Written by Jackson West and cross-posted on our sister site NewTeeVee
The latest show backed by Next New Networks, ZapRoot, kicks off Wednesday after a soft launch preview on ViroPOP, which claims to be a channel for the “new green generation.” The show is slick and entertaining, and the site follows the familiar template of Next New channels such as IndyMogul and Veracifer.
Unlike Veracfier’s TPMtv from Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall, Zaproot’s not exactly a hard-hitting critique of environmental policy. Instead, it’s a lighthearted treatment of the stories about greening efforts hosted by Kiwi expat Jessica Williamson — and she’s got the bubbly Valley Girl diction down pat. The site’s tag line, “Ummm… we’re like totally Green and stuff…” contributes to the pervasive suburban mall rat sensibility.
Personally, I’m not particularly comfortable with the approach, since — thanks to greenwashing on the part of corporations — it’s becoming more and more difficult to parse the mixed messages. If I didn’t know that producer Sarah Szalavitz and partner Damien Somerset do, in fact, have good intentions, the teaser’s production professionalism would make me suspicious that it’s just an uncritical vehicle for regurgitating press releases from entrepreneurs trying to cash in on the green-tech hype and global warming fears.
Maybe it’s a good sign — while I doubt anyone currently chasing down illegal whaling vessels in a Zodiac or perched in a tree trying to stand in the way of a clearcut will be tuning in, there are millions of families who are more than happy to look for options to continue indulging in consumer capitalism while simultaneously expiating their guilt by buying what they believe is a greener product. And the nerdy circles Szalavitz travels in have been supportive, she assured me. “We’re so excited by how much feedback we got,” she said in a phone interview.
It’s not the job of commercial productions to change the world, though the celebrity spokesmonkeys of the world might want you to believe otherwise. The job is to attract an audience in order to sell advertising and raise a profit. On that level, Zaproot is well positioned, especially if it can siphon audience from the gearhead demo at VODCars on the one hand and the kids at JETSET on the other.
If you are a more radical idealogue of an environmentalist, then take note of the tone and style used by professionals to create media that has the visual and entertainment appeal mainstream audiences have come to expect. A catchy jingle from the likes of Jacques Brautbar and Julianna Raye, for example, never hurts a good cause.