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Nov 12 2013

A princess always follows her dreams

So Toys “R” Us has this ad about how boring trees are and how ecstatically enthralling Toys “R” Us is.

Note the little girl saying, “A princess is loyal, and never gives up, and always follows her dreams.” Unless of course her dreams have anything to do with learning about trees as opposed to toys in shiny boxes.

Peter Gleick at the Huffington Post is forthright.

This ad is offensive on so many levels:

    • It insults science and environmental education teachers.
    • It insults science and environmental education programs and field trips.
    • It insults science and nature in general
    • It insults children (though no doubt these kids got free toys, and maybe even money, to be in the ad — how awesome).
    • It promotes blind commercialism and consumerism (OK, I know that’s the society we live in, and the purpose of ads, and the only real goal of Toys “R” Us, but to be so blatantly offensive and insensitive?)
    • It sends the message, as Colbert so cogently notes that “The great outdoors is nothing compared to the majesty of a strip mall.”

Colbert? Yes, Colbert.

One doesn’t expect toy companies to advertise science, but I think it’s reasonable to expect them not to go out of their way to piss on it. Peter Gleick goes on:

My wife is an overworked, underpaid science educator, teaching university students how to teach science to elementary school children. It is an uphill battle: not because kids don’t love science. They do. Frankly, young children are wonderful, curious, wide-eyed natural scientists. It is an uphill battle because the resources our society devotes to science education are pathetic. Elementary school teachers get little or no support or training for science education. Materials are outdated or confusing. There is no funding for decent field trips. And our kids are bombarded with subtle (and here, blatant) messages promoting blind, thoughtless, consumerism.

The results are beginning to show, as the United States falls farther and farther behind other countries in producing top-quality science, technology, engineering, and math students (STEM).

All of us, including major corporations, could change this. Some companies actually play an important and valuable role in supporting science and nature education in this country. But sending the messages that Toys “R” Us sent with this despicable ad only hurts that effort. I wonder: What did it cost to produce this ad, and what is being spent to air it? And how much does Toys”R”Us contribute to science and environmental education? It couldn’t possibly be enough to counter the damage of this kind of message.

Guy must be some kind of communist.

 

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Desert Son, OM

    “A princess is loyal . . .

    Loyalty in and of itself isn’t necessarily bad, but given recent posts about infantilization and appropriation of women’s identities, did this sentiment strike anyone else as a particularly pernicious part of an already pernicious message?

    Also, set irony meter for full gain. Several servos in mine broke when I noticed one of the children (which my cultural biases categorize as a boy) in the advertisement was shown looking into a telescope. At Toys R Us. After having been diverted from the scientific field trip. That had potential science.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  2. 2
    Ubi Dubium

    When I was a little girl, my dream would have been to go to the forest to look at leaves with my Dad. I don’t think Toys R’ Us could make that one come true.

  3. 3
    embertine

    As a landscaper who finds the birch tree outside my office window more fascinating than even a whole boatload of toys, I find this saddening. It even has a greater spotted woodpecker! Beat THAT, Toys R Us!

  4. 4
    ismenia

    We had some great school trips to a nearby conservation centre. I don’t think Toys R’ Us offer pond dipping or show you how to use a compass.

  5. 5
    carlie

    I’ve known people in their early 20s (in the US) who have, literally, never been out of sight of a building. Ever. I’ve known others who have never been in the woods before. Toys R Us sucks.

    This reminds me of an ad from several years ago, from an internet provider, bashing on the connection times of another provider. It showed a kid waiting for the computer to connect to the internet, and it took so long that he *gasp* WENT OUTSIDE AND STARTED PLAYING WITH A SKATEBOARD, while yelling “is it online yet?” every few seconds. And this was, in the world of the commercial, a bad thing. Jeez.

  6. 6
    sawells

    Our daughter is three, and last week she identified a beech tree for us from the shape of its leaves – “They showed us in forest school at nursery.” I’ll make a note to never take her anywhere near a Toys-R-Us.

  7. 7
    hyperdeath

    Is Toys R Us really that “fun”? I recall the UK version being like a warehouse, where the only thing you were allowed to do with the toys, was buy them.

  8. 8
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    When I was a little girl I read Jack London, Edger Rice Burroughs and Jean Craighead George and dreamed of living alone in wild places. In third grade we were to dress as our heroes. I came to school as Jane Goodall.

  9. 9
    Eamon Knight

    I thank my lucky stars (or better: my parents) that I was taken on nature trails, and camping to national parks all across Canada and the US when I was growing up. I expect that, at the age depicted in that ad I was just as attracted to shiny baubles as those kids are, but in the long term it’s the places I went I recall far more than the toys I had. And it no doubt laid the foundation for a life-long interest in science.

    I still suck at more than the most basic level of tree identification (eg. conifers are all either cedar, or “it’s covered in sharp bits”), but damn a day’s ramble in the woods and up the hills is better than any amount of shopping for stuff.

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Seriously. I spent most of my childhood in the country (and pined for it during the years we lived in town) and I did my own self-organized nature hikes. I didn’t think of them that way, I was just wandering, but I certainly had and still have a deeply-rooted passion for Outdoors.

  11. 11
    ismenia

    That, Ophelia, is something modern kids just can’t do. We had a small forest area behind our house and a larger area down the road but we were never allowed to play there without our parents being present.

    We grew up hearing how kids today are lazy and don’t get enough exercise but my generation onwards were never allowed to walk to school (until high school) or do anything unsupervised. For me video games and later the internet offered a freedom from parental oversight.

  12. 12
    sailor1031

    Hardly surprising that those children didn’t recognize a field maple leaf being as how it’s a eurasian species (as is the greater spotted woodpecker). Very unlikely that they would ever have seen one or been told about it.

  13. 13
    educationplease

    This is horrifying. I read somewhere that children are so addicted to virtual reality and games that they can’t really cope with real life situations. It makes one think.

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