“Toy Stories”

Some kids never grow up.   Yesterday my husband and I attended a late night showing of Toy Story 3.   While chuckling over the antics of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head and Barbie, I reflected on “Spud Stud”- my previous satirical post about the Elvis Mr. Potato Head.   Several of my astute readers commented on the serious theme underlying the spoof:  that toy manufacturers are still producing items geared toward the sexualization of young children.   Today I’d like to disclose (confess?) my personal experiences with controversial sexy toys.

I actually had one of the original Barbie dolls with the severe, aloof facial expression, the blonde bubble-like hairdo and the non-bendable legs.   The bendable leg version came out a few years later in 1965 . . . but I’m not bitter.   I did not ask for a Barbie, and I rarely played with mine.   A natural tomboy, I was too busy climbing trees and playing dodgeball, softball or kick-the-can with male neighborhood friends.   My doll spent most of her time stuffed awkwardly in her plastic black case wearing only her swimsuit-like underwear.   Most of her tiny high heels and accessories had been sucked up by the vacuum cleaner shortly after her arrival at my house.   Clearly Barbie failed to sexualize pre-adolescent me.

As a mom, I refused to provide Barbie dolls to my three daughters.   Ironically, they never asked for them. My refusal was aimed at a relative who insisted that my girls would become social misfits without “hands on Barbie experience.”   Eventually, this relative defiantly gave a Barbie as a birthday gift to one of my daughters . . . this doll even had bendable legs, long pony-tailed hair and a pleasant face.    But her fate was similar to that of my own Barbie doll decades earlier.    Because she didn’t come with a carrying case, this Barbie spent her days naked and bent in unnatural positions under the furniture.   Her tiny accessories filled my vacuum cleaner dust bag.

I mentioned in my previous post that the Bratz™ dolls appeared in 2001, with fishnet stockings, midriff-baring tops, micro-mini skirts and other pieces associated with strippers and prostitutes.   They made Barbie look tame.   Marketed to girls ages 4-8, they caused a public outcry.    Thankfully, my own daughters were well past playing with dolls when the Bratz arrived.   My girls preferred creating handmade tack and stables for their Breyer horse models (purchased at yard sales), thus averting doll-induced sexualization.

But the Bratz controversy raged on in the culture, and professionals weighed in:

“The American Psychological Association cites the Bratz dolls as one of many cultural influences that contribute to the sexualization of girls. And this affects cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs, the group said in a report. “ [From “Lolita Lives” June 1, 2007 http://promomagazine.com/eventmarketing/marketing_lolita_lives/ ]

Armed with studies like this,  I wrote a paper on the sexualization of girls for one of my masters courses.   By themselves, these sensual dolls don’t have much impact.   But my research revealed other prurient influences such as vampy clothing sized for little girls, sexual innuendo in many kiddy cartoons and movies, and Disney channel child stars who morph from wholesome role-models to racy icons.

Moms and dads today have to be vigilant, tough and persistent to fend off the barrage of sexually-charged kid stuff that destroys childhood innocence.   The Toy Story 3 producers seem to be doing their part to help parents . . . near the end of the movie, we learned that Barbie is a Constitutional scholar.

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5 Responses to “Toy Stories”

  1. omd says:

    So, how was the movie?

    It seems to me that ALL media is particpipting in the wholesale sexualization of the entire population.
    Adults also seem to be vulnerable to the constant and consistant bombardment of their brains with sexual promotion.
    T.V., radio, newspaper ads, magazine ads, the seemingly obligatory steamy scenes portrayed in novels, music videos,
    popular radio programs, the internet AND I’m sure you and your readers can add to the list. BUT one of the worst
    places is in the state run schools with their “comprehensive health education” programs. Look at what just happened
    in a Cape Cod ELEMENTARY school with the handing out of condoms to students WITHOUT the parents knowledge!

    I am Type 2 diabetic. Thus, I have learned to read labels looking for sugar as an added ingredient. Wasn’t I shocked to find that sugar is an added ingredient in just about everything. The same thing is happening with sex. Just about everything is being sensualized and sexualized. It is running rampant and unchecked. We can see the effect just by looking at how the young teens, especially the girls, are dressing, what they are exposing and how they speak and behave.

