These Disturbing Times

I recently subscribed to the NY Times – mostly because I wanted to know if we’re going to war with Russia and where the hell that damn airplane is. And honestly, I just don’t do a very good job of keeping up with the news. I’m a dumb-phone-owning, too-cheap-for-TV, internet-avoiding sort of girl, so the most news I’m usually aware of is what I hear on the radio during my 5-minute drive to work and has to do with Justin Bieber’s most recent arrests and the crazy chick who managed to sneak into his bedroom. Thus, I’ve made it my recent mission to read all of the Sunday features in the Times (I had to revise my original goal, because it’s nearly-impossible to read the entire paper cover-to-cover).

So, okay, I’m reading today’s features, and I come across an article that I really think I might want to skip for the sake of time, but I decided to at least start reading and see where it took me. The headline:

“Today’s Girls Love Pink Bows As Playthings, but These Shoot”

Accompanying the headline is a picture of a nine-year-old girl in a pink shirt, shooting a toy bow. The article basically covers changes in the toy industry, attributed to recent films with B.A. babes and the resulting increase in demand for little girl weaponry.

The article cites Katniss (HUNGER GAMES), Merida (BRAVE), Black Widow (THE AVENGERS), and Tris (DIVERGENT) as the primary causes of this shift. Although I haven’t seen THE AVENGERS, I’m familiar with all of those ladies and their stories, and found the entire article a bit disturbing. The youngest bow-owning little girl mentioned in the article is three years old. And, okay, let’s assume that she just wanted the bow and arrow because it seemed fun. The majority of the girls interviewed are eight and nine. So my question is this – why the hell have girls that young been exposed to THE HUNGER GAMES?!

Merida? Okay. I’ll give you that one. She really doesn’t shoot at people, so, although BRAVE had its terrifying moments, it’s a movie that’s probably appropriate for most eight and nine-year-olds. But HUNGER GAMES?!

First of all, I don’t give a damn that the University of Michigan counseling psychology teacher thinks such toys are okay because they are “letting girls know that their aggressive impulses are acceptable and they should be able to play them out.” Not only do I vehemently disagree with that statement but I find it slightly surreal and comical that a mental health professional would say such a thing in today’s climate of terrorism and school shootings. I was raised in a household where it was drilled into us that “guns are not toys.” My father taught us that lesson with a fervor and consistency unequaled by any other he taught my sister and me, so I’m not particularly at ease with turning weapons into play-things, and as a public school educator, I don’t really want my students thinking their “aggressive impulses are acceptable” and I certainly don’t want my students playing out those impulses.

More importantly than my personal opinions about children’s toys, though, is the hypocrisy in taking a story like the HUNGER GAMES, patenting it, sterilizing it, and entertaining our children with it. Katniss is a character who would have been disgusted to see anyone misunderstanding and glorifying her for killing. Katniss frequently commented on the foolishness of the Capitol and her hatred of many of them because they didn’t understand what the Hunger Games really were. And now, we’re exposing our kids to a story that they are too young to fully comprehend, and we’re making a game out of it? Sure, Katniss is a fictional character and people can ultimately do what they want to do without offending her… but isn’t the point of fiction to reveal truth? The truth of HUNGER GAMES is that people lose sight of what’s important and real because they have too much wealth, entertainment, fashion, etc… to keep them distracted. Well, I guess as long as we put a little bit of pink on the weaponry, our children’s aggression won’t be true aggression, or at least we’ll be too distracted by the glitter and glam to notice they’re shooting each other.


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