Sunday, September 28, 2008

the smallest consumers

lately it has really bothered me that even newborns are unknowingly and instantly immersed in our consumer culture...i kid you not, from birth.

for example, the itty bitty disposable diapers that baby m wore at night her first month of life? they had disney characters emblazoned on them. is that really necessary? and of course, there are promotional tie ins and product placements on virtually every product sold for infants and children, from clothes to books to sippy cups and fast food meals. i tried to find an e-card online for my friend's four year old daughter, and the only e-cards i could find were barbie or some disney princess. we went to the pediatrician recently for shots, and the band aids were printed with dora, spiderman, and hello kitty. granted, these band aids are way cuter than straight up crayola skin tone color band aids, but still. it seems a little crazy that our little ones are exposed to branding from the day they pop out of the womb.

i'm not saying that kids should never own or wear things that are related to a tv show or movie or etc. i know that kids like disney princess outfits, and shiny plastic pink barbie cars, and thomas the train characters, and so on, and it's unrealistic to expect for them to not be drawn to these products. {i mean, my daughter is playing in a baby einstein exersaucer as i write this, which we all know is the gateway drug to hannah montana t-shirts a few years from now...} and i realize this is also nothing new; matt finally donated his dukes of hazzard and star wars twin sheet sets that he's held onto for twenty years a few months ago to make room for little m's stuff. but there is something sad to me about the fact that so quickly children in our society unwittingly become consumer evangelists because their clothes, diapers, book, toys, car seats, lunch boxes, etc are branded. 

my friend k's theory is that these toys provide a pre-made narrative for kids- so when your son colors in his nemo coloring book, he is instantly a part of a complex and readymade narrative that is more appealing than the nondescript stack of colored wood blocks. i wonder, though, if kids will increasingly lose their ability to construct their own narratives and to foster imaginative play. thoughts?

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