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Thursday, April 28, 2005

"That guy needs to be beaten with a sock full of wood screws."

[Another Language Alert. Been that kind of week, so continued apologies.]

One of the great regrets of my life is that I never had the opportunity to meet my wife's father. He died in 1993, two years before I started dating his daughter. Heather assures me that he would have (actually, does, but that's a story for another time) approved of me. Since the above quote is from him and I happen to love it, I agree.

That quote came to mind as I read James Lileks' bleat for today, (no, it's not directed at him) and had to stop myself from roaring in full-throated approval:

Earlier today a commercial for “Star Wars” came on, and Gnat was unimpressed. I did my Darth Vader impersonation: no impact. “But he’s evil! He used his michondian concentration for personal gain!”

“It’s just a commercial, daddy. Oh! Look!”

I froze. The Bratz are now Baby Mommaz.

Yes, the hooker-in-training dolls have children. Bratz are the main reason I do not keep a supply of bricks around the house, because everytime the commercials come on I wish to pitch something kiln-fired through the screen so hard it beans the toy exec who greenlighted these hootchie toys. The Baby Bratz are as bad as you can imagine: “Bottles with Bling.”

Judas on a stick, why not just refit the Bratz so they have Real Oozing Gonorreal Flow Action?

“They know how to flaunt it, and they’re keeping it real in the crib.”

What exactly is the penalty for failing to keep it real in the crib? Someone busts a cap in yo Pamper? I know I am old and so out of step it’s a wonder I don’t just appear as an indistinct smear, but was it really necessary to push the Age of Sultry Hussyism down to the infant stage? And who, exactly, are the Babyz flaunting it for? Are we going to see a commercial with Elmo in sunglasses, sitting with his legs sprawled, spanking some pliant Babyz with one hand while gumming down some mashed crack?

It is a deranged fantasy of mine to one day be able to write with about 1/100th of the brilliance and verve of Mr. Lileks.

But the finisher, following his description and links to another set of toys being sold to the kids, is the capper:

Pimp culture. Brought to you by people who want their daughters to go to college and get law degrees!

I hate Bratz. I hate them with a visceral passion. I stab the remote when the commercials come on. I am appalled by the fact they are ridiculously huge sellers. I'm sure the manufacturers would express shock that they are perceived as offering "pimp culture," and would coo that their products are simply harmless dolls for a new generation.

To which I offer the following rebuttal lifted from Cicero:


The best--best--thing that can be said for them is that they are shoving a shallow superficial consumer culture down the throats of young girls, telling them that they only matter if they have the latest and best fashions, are attractive and can hold the attention of equally superficial cute guys. Take a look at the toys at your local store: there is no other message, and slang from the butt end of rap culture features prominently on the product. It's not like there's a "Bratz Engineers" set in the works--"the girls with a passion for slide rules."

Or is that "rulz"?

"Well, don't buy them, then."

To which I offer another rejoinder from the vaults of Socrates:

"Pull your head out of your ass for thirty seconds."

This is just another facet of what I call the Skank Factory for Girls--the requirement that every girl who matters has to remake herself for the Maxim/FHM (official newsletters of the Skank Factory for Boys) crowd. When Hillary Duff became popular, I wondered how long it would take for the inevitable Britneyization to take place. For the most part, it hasn't, though she was on the cover of Maxim once. Hopefully just a slip. No reason to be confident, though.

For a prime example of the Skank Factory for Boys, check out the Homies Dogs in the Lileks link--if you haven't already.

Look--do I think you're a rotten parent if you get your kids this stuff? No. Just ask yourself whether a development exec would have even contemplated something like Bratz or Homies Dogs or Pimp/Ho Halloween costumes as recently as 15 years ago. It's pretty tough to answer "yes," and that says a lot about where we are. And where we are going.

It would be nice--but apparently it's asking too much--if the SFfG/B wasn't pitched to pre-teens. My greater point is that even if--if--I protect my kids from it, it's still percolating everywhere else. The ten year olds in rap couture who scream "m----rf----r" (see? I have standards) at each other as they walk down the street (we actually got a fulsome and sheepish apology out of one group of girls who did this, mirabile dictu) in the middle of summer--what am I supposed to do for them?

"If you don't like it, keep your kids in sensory deprivation tanks"?

The lowest common denominator keeps getting a little lower, and no parent can fight every battle and hope to win.

All I want is for my children to enjoy as innocent (note: not "isolated," thank you) a childhood as possible. It's not asking the guys driving the Engines of Consumerism too much to show a little decency and regard for the culture they are shaping and the children they are influencing.

Or is it? I'm thinking Jeff Culbreath has a point. But the bigger problem is dealing with the wider world, alas.

In the meantime, I'm going to be running over to Home Depot for a box of wood screws. See you there!

[Update: Added the "Look" paragraph. I'm not trying to smack around fellow parents trying the best they can.]

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