Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Does this mean war?

fridge patrol

I was doing my usual holiday pre-shopping (which generally entails perusing the Target Web site for its selction of Playmobil sets before getting into the car and actually DRIVING to Target to purchase one) when I stumbled upon Roman Arena action set and the following angry review by "Proud to be a Christian 'Mandy B'":


Are you kidding me??! You need "0" stars above or a space where we can give our "real" feedback.

What kind of sadistic toymaker would come up with this "toy" for a child age 4-8? or for any age for that matter? What was fun about the slaughtering of Christians by the Roman empire? What do you think the lions were for?? This is nauseating. I can't believe Target would sell such a disgusting toy just to make some $. I will not ever shop in your store again unless this toy is removed from your shelves.

Mandy B.
Past loyal Target cardholder and past frequent shopper

And below it was this more tongue-in-cheek critic, who penned himself Maximus (Pompeii):


This toy is quite valuable for teaching young children about the Roman Empire. Countless hours can be had playing Gladiator vs. Lion and Gladiator vs. Gladiator in mortal combat. Children and take on role playing acting as the Caesar giving the good ‘ole “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” as they learn logical consequences as a part of early childhood development.

Parents should thoroughly preparing for the onslaught of educational and historical questions that will arise from the hours of delight acting out mortal combat in front of the thousands of Patrician Romans leisurely spending their idle time.

Some questions that parents should be prepared for are,” Who did the lions attack besides the Gladiators?" Of course the answer would be the criminal Christians who were guilty of treason by not worshiping the state Caesar who was considered God by decree.

Perhaps some extra figures of unarmed Christians could be a useful addition to the group and in that sense would round out the historical accuracy of murderous spectacle.

Which got me thinking. ... What IS inappropriate as a toy? You know ... aside from our preferences as parents and our kids' preferences as players.

Is it the TOY or the PLAY?

I'm of the general opinion that toys aren't the problem. The Roman Empire has returned from ancient history. Popular culture - such as wildly popular HBO series, "ROME," has brought it back into the minds of Christmas-shopping parents, and the history IS fascinating.

Of course the Playmobil version does seem to mix its timeline - setting its stage with Caesar but keeping the Christians and other 'criminals' (save gladiators) out of the arena (which actually seems to be the case in 313AD under Constantine, when religious persecutions were banned and Christianity slowly started to become Rome's official religion). But who cares, right? Christians were persecuted. People's lives were not valued they way we value them today.

But where was I?

Plaything appropriateness ...

Is it glorifying war to play with war toys?

There have been lots of conflicting studies over the past two decades as to the effect violence and violent play has in shaping young minds; and most of it seems to have biases that coincide with current events. A sharp upturn in violent crime in teenagers during the 90s, for instance, seems to have made experts conclude that it couldn't hurt to dissuade parents from allowing their kids to play with guns or to engage in any violent roleplay. Skip forward a little to a post-Columbine era and zero-tolerance policies aimed at stopping violence altogether, even at the thought-level, became the norm. If a child drew a violent picture they were referred to school counseling.

More recent research seems to be of the opinion that violent role play is not only normal, but it can be healthy for most youngsters. One theory being that it's not just that children learn from play, they work out their perception of the world through it. Keeping them away from roleplaying we as parents find distasteful or shocking, might actually keep kids from learning the necessary lessons of controlling their natural aggression.

It seems what's most needed is for parents to be present. What the kids learn about their own play, whether it be with toy guns or toy harlots or just pretend play without any props, is related to what we are reminding them of: The realities, good or bad. When that happens my guess is everyone will learn something useful.


apathy lounge said...

Republicans think that they get to decide what is an appopriate toy. Glorifying war is okay to them as long as they determine that their idea of a "good guy" gets to do all of the killing. Thus leaving their perceived (sp?) villain as the one who deserves to die. In your case, they would say that the little green guys are patriots and that yogurt deserves to get capped.

toyfoto said...

Of course, the war spin machine could be that the Lil' Green Patriots are protecting the rich mineral resources of the invaded country from the evil insurgents bent on destroying freedom.

jessica said...

i have nothing to add to your thoughtful and perfect words. you are amazing. and i will forwarding this post to many many people.

Anonymous said...

we "played army" as we called it, in my youth, it was athletic, competitive and we sometimes wrestled and became rowdy. If one was "Shot dead", they would sit on the side and be included in the next battle. We understood that the pretend deaths were just that...pretend. the wrestling taught us anothers pain level.
I wonder how playing a video game where one kills a figure on a screen can teach some of the values of a real game of "Army".
Does this have an effect on the rise in teen is not the violence in the game but the way it is played when one is young that may be in question.

Later, Kcoz

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Interesting. . .

The thing that bugs me about Mandy B's review is that I get the feeling that it's the slaughtering of Christians that bugs her most. . . I wonder how she feels about Cowboys and Indians toys or GI Joe action figures.

Want to demystify the 'glory' of everything from Alexander the Great to Roman Gladiators? Check out the great series of "You Wouldn't Want To. . ." books. Talk about a cold, hard look at history.

xdm said...

Wow. That woman puts the "dick" in "ridiculous." And, by the way, Beck has a bunch of those Playmobil gladiators and chariot. They were purchased for him by his over indulgent grandmother who is so hard core Catholic that she hasn't missed a day of miss in more than 65 years. I had barbies when I was little and a feminist teacher of mine in the 6th grade made an enormous deal of it. Little did she know that my Barbies climbed trees, attacked enemies, explored foreign lands, and did it all naked.

Binky said...

Toys don't kill people, people kill people!

(Unless the toy is full of lead paint from China, in which case it still won't kill, it will probably just wreak permanent havoc on the nervous system)

Anonymous said...

Okay, how about some responsibility here? And I think that's where the reviewer is lacking. If she were to play with her child with this, she could steer the play to "safe" subjects and the connotation of Christian persecution would not be linked to this toy.

I think that people like pointing fingers. They want to be up in arms over something. I can't say I'm immune to that sometimes myself, but really, keeping a level head about things and teaching our kids the ways of the world instead of sheltering them from the world is likely to teach them more about appropriateness than making them live in a bubble.

But I can't help wanting to go to Target to GET this playmobile set. The imagination just waiting to happen with it is tempting.

Firestarter5 said...

The worst thing about little green soldiers carrying guns and bazooka's is when you accidentally step on one with your bare foot while walking through the kitchen or living room.