On March 29, 2012, Mattel announced that it will release a bald doll for children who have lost hair due to cancer or other illnesses. However, discussions of this doll are not as recent. Over a year ago, a Facebook movement began, urging Mattel to produce a bald version of their famous blonde Barbie. Since then, the page has received more than 150,000 “likes,” the amount necessary to gain Mattel’s direct attention. The movement began with Jane Bingman, whose daughter has lost hair after undergoing chemotherapy, and Beckie Sypin, who has lost her own hair while going through non-Hodgkin lymphoma, both hoping for a doll that girls experiencing hair loss due to illness could relate to and aid in the coping process hair loss. Sypin says their goal was to get “the message out that being bald is beautiful and is no big deal. There’s no need to cover up.” Though the doll will be produced, Mattel has informed Bingman and Sypin that they do not accept ideas from outside sources. Mattel reports the doll will not be sold in retail stores for profit. Instead, they will be distributed through hospitals that treat young cancer patients where they can be of most help. These bald dolls will be “a friend of Barbie” and include hats, scarves, wigs, and other hair accessories to provide the “traditional” fashion play experience.
The creation of these new dolls who are designed to appeal to a specific audience that can relate is strongly similar to the studies of Elizabeth Chin in “Ethnically Correct Dolls: Toying with the Race Industry,” in which Chin examines the “ethnically correct” doll and how race and outside appearance is involved. In Chin’s studies, it was shown that, though the girls can play fine with dolls that are not exactly like them, they prefer to play will dolls they can relate to. This is why Natalia and Asia wanted dolls of their same skin tone and would braid the hair of the white dolls to resemble their own hair. Therefore, the production of this bald Barbie by Mattel, based on Chin’s studies, will actually make a more enjoyable playtime for children experiencing hair loss due to illness because they will be able to relate to them through appearance.
A variety of the General Mills' Fruit Gushers. You always pick out the red and green anyway.
During my childhood, namely throughout 90s and early 2000s, kids’ snacks were evolving. As always, cheap and pre-processed goodies were easily available in every grocery store, strategically placed on lower shelves and in bright, eye-catching packaging. However, it seems that a new trend took hold, whereby advertisers and the companies producing these packaged snacks began to re-brand their products to appear healthier and more nutritional while still maintaining the appeal of ‘kets‘.
Of course, it’s fair to say that notable examples like General Mills’ Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Rollups, Fruit Gushers, and many more were and still are convenient filler items for packing children’s lunches or as a midday snack requiring no more effort than a quick trip back into the house. Despite their names, they are little more (or no less) than glorified and gelled candies. Read more
Video taken from a Chuck E. Cheese in Beaumont, TX
As a child I loved to go to birthday parties at the famous Chuck E. Cheese restaurant and arcade. It reminds most people of a place of fun, pizza, and games, but in a recent article ABC news explores the abnormal amounts of fighting that goes on in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants throughout the nation. Chuck E. Cheese over the years has become a place of feuding between upset parents. Whether its parents getting mad at kids or parents fighting with each other, many videos have shown up on YouTube that show the fights that go on in Chuck E. Cheese. The article claims that the fights occur due to alcohol and the fact that it is a stressful environment sometimes for parents. As a parent you want your child’s birthday party to be perfect and problems such as another kid taking to long can cause stress and in extreme cases can invoke anger. I honestly think it is the mix of alcohol and stress that is causing these outrageous encounters. For a grown up to yell at a child because they are taking to long playing pac man is completely insane. I can’t even fathom the idea of my mom pulling out someone’s hair because I had to wait 5 extra seconds before I got to take my picture in a photo booth. In class we have talked about the idea of parents wanting to protect their children and the incidents at Chuck E. Cheese take this to an extreme. It is amazing to me that there are so many fights that this has brought attention to the media but I guess you can never underestimate the importance of your child’s birthday.
Power Beads, although originally created for people to harmonize their inner power, grabbed the attention of some children one day and became an instant hit. I remember, as a fourth grader, seeing the colored beaded bracelets pop up on everyone’s wrists and gain popularity by the day. Suddenly, these bracelets became the “it” topic and every kid had to have them. Whenever we could, we would be comparing colors and deciding we needed more. If your best friend had the cool new silver pewter beads that represented Wisdom, your green beads of Hope were suddenly boring. It wasn’t uncommon to see kids walking around with half their forearm stacked with these smooth beads, and as much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes fell in that category. The strand of meaningful beads was a Hindu invention, and traveled through religions and eventually turned into a pop culture thing more so than a spiritual thing. When it did hit big with young school children, every kid became obsessed with the beads lining their arms.
