1/15/2006

Indoctrinate them while they're young

Our youngest son is getting a Fisher Price Imaginext playset for his birthday. It's sort of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Book of playsets. Comes with an assortment of parts which imaginative tykes can assemble however they wish so that the adventure is always new. They're pretty cool toys, really, and in my opinion a heck of a lot more interesting than LEGO's entry-level product, DUPLO.

I like the toy, and more importantly YS will too. But get a load of the text on the back of the box:

Imagine...a primitive civilization of humans and dinosaurs, living in a lush, green land.
Gets the reader thinking about the environment. OK, sure, humans and dinosaurs missed coexistence by millions of years, and a "civilization of dinosaurs" requires a lot of imagination, but then the kids who play with these toys have a lot of imagination.
One side--the predators--is using up its natural resources, wiping out everything and everyone that gets in their way.
Seems like they've set up the meat-eaters to be the bad guys, and not just because they eat other creatures, but they use up the natural resources? When I was in school, (a long time ago) I learned that the decomposed bodies of prehistoric life were the source of the things we think of today as natural resources. Was this copy written by the executive board of PETA or the Sierra Club?
The other side--the ecovores--wants to preserve their land. And they're willing to fight to make that happen.
OK, hold on right there. I let the substitution of "predators" for carnivores slide, because it's pretty accurate, but ecovores? Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it sounds to me like they're implying that a vegetarian diet is more ecologically sound than a carnivorous one. The paragraph winds up this way:
The battle begins at T-Rex Mountain: Will the predators succeed in destroying the land, causing their own extinction? Or will the ecovores stop the destruction and make the land a place where dinosaurs and humans can live together peacefully for all time? In the world of Imaginext, anything is possible!
OK, so now it's clear they're framing the action with the idea that carnivores are at best self-destructive and at worst evil, and that the herbivores are wise, and salt of the earth too. Is there a political message there, or is it just a misguided effort to apply a good versus evil motif to a child's toy in order to make it more appealing to the parents?

I'm not really implying I think there's a conscious political motivation here from Fisher-Price. To a certain extent, kids think along the lines of good vs evil anyway, and when it comes to dinosaurs, the ones with open mouths and big teeth are going to be the ones on offense.

And I'm not worried at all that the text on the outside of the box will influence how our kids play with the toy. After all, I'm the only one who actually read the box. As for YS, he's two years old. All he knows for sure is that dinosaurs are big and scary and go RWARRRR!!!!

Tag:

Wade said...

leaving aside the politics, let's just talk about the other things that are wrong with this:

philology:
ecovores would be ... eco eaters? so they what, eat the environment? that certainly sounds destructive.

history:
'In the world of Imaginext, anything is possible'... Indeed, even humans coexisting with dinosaurs.

ethics:
okay, so who's the destructive one again? If they're implying that predators are carnivores, they probably have less of an environmental impact that herbivores, which are destroying things more essential to the food chain as a whole. After all, even if a carnivore eats all the herbivores, it still has a food source...other carnivores. If a herbivore ('ecovore'??) eats all the plants, they die out and the carnivores do, too.

Oy. It's too late in the night to be overanalysing your kids' toys' backstory. :-)