Sunday, September 21, 2003

Note for Christmas Shoppers

If, like me, you think a normal boyhood should involve a serious amount of time spent in the company of toy soldiers, you may be pleased to know that the world of toy soldiery is not past and gone. Whether it's going on safari, journeying with Rogers' Rangers, defending Fort Zinderneuf, exploring a new planet, or protecting the good monks at the abbey from marauding Vikings, you can find all the necessary troops and equipment at: Classic Toy Soldiers

This is good. This is really neat. In fact, it's better than just about anything you could give your kids for Christmas. Unlike Nintendo, Playstation and "action figure" toys, your boys won't have to memorize what's practically a new (and New Age) religion in order to play. No mystical gaia goddesses are going to pop up and explain the universe, and problems aren't going to be solved painlessly and easily by pushing the right button or reciting the right spell. No, they'll get to use their imaginations on real things about the real world -- things which, by the way, you also know. ("Daddy, why can't you breathe on Mars?" "Who were the Conquistadors?") You could give your kids hours of intellectual development and imaginative fun with these wonderful toys, or let ‘em watch another brainless, breathless television program about lesbians, serial killers, or goodness triumphing over stupid and uncaring adults.

You get to let God teach your children lots of things, too. When I was very young, my dad bought me a whole medieval playset complete with Vikings and a Bishop. (Yes, the toys of old had priests, monks, and bishops. I still have some of them. A tonsured monk holding a cross aloft in blessing or curse, a bishop with his crozier, and a Viking with his sword cut off). We set up the Castle and dad's figure charged in with the alarm -- the Vikings have landed!! So I picked the Bishop character and said we ought to go see if they're hostile first. My dad's knight said no, it was too dangerous, we had to attack now. I looked up at Dad and said "what can I do now?" He said, "well, bishops' powers are spiritual, so you could excommunicate me." So I did. Suddenly, none of the knights could go out and fight. We made peace with the Vikings, and ended up on a joint mission to kill a particularly nasty dragon. Now my Dad, bless him, was just playing around, using bits and peices of half-forgotten history lessons to help the story. But I think, from over 30 years' distance, that someone else was playing with us, teaching a very young boy about the reality of supernatural life and Christianity's powerful role in it. (Not to mention the facts that you don't mess around with bishops and you've got to kill some dragons occasionally).

You can't do that with modern tie-in "advertainment." The tele-toy industry doesn't want anyone thinking for himself, and the toys they give your children are intended to keep them fixated on the marketing message. You can't just have Pooh, Barney or Thomas the Toy Train. You've also got to have all the Pooh, Barney, and Thomas "stuff" -- the real message to your kids is finding a lifestyle they enjoy and then buying all the stuff that makes it possible. The guys and gals who run television networks are sneaky, very sneaky indeed. Besides, I've noticed that kids who play with advertainment tend to just repeat the plots and activities of the characters in some kind of stultified kabuki ritual. Does SuperPowerMan[TM] ever get frightened? No, ‘cause he doesn't get frightened in the TV shows. That's not play, it's mimicry. The television folk think that talent will come in handy some day, when our Fuhrer wants your grown-up kids to mimic him.

Television is a lice-ridden drunk. Why do I keep saying that? Because if you watch television long enough, you'll see the kind of things you'd see if you hung out with a lice-ridden drunk. It's constant, ever-present -- there is no "safe program," there is no "safe time." Yesterday afternoon I was making the drunk's glowing eyeball blink with my remote, and saw teenaged boys giving a prostitute whiskey and simulating intercourse with her to impress their friends. That episode was at 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon. The other night, the drunk slipped a mystery about homosexual and/or promiscuous kissing into a documentary about WWII airplanes. An old-time Western on AMC let me see a woman slathering herself with soap and climaxing in the shower. This is day-time, early-evening TV, folks -- kid-time TV. The television folks know it, and they like it. Why let people like that choose the childhood your kids will have? Might as well hire a wino to redecorate your playroom. Unplug your kids, and start setting up that castle on the living room floor. Who knows, you just might end up killing a dragon.

No comments: