Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Bad Toys

Yesterday, Tim Burke wrote that Barbie is a crappy toy whose only purpose is to showcase clothes. He finds that, "boys’ toys are still vastly better-made, more varied, more complex, more interesting, than girls’ toys".

One saving grace of having two boys is that I never have to deal with the whole Barbie thing. On the one hand, it is an awful toy that gives little girls a poor body image and teaches them the importance of matching their purse to their shoes. On the other hand, I remember getting my first Barbie doll and what a thrill it was. Before that we had Barbie's trailer park counterpart, the Dawn doll. Barbie elevated my sister and me into the better social circles.

There are a lot of crappy boy toys, too. The Hot Wheels tracks are on my evil toy list. The cars themselves are not that bad. But in their varied colors and fenders, they aren't all that different from Barbie. The boys dress up cars, and the girls dress up dolls. Whatever. But the track sets are a different story.

Hot Wheels tracks come in sets that only work if arranged in one way. This leads to frustration and dampens creativity. The sets involve some kind of a motor or twirling rubber band that hurls cars around as fast possible. After watching the car go round for five minutes or so, it gets old. The next logical thing to do is to set up obstacles on the track and watch the cars crash. Soon, even a 10 car pile up gets old, and the kid who is now completely wired starts tossing the cars across the room bypassing the tracks all together.

I could get the same result from giving my kid a liter of soda and a jelly donut.

UPDATE: Crooked Timber has a good discussion going on about Barbie. Miriam Jones weighs in.

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