Sunday, November 30, 2008

Should companies be advertising to our kids?

A group of parents, in league with Boston's Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, have begun sending some holiday letters to their friends the toy companies. This year in particular, a lot of moms and dads are sick and tired of their children being the targets of aggressive advertising. They are requesting that the toy companies appeal directly to parents about why their product would make the best plaything. There are two reasons for this. One, many parents cannot afford to buy their children all the toys that strike their fancy from the ads. Two, there are some parents who don't want their children to have a bunch of mind-numbing, irritating-as-hell mainstream toys. Jordan and I are feeling a little of both.

Think back to your childhood. Did you watch TV? How did you formulate your Christmas list? I did it by watching Saturday morning cartoons and intermittently shouting, "I would LOVE one of those!" Such was the case with one of my most memorable and beloved childhood toys: Little Miss Makeup of Christmas 1988. You can read more about her here. I was three and a half and just knew Santa was going to bring me my "li-mi-makeup." When a lady at church asked me what I was getting for Christmas, that's what I told her. "Li-mi-makeup." I probably would've been bitterly disappointed if Santa hadn't come through with her.

Just what Mattel was counting on. My parents had no choice but to buy her.

Little Miss Makeup looked innocent enough at first glance, but when you brushed a cool sponge (which was provided in the form of a "wand") over her face, blood-red lipstick and nail polish and purple eyeshadow magically appeared. I never noticed it at the time, but what business does Little Miss Makeup have wearing all that eyeshadow and lipstick? I mean, she couldn't be more than four or five years old, right? And her blonde hair is far too brassy to be natural. What kind of mother would allow her child to go out like this??? Certainly not mine!

I shudder to think what Suzi is going to beg for when she gets a year or two older. Will it be something that rails against my values? Will it be a video game that costs $300? I know there were certain things, for both me and my husband, that our parents told us Santa was not going to bring, and we both survived. I just don't want to leave a big dose of disappointment under the tree every year.

We have already bought almost all of Suzi's Christmas gifts, but there's something missing. Her two favorite characters are Elmo and Mickey Mouse. She watches Sesame Street at my parents' house--an innocent pastime, I think--but now everywhere we go she is looking for Elmo. She can spot him a mile away--on balloons, on TV, in ads--and begins shouting "Emmo! EMMO!" She's the same way with "Mick Mou," to the point she almost had me and Jordan checking out of Home Depot with a $60 front-yard inflatable of the Disney icon wearing a Santa hat and holding a candy cane. The neighbors would've loved us.

We may end up purchasing an Elmo doll for Suzi, but he is not going to do the Hokey Pokey, Chicken Dance, play the electric guitar, deliver pizza, or demonstrate how to use the potty. I just want a plain little stuffed Elmo, and I'm holding firm on that.

Anybody know where we can find one of those?


wirrek said...

I got a very nice normal stuffed Elmo at Target for $5.

Maybe its wierd, but I try to stay away from licenced characters for big presents. That is just what I do. Instead of getting "rocket" from little einsteins, I am getting a rocket. I figure if my son gets tired of the character, he will still like the rocket.

Georgiann said...

Hi there~
I wanted to thank you for coming over to my blog....its been a few weeks,I'm soory I'm just now coming over.
Great post! I have 6 kiddos and its hard to keep it under control in regards to Christmas.
Advertistments on TV teach our children discomtentment. To always seek more! We limit TV watching for that reason.