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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pirates

I’ve had it with Disney. It’s bad enough that their female characters have waists that would choke Thumbelina. It’s bad enough that many Disney films reflect racial stereotypes, like The Lion King, where the darker lion is the evil one, and the shiftless hyenas have African American accents. It’s bad enough that they’ve convinced us that a trip to Disney Land/World is as obligatory for middle class American families as a trip to Mecca is for Muslims. Today, however, I am outraged by Disney’s marketing genius because they have got my seven-year-old boy begging to see a PG13 movie.

According to our newspaper, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest includes “supernatural scares, violence, mayhem, adult themes.” Despite this, Pirates of the Caribbean is the film currently featured at McDonalds, where children young enough to suck on a French fry can get a pirate patch, pirate ear ring, and a telescope with a scull on it. At Borders and Barnes & Nobel, they’re selling Pirates of the Caribbean treasure chests and sticker books. At the toy store, Pirates of the Caribbean action figures are available, with 4+ as the recommended age. These are a sword’s length from the Superman Returns figures and around the corner from the Lord of the Rings stuff, two other movies that are too scary for the four-year-olds targeted for the toys, though at least those films have good guys. Aren’t pirates just violent thieves anyway?

When I pointed out to my seven-year-old that they were making pirate toys for children too young to see the movie, Luke explained, “They want kids to beg their parents to see it.” As if I hadn’t figured that out. At least he understands that the marketers are trying to manipulate him, and me. In fact he understands quite a bit about the whole system. When he asked for the pirate treasure chest at Borders and I said, “Maybe you can get it for Christmas,” Luke astutely responded, “They won’t be selling the chest at Christmas. The movie is out now.” Of course, he’s right. It will be something else by Christmas.

“Don’t be afraid to say no to your children,” the experts warn us, and of course, we have to be able to say no, especially when it comes to something as important as protecting them from violent images. But when highly paid marketing experts are sitting around strategizing about how to make my son beg, I feel like a canoe up against a ship of pirates. It’s just not fair to make parents work this hard to do the right thing.

8 Comments:

Blogger naturalmom said...

Amen. I'm fighting the good fight right along side you. It's madening sometimes...

Stephanie

1:01 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Coulter said...

We're still a long ways from this (though I did buy a box of Clifford Crunch at the grocery store--yes, it's got more sugar than Cheerios, but I am weak, weak, weak), but I long ago ranted to a (childless) friend about the excessive violence of Jurassic Park franchise. "But it's rated PG-13," she said to me, exasperatedly. "Parents should know better." Never mind the fact that it was aggressively marketed to children far younger than 13, with picture books, a fast-food deal, and lots and lots of dinosaur toys. The problem from the marketing point of view, as I understand it, is that teenagers balk at the straight PG rating, because they think it's for little kids.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Isabella's Mom said...

Right On! I have an almost 7 year old daughter, who is biracial. The constant pounding into her subconscious of fair skinned = good, brown skin = supporting character at best, bad at worst - is killing me. She can never be a fairy, a princess, a mermaid because all of those characters have light skin.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Cee said...

You know, I'd never thought about those marketing strategies before. I grew up in the country without a TV, so my parents were (mostly) spared any beggings for tie-in products. It must be enormously difficult to be firm about the products your children are consuming, especially when surrounded by advertising and sophisticated marketing campaigns.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Anjali said...

Oh, you hit the nail on the head with this one. The incessant marketing of everything - tv shows and movies is really affecting my 4 year old and 2 year old. My kids watch no television, see no movies, but it doesn't matter. They see bandaids, billboards, and all of their clothes (given to them as gifts) have characters on them. I'm shocked at how materialistic my 4 year old has become because she "needs" everything with "characters."

6:31 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I don't actually mind pirates. Little boys, in particular, love to act out the "good guy/bad guy" thing and at least in today's light pirates are "good natured" bad guys... Pirates are fine with me. (My 6 year old understands that he will be able to see the movies when he's older - for now, he just likes the play.)

That said, marketing is OUT OF CONTROL lately, and yes, it is very difficult as a parent to attempt to stay the course. My kids know that we have a "no character" rule in our house when it comes to shoes, clothing, backpacks, etc. But they're still wanting the toys, the cereal, the "fruit" snacks. Disney knows what it's doing...and what it's doing is sucking our children right in.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Political speeches including phrases like 'family values' imply that the ultimate burden of responsibility for teaching values lies with parents. That argument easily and too often ends a debate that never really started, because as parents we all too naturally accept all the blame for our children's misguided behaviors. In an era when corporate powerhouses are so obviously and deliberately influencing culture, i don't see how we can neglect to demand, likewise, that corporations do their part in the struggle to build healthy societies. Big business must act in socially responsible ways and be held to the same standards as parents if we are to encourage any hope of a better world. Otherwise, yes, it will be us against them, resulting in a culture that is savage, conflicted and anything but civilized, no matter how much integrity we parents manage to inspire.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one thinking this way. I dont get the pirate thing, really. Murdering thieves something to play and aspire to? I have 2 little boys who will not have the Jolly Roger on their playhouse.

Disney gets 2 thumbs down!

12:53 AM  

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