Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Cruel World in Which to Raise a Little Girl

So, we're a game playing household here. We've probably got upwards of 50 games on shelves and in drawers all over the place. As Eva has grown up, we've wanted to keep challenging her with new things. Once she learned to count a bit and tell the difference between colors, I figured Candyland would be a great way to start her on games - super simple and also fun (at least in my very old memories).

I grew up playing Candyland. A lot. I have two younger brothers, so even when I got old enough to realize it's a game with absolutely no choices, totally determined by the cards, I continued to play it because they liked it. Despite what had to have been a lot of boring afternoons, I have nothing but great memories of the game. I realize now that there have been several iterations of Candyland through the years; the one I remember looked like this:

At some point, they added characters, which is vaguely remember, so perhaps friends had this version:

I went to the store to purchase Candyland for my daughter. I figured it would be pretty much the same thing I remembered. After all, if you're selling a super simple board game for four dollars, why shake things up much? I got the box home and opened it up to find this:

I was pretty speechless. The first thing I noticed was how busy the board is - colors and pictures and patterns all over the place. I wasn't confident my child could even figure out where the path was she was supposed to follow with her little pieces. Then I looked at the characters. Instead of little cartoonish creatures (since, you know, they're supposed to be made out of candy I never really expected them to look like people), they had essentially stylized adults.

It's tough enough to keep my daughter away from the societal pressures towards body image and forcing children to grow up before they actually grow up, it was really just devastating to see Candyland piling on. I mean "sad." I chose that word intentionally. This is typically the kind of thing that would really make me mad. I'd be spouting off to everyone and calling the company and all that. As it is, it's been like eight months and I'm just now getting around to writing about it.

I took the game back to Walmart to return it. I told the customer service lady why. She said, "I know. We get these back all the time." That's sad. It's all sad. It just makes me sad for the whole world.

I guess flashy and sexy is what sells, even if it's just a toy for toddlers, but it's still really sad. Thankfully our neighbors had a Dora version of Candyland with Dora characters (which Eva loves), so we've been able to play it (and we play it a lot).

I know those outside pressures for societal conformity are inevitable. She's headed to preschool in the fall, and I know there's going to be a lot of messages to process. That's a part of life - whether it's sad or not - at the same time, this isn't a solo concern for me. You can google candyland and find a dozen blog posts similar to this one with the same complaints. At some point we have to questions whether these things are selling because people like the images and messages or just because there aren't other options, because we're desensitized to it all.

A couple years back we got turned on to some people trying to do it differently (hint hint - she just had a birthday, but Christmas isn't too far away - hint hint). I'm not sure why there aren't more people speaking up for some sense of balance and responsibility from the people who, like it or not, are forming the next generation. I could definitely go on about this for weeks, so I'll stop there, but it felt like this was something that I needed to get off my chest.

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