Just My Imagine Nation
Hello, my intended....
Well, we went to the local toystore for a nice laugh as described in a previous rant when it struck me... Nobody PLAYS with toys anymore. They INTERACT with them. What the hell is this nonsense? When was it decided that just about every toy out there just HAS to DO something all by itself? Hell, some of them don't even need the kid at all!
Am I the only one that thinks this is fucked up?
The toy makers are doing all they can to pretty much eliminate the need for a kid to have an imagination! Mom, are you embarrassed by little Timmy going 'Vroom Vroom' when he plays with his Tonka truck? Well, just hook him up with Tonka Version 6.0 with all noises included in push button digital samples! Mom, are you embarrassed by little Susie talking to her babydoll? Well, just hook her up with Baby Doll Millenium Edition, and she can have someone to talk to that talks BACK - that UNDERSTANDS where Susie's coming from, and loves her RIGHT BACK - guaranteed!
Here's an exercise... Recall the most together human being you know. Maybe the most talented artistically. Maybe the most intelligent. Maybe the most adaptive. Whatever, as long as you recognize how they're the tops at whatever... You'll find one thing prevalent in all these people, folks - they didn't have a childhood anywhere NEAR as cushy as most kids these days. So, in order to deal with the shortcomings of a supposedly deprived youth, most of them used their heads... developed their talents. And BECAUSE they DID, they still CAN. A muscle doesn't get strength unless it gets EXERCISE and the mental side is no different. Now consider the biggest asshole you know. The most prim, uppity, better-than-you sumbitch bar none... Same deal in reverse. Since they never HAD to do anything (or without anything) they get it in their heads that they got the RIGHT to the lion's share of whatever comes down the line, and heaven help anyone who says otherwise. Remember the old saying of how nothing worth having is ever easy to get? So true. And the same goes in reverse... Sure there are exceptions where the poor kid often turns into a recidivist and the rich kid occasionally turns into a philanthropist but these only prove me out.
The problem in a nutshell, people, is that the more identity an item has right out of the box translates to that much less that a kid can put into it. If the kid knows exactly what sort of 'person' Buzz Lightyear is (arrogant windbag without a clue, from what I've seen in the movies and cartoons he's in), then there's not alot of room to have him be, say, 'Jet Pack Jack' - try as they may. Sure you might do okay for a few minutes, but if you happen to bump one of those buttons, then the whole 'Jet Pack Jack' universe goes out the window before you can say, 'To Infinity and Beyond!'... Buzz has put a stop to being someone besides Buzz, and you better get used to it quick, Junior. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for setting boundaries for kids - just not on their imaginations.
Folks, if I told you once I told you a hundred times - you can't have it both ways. Kids are quickly becoming the pine-riders in the playroom - dutifully cheering on the real stars with minimal involvement... Take these examples - and I include links so you don't think I'm making this up:
This, of course, would logically suggest that when a kid is used to winning all the time or having everyone think whatever they do is cool, when they run across something that may think otherwise (for example, adults or other kids) it's going to get a bit dicey. Kids are like everyone else... they like to know how things are going to turn out, and when they think they know how it's supposed to go and it DOESN'T follow the pattern they get all antsy. Some go so far as to throw a FIT until everyone goes back to the accepted agenda. Does that sound like someone YOU want in charge when YOU get old?
- Janie doesn't NEED to go outside and play horsies with her Barbie (and Barbie's Pony-of-the-Month) anymore - she can do it right there on the PLAYSTATION. Heck, with ultra-cool simulated friends like the N*Style Girls and Diva Starz to pal around with, Janie doesn't even need FRIENDS; which is just as well, since no REAL kid can compete with a blathering Gap Chick that thinks everything she does is superclass cool. Even better than the real thing, as the song goes....
- Bobby doesn't NEED to build a spaceship with his Legos anymore - he can use VIRTUAL LEGOS and soar the spaceways right there on the Family-Friendly PC - complete with a loyal crew of sycophants to talk to (and boss around). And the best part is that they do all this with no mess and minimal fuss and bother. Sure, they save themselves some of the inherent disappointment you get when you build a Lego anything and it falls apart the second you try to play with it, but I digress...
- There's actually something called a PEOPLE SIMULATOR out there called 'The Sims' that the marks are going ape over... Yes, I see... Let's piss away all our time and energy making sure IMAGINARY PEOPLE have better lives than US. Or you could indulge your darker side and run them into the ground for the sheer sadistic pleasure of making sure they DON'T... I even saw one get SET ON FIRE, and the little girl that did it laughed hysterically as the little fidget on the screen screamed and ran around in a panic. 'I did that,' she said happily. 'Funny, huh?' Not as funny as knowing someday she'll be taking care of CHILDREN, but I digress. Suffice to say that her virtual cats don't have it much better...
- I know a kid that has three separate stacks of videogames... Games he can beat, games he can 'cheat' in and win, and games that are 'too hard'. Basically, if he can't whoop a game in three days, he looks up some 'codes', and if it doesn't HAVE any codes that make it easy to 'beat' he puts it in pile three and never touches it again. This is a practice he's probably going to use the rest of his life: 'When the going gets tough, cheat. If that doesn't work, give up...'
Folks, when that pattern gets locked in it's a sumbitch to change it lemme tell ya, so what to do? WHEN should we intervene? Some kids take that disappointment with their fellow man and run with it, usually after a quick stop at grandpa's gun closet. Now, I know what you're thinking... 'But, Bobo, everyone is so darn BUSY with jobs and shit that the kid NEEDS something that he can interact with - someone he can COUNT on to be there rain or shine, pass or fail. It builds a sense of stability that every kid needs.' Bullshit. Pure cop-out. There's WAY too many of you passing the buck on guiding your progeny to adulthood to the puppets at PBS and Nickleodeon and it has to STOP. YESTERDAY. If you can count the hours you spend with your kid a week on one hand, you're dropping the ball and PRAYING Big Bird and Tommy Pickles can recover the fumble. Sometimes they do, but it's not a very good back-up plan when you actually LOOK at it, now is it? No, clearly not.
That's the problem... Nobody's actually LOOKING at it. But they sure look when the kid and his buddies shoot up a school, eh? They sure look at the Shitbag du Jour on Springer and his bottom-feeding ilk, eh? And THEN they have the NERVE to WONDER where these kids went WRONG? Why couldn't these kids deal? Because they weren't TRAINED for it. Everything in their life was programmed to act a certain (affirming) way, until THE KID was programmed to think that was how everything is supposed to be. Then the poor little dink hits the silk at Camp Reality and they're completely out of their league. So then they fall in with other disenchanted souls, and before you know it there's a mass murder or mass suicide.
This is not to say that a kid can't get fucked up by getting lost in some fantasy world - a danger, true, but that's pretty low down on the list when considering things like internet predators, gang violence, and drug pushers don't you think? Hell, everyone thought Steven King was a crackpot with his head in the clouds - but look now, right?
Using one's imagination teaches kids an important skill... How to ADAPT a situation to their BENEFIT. This makes them better problem solvers and quicker-witted than the children that had to wait until Barney told them what to do next. Moreover, it instills in them a buoyant creativity that once awakened is a tougher thing to put to bed than a 4-year old on a double expresso. Many kids that had to deal with not ever having the latest toy turned to other outlets - such as drawing and writing - and many of us continue to use these creative skills for the rest of our lives...
Just something to keep in mind before you tell your kid to 'stop it' and 'grow up' when he starts playing in the neighborhood of make-believe, okay?
You're welcome... See you SOON.