You’re soaking in it: the marketing of violence

Some people think we’re rather odd for avoiding buying firearm toys for the Lad. Some of them, politely, keep it to themselves. Others make loud, condescending Pfffft! noises, and spit rather scornfully at us for being “first-time” parents trapped in our own la-la-land of unrealistic self-expectations and ridiculous ideals. “But all boys make weapon toys”, they say, “whether they’re exposed to weapons or not. They’ll make a gun out of a piece of toast. Why not just buy them the toy guns in the first place? Give in now, ya wallies!”

Whether they’re exposed to them or not? Does weapon culture inevitably arise from whole cloth, writ into the genes, in each generation? More importantly, how would any of us know? The language of violence is everywhere. Everywhere. Short of locking a newborn in a room empty of windows and media, they will soak it up from the environment – they don’t need to invent it.

This gallery brought that home to me today, with a sickening *thud*. It’s a smorgasbord of everyday images of aggressive domination. The stuff that is subliminal to most of us now – that our kids are soaking in. Statuary, James Bond posters, green Hulk hands, video games, war movies, military parades, media images of the Iraq war, the glorification of colonialism, foxhunts, Crusade imagery, baby camouflage gear, severed-finger lollies, violence against children, images of sexual domination. Ripped out of context and juxtaposed, it’s a litany of hostility that induces instant nausea and a creeping horror.

So I don’t buy capguns and plastic AK-47s and GI-Joes. I’m going to keep not buying them. And I’m going to keep reinforcing to the Lad that if he insists on playing “hunters”, he is hunting for food animals only, and in no circumstances does he ever, EVER point his tuba-gun or his finger-gun at people, even in play. Ever.

We’re surrounded by images of sexual violence, but that doesn’t mean I should buy my preschooler an abduction-and-rape game kit with toy rope, duct tape, and a knife. So why should I buy him murder-rehearsal tools?

Categories: culture wars, gender & feminism, relationships, Sociology

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10 replies

  1. I have also noticed the number of games being advertised with boys and girls playing and the majority of the time the boy wins. Interesting message that we are sending to children, like car ads where the men almost always drive when there are two or more people in the car.

  2. That’s one thing I liked about the new KIA ads where the young couple can’t agree on anything except that they want a KIA – they’ve made the ads half she’s driving and half he’s driving. Now if only they could have made it so that she didn’t look petulant/bitchy and he didn’t look nervous during the disagreements.

  3. Thirty years ago I was of the ‘no guns’opinion but I had to relent when they got very inventive with making Star Wars lasars. For one thing they were quiet when concentrating and second, what they came up with was really great. They both grew up with no desire to ever touch a real gun.

  4. JahTeh: they absorb weapon culture from everywhere, don’t they?
    As a commenter mentioned on my personal blog, there’s also a difference between children using their brains and hands to construct something, and children running around with off-the-shelf plastic assault weapons, shouting BANG BANG YOU’RE DEAD.

  5. I suppose they absorbed the weapon culture from Star Wars but at the same time, the code of the Jedi Knights also intrigued them and neither of them wanted to be Darth Vader.
    You’re right about off-the-shelf assault weapons though. I have a friend whose grandson is definitely this side of creepy. He loves nothing better than to wear camoflage clothes with hat and camo netting and at least two to three plastic guns slung about him. His age, 10.

  6. My mum grew up as one of six kids who played cowboys and indians with sticks and string bows and thistle stalks as arrows. This is well before TV, so I guess they got it from books and radio. I think they also played cops and robbers. So it’s not a new phenonmenon, and I suspect that it’s a little inate(?) in all of us. Some of us just deal with it better than others.
    As for the ten year old, I think a preoccupation with cammo and guns etc is probably within the bounds of normal, and he may grow up to join the army and have a perfectly normal life. If he starts setting fires and hurting animals, then I’d be having him off to a psych pretty damn quick.

  7. The phenomenon is old indeed; did you look at the gallery? Statuary was a big part of it. This isn’t a “kids today” rant, it’s much bigger than that.
    My worry is not that kids with guns will grow up to be defined by our society as deviant psychopaths. It is that the internalised monologue of violence and domination is considered completely normal: an expected and even celebrated expression of masculinity.
    I’d be as alarmed if my ten year old was obsessed with the army and guns as I would if I had a ten year old incessantly emulating the Pussycat Dolls.

  8. Maybe I’m too well brainwashed? (sorry I haven’t looked at th e gallery, naughty me) The Pussycat dolls being a fairly recent phenonmenon and all, and little boys running around with guns seemingly forever. I guess where is the line drawn between playing Indiana Jones and having some imagination, and playing ‘kill the minority group or whatever’ like we saw on the news last night.

  9. I have now looked at the gallery. I see what you mean.

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