Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers

By Alissa Quart. | Current Affairs. $25.

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


A high schooler wears a Pepsi shirt to school on Coca-Cola day and gets suspended for insurrection. A sixth-grader covets a $500 Kate Spade bag, only to toss it a year later. A family drops $1,400 a day to take an sat tutor along on vacation. These dispatches from a label-obsessed adolescence come courtesy of Alissa Quart, whose new book, Branded, plumbs the depths of contemporary marketing to teens.

In Quart’s view, youthful consumerism doesn’t end at the mall but extends to “self-branding,” as teens burnish their exterior selves and extracurricular credentials in pursuit of social success and admission to a name-brand college. Quart haunts video arcades, chat rooms, and malls, and interviews middle schoolers consulting for Teen People — whose executives lap up the students’ insights on angora and advertising copy.

Quart wants to prove that today’s “branded” teens are a new breed, but her argument overreaches. In particular, she censures the label-mindedness of flicks like Clueless while missing their blatantly satirical bent. After all, Clueless is inspired by Emma, Jane Austen’s classic indictment of vanity that still resonates today — with nary a reference to trend-spotters, brand managers, or marketing directors.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate