Sunday, April 13, 2008

Toys and the Media

So one of the threads I started musing about after our first toy lecture was the concept of how toys relate to media, advertising, portrayal, and society. Some “toys” are for education rather than for fun, or are some toys for teaching things about society? For instance, one common game amongst children is “house” and people play “house” which I assume helps them learn how to have a house to tend in the future. There are also toys like Barbie, which are controversial because of what they teach, or the expectations that they create in society.

How do societal standards relate to toys?

Every toy you see an advertisement for tends to be flashy and exciting. Think back to old fashioned toys- usually homemade, usually wood, usually not advertised or bought. The things I think of are like stilts, ball and cup games, spelling word blocks, the wood panels you can flip back and forth, etc.

Toys, just like everything else (clothes, cars, houses, kitchens…) have gotten a revamp. It seems like things that used to be viewed as tools, or means to an end, are now viewed more as social symbols. Some toys seem like they don’t entirely have a point. One of the ones I’ve never understood is “Bratz” dolls. Why would you want something that’s supposed to be bratty and obnoxious? There were already so many other dolls in the market before that, and I can’t find a benefit to having a bratty doll. Additionally, some things seem to make a splash and be wildly popular, yet aren’t very far distinguished from other toys.

Take “Tickle Me Elmo”- a toy that seems to be on the news every Christmas as frazzled parents rush through toy stores trying to find one for their child. Why? There are lots of fuzzy toys that make noise. This doesn’t seem to be a particularly unique concept. Is it the fact that it is “Tickle Me Elmo” that makes it so coveted?

I think that it is the case more and more that things, even toys, are valued for being what they are, or for their connotations, and not for how fun they are to play with.

Is there anything the media doesn't touch?

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