In the Sweet Sixteen Spectacular post, I wrote that Boo knows 45 words and signs. One thing I left out:
One of her words is “Elmo.”
For a while, this was a source of a lot of concern for me. It’s not like we watch Sesame Street yet; we’re on board with the AAP’s no-TV-for-babies philosophy. But Boo got an Elmo hand puppet and she plays this tickle-the-Elmo Web game from time to time. Even so, having her first hundred words invaded by what is essentially a brand name, a product line — that seemed a little creepy. What’s next? Woe betide the family whose toddler is the first on the block to say “Weyerhauser“!
Looking under the red skirt, though, I discovered this guy Kevin Clash, Elmo’s puppeteer. If there were a Kevin Clash fan club, I would be the president. Here’s a guy who develops his childhood love of puppets to the point where he can magically transform fake red fur and plastic eyeballs into a character who can
- Comfort children with a terminal illness;
So Elmo seems pretty cool. Especially for a puppet. Boo’s got good taste!
My “Elmo-is-OK” epiphany makes me wonder if all our glassy-eyed anti-product plans — drawn up B.B., “before baby” — are as unrealistic as Barbie’s measurements. It seems like even the most militant anti-plastic parents give in at some point — even on something as yucky as Bratz dolls. I fear the day Boobaby comes home from L.A. grandma’s house with one of those vinyl sluts.
Our lives are suffused with brand images, inappropriately sexualized toys, and other sundry junk. Maybe immunizing Boo against their siren song isn’t a matter prohibition but instead innoculation: a gradual introduction of small amounts of the toxins to get her little brain until she’s able to understand what it means to yearn for a “brand” in our consumer culture. Seen this way, we’re introducing Boo to Elmo to protect her against later assaults by Abercrombie and Prada, and, for that matter, Joe Camel.
So if a little brand exposure is good for Boo, why do the Disney Princesses still make me uncomfortable?