I just watched a disturbing commercial for Build-a-Bear. Apparently, you can get Cody Simpson’s fan message in a bear now. This is bothersome to me for a couple of reasons.
Who is Build-a-Bear for, really? Yes, OK, you can get them for people graduating from college, sick people, and those sorts of reasons. But they do the bulk of their business selling the experience of building your “best friend” to younger children – from what I’ve seen, mainly girls. Now, on occasion I see older girls in there buying bears somewhat ironically. And again, no problem.
Now, who is Cody Simpson for? Really, WHAT is he for? He’s a young pop star who appeals to younger girls. How young? Well, my 5-year old said she liked him because of his “cool hair”, which, frankly, was not something I wanted to hear at this age. Obviously, she’s on the youngest side of the Simpson fan bus. But he’s being marketed to girls around 12 or younger, from what I’ve seen. And what are they supposed to feel about him? They like him because of his “cool hair” or his Aussie accent, or “cool” clothes – I’ve never actually heard him sing AFAIK even though that’s supposedly his gig. So, he’s the “safe” boy all the parents think is OK for their daughters to like as they confront their burgeoning sexuality, and the corporations are using that to sell records or merch.
OK, I get that. It’s just how it’s “done” and yelling about it is like shaking a fist at passing clouds. I don’t have to like it, and I’ll try to steer my kid away from it, but there’s enough parents out there paying such little attention or that don’t care that any gesture I make to teach my child more about quality over superficiality will probably be lost in the noise. But that’s not even the problem I have with this.
Teaming Cody Simpson with Build-a-Bear is essentially infantilizing our adolescent daughters while simultaneously sexualizing our younger ones. It sends a mixed message to our kids about being physically older but acting like children, and puts them at odds with their bodies and feelings. It says “Boys like it when you act younger than you are.” while forcing older feelings on the younger children. It’s an unfair and cynical strategy to not just rob our wallets, but to rob our children of being, well, children and becoming consumers – moreso than most other ad campaigns that I’ve seen. It disgusts me. I’m not sure I can support Build-a-Bear any longer, and we usually go there once a year and get new costumes for the kid’s bears and buy bears for the disadvantaged children that they have available. It was a bad decision, and I hope they see it sooner rather than later, and if they don’t, I hope it backfires on them.