Monday, April 06, 2009

Baby Blues: Body Image Edition

With a child soon to be delivered, Gretchen and I strolled through Babies "R" Us the other afternoon, gathering necessities for the nest. Most of these products are bunk, catering to the conceptions of the mother and father to be. Most things are unnecessarily fluffy. The stereotyped color coordination with child's sexual identity is in overdrive amongst the merch. Finally, when it comes to clothing, it caters more to the visual identities and associations of Mom and Dad than it does to the actual needs of the child. So, while it is extraordinarily cute for the kid to be dressed like a miniature version of an adult, in the end it seems a little ridiculous and overpriced for something outgrown in six weeks, worn twice for "special occasions," and mostly spit up on. While I could possibly forgive the allegiance parent places upon offspring regarding team affiliation (in this store's case, the regional proximity to the Baltimore Orioles), it's simply stupid.

All of the above aside, I was struck dumb by the insidious Disneyfication of a swath of kiddie furniture. Specifically, Disney Princess and Fairy Chairs were probably the most concerning. Despite all the princesses having the exact same mouth, they all have the same body shape. And, regardless of how poofy those shoulders are on the gowns, all of them are "Twiggy." What impact will this have on present and future expectations of body image for impressionable minds? Pushing the button, what is the consequence of the flirtations and seductive gazes of the fairies? Maybe I am looking too much into it. And, maybe I am just sick of Disney and its never ending perpetuation of kitsche branding and marketing that takes the kids of the last generation and makes them the enabling force to provide the next generation with the same watered-down fairy tales and contrived histories.

The other thing that got me thinking - why does every product have to feature some wild animal as an anonymous, glazed-eyed, smiling companion? The example below was pulled from Babies "R" Us's website.
I knew a lot of frogs and turtles in my childhood. Not one was happy to see any human. Though I never crossed the paths of elephants, lions, or aligators as a kid, I'll wager if I had that I would know not to amble over and pet the creature. Once again, marketing playing on the associations of parents. Frankly, I remember thinking, as a six year old, that the smiling aligator teaching me how to brush my teeth in the dentist's office was hooey. And, as excited as I was about my sandbox when I was little, the fact that it was shaped like a turtle was irrelevant. In fact, I know I once ondered how it could be a sandbox when not shaped like a box.