    “Moms and dads, today, have to be vigilant, tough and persistent to fend off the barrage of sexually-charged stuff”-
    that causes their sensibilities to be assaulted and dulled which causes them to come to believe what we are seeing is “just the way it is” OR “They’re gonna do it anyway” and then they look the other way when their young daughters leave the house dressed sensually and ignoring the titillation and raging testosterone in their sons. I wish I had it to do all over again because even those of us that confess Christianity have fallen down. God, forgive us. Even those diligent parents that do their job are finding that their children often succumb to the constant assault the world surronds them with. We must be diligent in prayer.

    Keep up the good work, Linda and thank you for your dedication as well as answering the call upon your life.

    <

    OMD

  2. admin says:

    Hi OMD.

    Toy Story 3 was a mix of laugh-out-loud lines & visuals, at least one extremely disturbing (for youngsters) scene of peril, and a “kleenex moment” familiar to any parent who is sending a child off to college. For me, the biggest chuckles occurred over the discovery of Buzz Lightyear’s hidden “alternate mode” switch . . . I won’t spoil it though for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie.

    As always, you are “right on” with your observation that the entire culture seems to have become sex-obsessed. Christians, homeschoolers, and even the youngest children are being “infected with this disorder” from every direction. Purveyors of sexual license hide behind a tortured interpretation of free speech to expose everyone to their addictive filth. Sexual influences are so pervasive that a family can no longer easily avoid unintentional exposures in formerly safe places.

    You mentioned the recent controversy over condom distribution to Provincetown ELEMENTARY students. Kudos on staying informed …I had planned to address that in my next post. Stay tuned!

    Linda

  3. nancyc says:

    Linda,
    I started reading your blog post laughing out loud…thanks for that. By the end of your piece, I was no longer laughing. I’m very concerned for my 14 year old son and for my very young nieces. For example, remember the days when the ladies “foundation” department was in the basement of a department store, tucked away in a corner? Now that department is located right in the middle of the store or otherwise placed such that it is unavoidable for the shopper. I recently suggested to my son that for his own good, he steer clear of this area and if he must walk by it, to avert his eyes. It’s pornographic with all the bras and thongs on full display with little left to the imagination. This is a set-up for guys and men of all ages. How did we get here?
    Nancy

  4. admin says:

    Nancy,
    You brought back some childhood memories for me when you wrote: “. . . remember the days when the ladies “foundation” department was in the basement of a department store . . .” Yes, I recall a few trips to Filene’s and Jordan Marsh in Boston at Christmas time. The euphemistically-named foundations departments really were discreetly located in the, um, foundations of these stores. Today, lingerie is displayed brazenly, even predominantly in many family stores. “Porn chic” has become standard fare in virtually all means of advertising. Victoria’s Secret is one of the most ubiquitous offenders. Their racy catalog still comes uninvited to our mailboxes, and their mall stores feature provocative window displays beckoning men & boys to look and lust, while conditioning women & girls to accept seductiveness as a badge of honor. Worst of all are the VS television ads (shown even during family-oriented programming) with barely-clad underwear models sporting “come hither looks” while cavorting sensually across the screen.

    You asked a million-dollar question similar to one I posed in my masters thesis: “How did we get here?” My answer is “little by little”. To illustrate how far our public sense of modesty has declined, I’ve pasted in an excerpt from my masters thesis that describes what underwear advertising was like in the mid-1950’s:

    “How did sex education become so challenging for Christian parents, so complex, and so controversial? . . . .In the 1950s and 1960s when television replaced radio as the dominant family entertainment, its programming reflected such strict standards that sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show had married couples sleeping in separate beds. Only while children were in school did daytime soap operas such as The Guiding Light portray adult indiscretions. But characters did not spout offensive language, nor was provocative garb or sexual activity on display.
    The earliest TV commercials for undergarments were subject to restrictions by the National Association of Broadcasters Code Authority. For example, bras could be displayed only on headless mannequin torsos, not live models (“Advertising: Living Bras,” 1972). Prior to the launch of Playboy magazine in 1953, countless pre-adolescent boys satisfied their curiosity about the female form via the lingerie pages of the
    Sears-Roebuck catalog or photos of naked tribes-people in National Geographic magazine.”

    Nancy, kudos for talking about this issue with your son. Keep the discussion going whenever you can. Ask him questions occasionally, especially when you two view TV ads or shows featuring provocative women. For example, what does he think about girls who dress & act sexy? What does it say about their character? Does he find such girls attractive? Would he date such a girl? What are the attributes of a woman he’d like to date? What does the Bible say about modesty, and how should that be applied today?
    I’m suspect you’re already doing this.

    blessings, Linda

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