An illustration of the title character and her cat, Custard.
Strawberry Shortcake was created in the late 1970s by the American Greetings card company. As the character became a popular fad among young girls, the company expanded the Strawberry Shortcake product line to include dolls, posters, stationary, stickers, clothing, games, etc. Beginning in 1980 Strawberry Shortcake animated specials began to air on television, joining the controversial trend of program-length commercials designed to advertise such product lines to children. To examine the claims of Gary Cross (“Spinning Out of Control”) about the negative effects of program-length commercials or PLCs, I watched the first episode of the Strawberry Shortcake television series.
In the episode of Strawberry Shortcake I watched, titled “Big Country Fun”, Strawberry Shortcake and her friend Angel Cake get a job at the “Fairy Prairie Dude Ranch” where they become the counselors of different bunkhouses. While there, their cabins compete against one another in a contest over who can make the best chili, decorate their horses the prettiest, and who is the best at trail riding. Throughout the episode, Angel Cake becomes very competitive and loses sight of the fun they’re supposed to be having at the ranch.
While the article titled “Strawberry Shortcake in the Big Apple City” argues that Gary Cross’ claims accurately describe the nature of the Strawberry Shortcake episodes, I don’t think I would fully agree with that. Admittedly, many things about the series are based off of a fantasy world. For instance, the fact that the trees are big lollipops and the mountains are large cupcakes of course does not correlate to the real world. However, I believe that the underlying themes to the episode I watched would have actually had an impact on the children watching the show. The main lesson the audience would have learned from the episode would have been that competition was created in order to have fun, and it is important to not lose sight of that when competing against other people. Throughout the competition, the characters also showed that it is okay for people to make mistakes and that teamwork is important when striving for a common goal.
No, this Strawberry Shortcake article does not fully prepare children for adulthood, but it DOES provide for a fun way for children to learn important lessons while watching something that appeals to their imagination. Furthermore, I believe it is extremely important for a child’s imagination to be triggered at a young age so they can grow up to become creative and imaginative human beings. Strawberry Shortcake does a spectacular job of combining creativity and important lessons that would be beneficial to young children at the time.
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.