[twitter]I just bought tickets for Z and I to check out Yo Gabba Gabba Live this fall. It will be his first live concert tour type show and the first time we’ve really buckled under the pressure of commercial characterization.
Sure, he has a train set and a few pieces are from that train, but most of the track and cars are from Ikea or the generic wooden track bin in the toy store.
Sure, we re-enact lines from The Backyardigans Save The Day episode every night in the bath, but he doesnt have a complete bed sheet and towel set plastered with Pablo, Austin, Uniqua and Tyrone.
Yes, we brought him to a baby fair to get his picture taken with Max and Ruby when he was younger, and he and I will run around the yard pretending to be Super Bunny and Zoom Zoom, but the gear associated with the characters hasn’t infiltrated his toy chest.
Go out and try to buy your kids a bike helmet at WalMart and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything without Cars, Dora, or Elmo on it. Wander the aisles of toys and they’re all tied to Bob The Builder, Thomas The Tank Engine or Diego.
Try and buy diapers without Winnie the Pooh or Elmo or Nemo on the waist band – you can’t. From the minute our children are hours old, the message of characterization starts to weave into their lives.
Two weeks ago, Thomas arrived at our local train yard. The crowds were huge, the tickets were more expensive than usual and there were tantrums from the target audience.
The week after that show, we took Z to the same yard and for $3 we rode a full sized train. It was vintage engine pulling the cars, not a bright blue one, but you couldn’t tell that from the inside and all that mattered was the whistle blew and steam chugged.
I’ve heard stories of mall appearances by the likes of Dora where parents offered mall security hundreds of dollars to skip the line and give their children access. Working at a radio station I’ve received calls from frantic parents when The Spice Girls were on tour saying they needed to get their 3 year old tickets to the show.
Z’s 3rd birthday party last weekend featured a blue cupcake cake. The streamers and noisemakers and loot bags were bright and colourful, but there was no Buzz, Woody or Shrek to be found anywhere.
Parents Magazine reports that some birthday parties are becoming extravagant like weddings. Ours was burgers and chips and carrots with our family and neighbours. The star of the show wasn’t a bouncy castle or clown – it was my friend’s 5 pound pug.
I’m trying to give Z a balance in his life. Yes, characters will be involved – it’s inevitable. But we’ll let him choose the ones he enjoys and we won’t over expose him to the marketing of the characters. He’s 3 – he doesn’t know that Yo Gabba Gabba is on tour and wouldn’t really miss it if we didn’t go, but it’s a show we watch together, so we’ll enjoy it together.