Child's Play

Children are becoming a major part of our commodity culture, regardless of how young they are. Effective marketing and advertising are turning kids into consumers and childhood into a commodity. Corporate companies are shaping young people’s identities and desires and undermining the ideals of a secure and happy childhood, replacing them with aspirations for possessions, success, profit and commodities. They also help to shape boy’s and girl’s perceptions about their future roles as adults.

In this project I will look into the effect that the multi-million pound toy industry is having on children. It will look at gender roles and stereotypes within children’s adverts and products specifically in children’s toyshops.

Today’s toyshops are clearly divided into gender-specific sections with very different gender roles with the ‘pink’ section on one side for girls’ toys and the ‘blue’ section on the other for boys. What distinguishes a girl’s toy from a boy’s toy? Toys for girls often simply copy the experiences of life at home and appear directly related to the housework and child-rearing duties they might well be expected to do as adults as well as encouraging an attention to their appearance. In contrast, toys for boys appear very unrelated to adult life and tend to stress heroic adventures and excitement. Many of these toys encourage violence, anger and machismo. Why are there still such stereotypical gender roles with toys?

The project I propose to undertake will explore these ideas. It will portray children in a constructed adult world where they will undertake the specific roles suggested by the kinds of toys commonly available for sale. They will be photographed with straight expressions that take them away from the world of childhood and play and into a serious grown-up world. The images will be intense and will create a slightly disturbing undertone. I am hoping to make a strong impression on the audience and make them aware of the negative impact of the innocent-seeming toys commonly bought for children.