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Vicarious Consumption: 20th vs. 21st Century

In “Modern Childhood, Modern Toys” Gary Cross discusses the family indulgence of expensive and luxurious gifts during Christmas. Without a doubt, the idea of Christmas and Christmas spending today follows through with Thorstein Veblen’s thesis on “vicarious consumption.” I would even argue that Cross’s explanation on “vicarious consumption” is more so present within the twenty first century than so in the twentieth.
With the rise of technology and advancement of modern day toys, prices continue to rise for even the simplest of gifts. Most parents who can afford expensive gifts are willing to pay. As a prime example of a simple gift gone expensive I have included two pictures below, one of an early, simple twentieth century teddy bear next to one of the most popular teddy bear’s of today, the Build-A-Bear. The Build-a- Bear workshop is a for sure stop for parents during the Christmas season, with bears that talk, sing, and even dance; they are a for sure hit with the kids. But these fancy styled bears come at a price a lot higher than that of the twentieth century teddy bear. With the ability to build, clothe, insert your voice, and include an entire accessory set, the spending possibilities are endless in this “teddy bear wonderland.” Christmas is a perfect excuse for parents to spend more than a hundred dollars on a teddy bear (including accessories and stuffing). Gary Cross agues in “Modern Childhood, Modern Toys” that “trends favored the practice of purchasing toys rather than making them” (59) but with the invention of build-a-bear, parents are able to both make and buy the toy. The idea of making versus buying is now all wrapped into one and it strengthens Cross’s arguments on “parents pampering children” and spoiling them to the fullest during the Christmas season.

20th Century Teddy Bear stamp


Beach Build a Bear w/accesories

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