say I’m appalled by the ad. I wonder who actually owns the rights to the songs. It may very well be that Marlo Thomas doesn’t actually have any legal power in this.


Lisa August 13, 2010 at 9:55 am

Shame on Target! I’m glad to know that I’m not missing out on anything associated with them. We don’t have any of their stores in my area, and I wouldn’t shop there if we did.


Anne August 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Actually Marlo doesn’t own the rights. The group that sings it is The New Seekers. They also did the famous Coke Commercial “I would like to teach the world to sing.”


Anne August 13, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Here is their website.


KrisR August 14, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I was a child alone in a small town library, waiting for my mother to pick me up after her day at work. The library a few blocks from my middle school and a librarian who happened to be a neighbor (many summer days spent reading at her house and swimming in her pool). When the album Free To Be You and Me came out she was eager to share it with me. It was the best thing my young ears had heard! I spend day after day waiting, (but hoping my mother would be late) listening to the songs with huge earphones, too big for my head and blaring those lyrics…”I see a land bright and clear, and the time’s comin’ near, When we’ll live in this land, you and me, hand in hand”… so when last week while cleaning and kids watching tv I heard the song start up I ran to see as I started singing to the tune only to find it a commercial for Target…*heart drops here* That was an anthem for my free to be youth, my shining light to ANY bright future I wanted. What I had hoped would be a dawning of a revitalization of the album for my childrens generation turns out to be selling clothes and goods I dont care to buy. (Not to mention their giving $ to anti gay candidates..Yikes!) What I do care to buy is an old record player so I can listen again and let me kids listen too, to a message of hope and empowerment that still resonates today. I wish you all are Free To Be!!!


Katy August 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm


What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it.



Julia August 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I haven’t heard “Free to Be You and Me” in so long! I also have so many happy memories of that song, having grown up in the ’70’s. (I think I, at 43, am a year or so older than Katy.) I had not seen that ad and probably would have gone ballistic if I had. Target, I was already boycotting you in support of my gay friends and relatives, but using that song to sell cheap crap just gives more fuel to my fire.


michelle August 17, 2010 at 7:57 am

While I agree with everything being said about Target’s campaign donation and using the song to sell, really, shouldn’t the blame – as far as song usage – land squarely on the shoulders of the song’s rights owners? I mean, Target’s agency had to get permission – and pay for the rights – to use the song. Whoever sold it to them should be ashamed.

I, too, grew up with F2B and my daughter still loves to watch it. The message that TV special gave to boys and girls still rings true two generations later. I am always sad when I hear music with a message used in a commercial way. Do the owners of the songs’ rights really need money that badly??


Katy August 17, 2010 at 8:17 am


I think the thing that gets to me is that I consider the use of this song as advertisement to be emotional manipulation. I know I hear the song and am overcome with happy, positive feelings. And Target is hoping, (and most likely succeeding) in translating that into consumer activity for the people of my generation.

Does that make sense?



Karen August 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm

A good point as long as Target DID get permission. There have been cases in the past in which permission to use a song was not sought but the song was used anyway, and later the songwriter had to sue to stop the company from using the song. We’re talking big companies, like airlines, who didn’t bother to get permission…and in 2008 there were a few songwriters who enjoined political candidates from using their songs.

But does anyone remember how weird it was that Carly Simon allowed her song “Anticipation” to be used in the catsup commercial in the late ’70s? Turns out she really did need the money.


Katy August 21, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Carly Simon “needed” the money? Her family OWNS Simon & Schuster!



Dan August 20, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I don’t remember the song or album from my youth (probably a bit too old), but every time I hear the Target commercial, it does give me warm, happy feelings, like Katy says. But if you accept the premise that a business should be able to advertise (whether it’s Julia’s “cheap crap” or something else), then it seems to me that one should welcome an ad that has a very positive portrayal of girls being free to be themselves–whether it’s a scientist, an athlete or an artist. Please don’t take this to mean that I’m any happier than anyone else here about the Supreme Court decision or large contributions to anti-gay causes.


Britney September 19, 2010 at 8:19 am

I don’t think there is anything wrong with the commercial and song together. Both are telling how it doesn’t matter what you wear even if ur a girl u can be into sports or art. it shows that the three girls are free to be whatever they want to be. Eventhough they are triplets they are different and free to b different things in life. And the anti gay thing everyone doesnt have to support gay people. i dont.


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