Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Decline of Childhood

Sometimes I wonder how humanity ever survived the 1970's and 1980's. According today's standards those were dangerous, dangerous times for our youth. Case in point: look at what they've done to the Fischer Price "little people"! I have to admit, those were my favorite toys (aka "People Pop-Ups" in the Mike C childhood home) in my formative years. My fiance, who grew up on a farm in Indiana, laughs when I tell her my main exposure to farm life as a kid was my Fischer Price little people farm, complete with "mooing" barn door. Back on point, here's one thing that never happened in my experience: death (obviously) or even choking on a little person. Yeah, I remember sucking on their heads occasionally, but them seemed like sturdy toys.

Even 8 or so years ago, when searching for a gift for you my young brother, I started to feel sorry for today's insulated youth. Toys today are awful. Nevermind that the quality of construction and the materials used are absolutely horrendous, or that the color schemes would make the Queer Eye guys go into shock. Neon colored GI Joes? Come on! Even the ideas for the toys are bad. Take this GI Joe figure for example. He looks like a reject from the cartoon The Tick. Is this the best they can do? Why not just make them look like our soldiers in Iraq? That might stoke some interest and be pretty cool if you asked me.

The most pernicious sign of the decline of toys is how "safe" they have become. Along the lines of the Fischer Price little people, more and more toys seem to come of this rigid, single piece construction. Part of the fun of the little people was turning their heads round and around. This is a major step backward. I remember how exciting it was when action figures went from the stiff old original Star Wars type, to the GI Joe swivel arm battle grip. Oh baby, that was the innovation of my childhood. But I notice they are going back to the single piece or barely functional action figure. Too many parts = bad. Plus, all the fun accessories: tiny plastic pistols, backpacks, etc. are less and less prevalent. And one more thing about GI Joe. When I was a kid, I laughed when my dad told me that GI Joes were dolls when he was young. Ha! The image of any boy playing with a doll was too much. Today: back to the dolls. Where are all the cool toys?

Then take the playground. I am still awaiting the day they bubble-wrap kids before sending them out to recess. Gone are the red hot steel sliding boards (never mind their tendancy to cause temporary blindness by focusing the light of the sun right into one's pupils), the vomit-inducing and laceration-causing merry-go-round, that cracked, heavy rubber swing that always seemed ready to disconnect from the hanging chains at the worst possible moment. When I was a kid, a big mound of dirt and some discarded construction equipment was all we needed to have a good time. Sure, there were the trips to the hospital for stitches and broken bones, but isn't that part of growing up?

Kids these days have a life foreign from anything I knew. The safer toys, more dangerous streets, and video game culture does not mirror anything I knew as a runt. Strangely enough as a youth in the '80's, my childhood experiences were more like my parents' in the '50's than my younger brother's in the late '90's early '00's. What all this says, I don't know, but I guess I have to rummage through the old toy boxes at my parents' house if I want my own eventual tykes to live on the edge and play with a little person or two.

Somehow, I find that sad.


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