Hope Beads from Google Images
However, as the ideal beads weren’t the crappy ones you could buy a bundle of for 99 cents, the beads that every kid wanted were the smooth, semi-precious stone bracelets that happened to be expensive. As kids are very forgetful and accidental, most parents aren’t okay with throwing out 5 dollars for one bracelet for their kid, especially when the kid wants the bracelet in every color. This statement goes even more for the children that didn’t have very privileged lifestyles. As we discussed in lecture, it does cost money to involve yourself in culture and your surroundings. The children that weren’t able to afford the trendy beads were the one that were left out in the trading, comparing, and discussing of the beads. Just like we discussed, some kids aren’t capable of interacting with others because integration is hard when there’s no level of equality and something to share and bond over. These beads were a prime example of this separation of classes and how it affects the kids in many ways. It also serves as a small proof that money sometimes does buy you friends.
In the past couple weeks we have talked about technology and its effect on children. In this article,School Bullying- it’s not what it used to be, talks about how children have started misusing the computers and technology that are given to them from educational purposes. We talked about, especially with The Veldt, how technology is affecting children and the way they view society. It is clear through this article that this effect is still an issue decades later.
The article talks about how through the use of Facebook, Twitter, email, IM, etc… children have begun cyber-bullying. It used to be that children would be bullied at school, but once they left school for the day they could escape it. However, now children have found ways to continue bullying through all hours of the day. The article says that children will hear alerts from their computer at around 3 o’clock in the morning from people bullying them. John Martin, the writer of this article, says that when schools provide computers for their children to use it allows for the possibility of misuse by the children. Also, through the creation of smart phones, children can send messages to multiple kids at a time. This allows for kids to send rumors and information to many kids at one time.
Technology and new innovations are good things. However, these new generations of children that are used to all of the technology are not treating them as they are supposed to be used. Creators of the iPhone and Facebook were not trying to find ways for children to use these harmfully. However, the children are so used to these things that it seems ok for them to use them harmfully. This draws a whole other issue of the attitudes of the new generation, which I am not going to get in to.
Television and its effects on children have become a moral panic that has lasted for decades. The question is whether or not the moral panic has evidence to show that t.v. is bad for kids? The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recently came out with an article telling parents about the dangers of watching too much television. It states that “by the time of high school graduation, they will have spent more time watching television than they have in the classroom”. This is an interesting statement because not everyone watches the same amount of television. It states that t.v. can take time from other activities and can expose kids to things that they shouldn’t see. They give parents ways to help prevent kids from the dangers of t.v. by telling them to watch t.v. with their kids and by limiting how much t.v. they can watch. This article is clearly written by psychiatrists to help parents dampen the effects t.v. can have on children.
In “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury the children become obsessed with their nursery and kill their parents when they try to take it away from them. It is very extreme but can show a relation between kids and their love for television. The article written by The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry talks about how much time kids spend watching t.v. and the kids in “The Veldt” start to spend more and more time in the nursery. Spending more time watching t.v. can become addicting and the thought that a child’s love for t.v. can become stronger than their love for their parents is a scary thought.
Birthday Bear wants a hug. Awww. (click for source)
The episode of Care Bears that I watched, called “Birthday Bear’s Blues,” took place on Birthday Bear’s birthday. The Care Bears are celebrating after scaring off the villain No Heart. Thinking the other Care Bears forgot his birthday, Birthday Bear goes to Earth to cheer up a rich little boy, Charles, because nobody has come to his birthday party. Meanwhile, No Heart is plotting revenge. He tricks the Care Bears into going to Charles’s estate and bewitches a maze with thorns and no way out. The Care Bears are tricked into the maze and trapped. Birthday Bear and Charles watch from outside the maze and seek out Charles’s classmates for help. No Heart begins to track The Care Bears inside the maze. He almost catches Gentle Heart, but the Care Bears team up and “scare” No Heart, sending their beams to find him. Evil is defeated, and Charles learns that you can’t buy friends.
I think this episode of Care Bears refutes Cross’s argument in “Spinning Out of Control.” He argues that 80s kids TV was removed from the “real world,” but this episode deals directly with a topics relevant to kids, friendship and that money doesn’t buy friends. The episode does have a clear moral lesson, even though it is hidden within a world of fantasy.
Cross argued that toys for “no longer needed to conform to the simplest laws of nature” (p. 302). While he sees this as a bad thing, I think personification is a big part of how kids play naturally. Stuffed animals have voices and personalities to kids, so talking bears on television isn’t much of a stretch for them.
However, there are some aspects of this episode that support Cross’s position. The world of Care Bears is obviously very separate from the real world, but the parts of the show that are trying to depict the real world are unrealistic. The villain is “reduced to the killjoy, often pitiful figure whose opposition to the happiness of a colorful world came only from ignorance or fear of caring” (p. 300). “Evil” in the world of the Care Bears has no relation to evil in the world of today. Additionally, there are no adults. Charles’s own parents don’t come to his birthday party. His classmates are off by themselves flying kites. When the Care Bears are trapped in the maze, Charles doesn’t turn to his parents. They just aren’t there.
The world of the Care Bears is removed from the real world, but the lesson in this episode was clear and not distorted beyond something kids can translate the the real world.
This is the course website for Rebecca Onion's American Studies seminar at the University of Texas at Austin, convened during the spring semester of 2012. You can see the website for last semester's version of this course at this link.