My little brothers are supposedly bright. But something's wrong. They don't appear to find unexplored forests, buried dinosaur bones, or the infinite reaches of space remotely interesting. Their imaginations have been hijacked, along with the rest of today's youth.
I'm worried when I hear about how people react to shows like Dora the Explorer and Hannah Montana. Kids don't want to BE explorers and music stars anymore, they want to SEE them. Admire them. Learn everything about them and adopt their style. Become something by changing your clothes - and anything that takes longer is a chore.
I remember the palpable horror in a New York Times article about the "Hannah Montana MakeOver" contest. The prize - which was so important that it warranted a fake "my dad died in Iraq" essay - was to be styled and decorated exactly like Hannah Montana.
they make every little girl over into identical blonde cutouts holding microphones. It's horrifying. Talk about stripping away every bit of self-identification a girl has...
The company Web site has a "starlet contest" and a Wheel of Fame & Fortune that answers questions like, "Will i be famous?" It has a wish list that girls can fill out with several categories: "want," "need," "have to have."
I accuse the brand name market. If a kid today shows interest in Star Wars, he will be presented with books, cartoons, action figures, clothes, Legos, lightsabers, and video games all cementing him to the brand. At Christmas his parents will say "hmm Billy doesn't have anything from Franchises X or Y... but he does like Star Wars" and pile on the accessories.
I'm sure Billy will be happy with the toys, but it's hard to pretend a Millenium Falcon is anything but what it's designed to be.
This is actually different from the past
Sure, there were times we were obsessed with someone else's ideas - Harry Potter was a smash hit for our generation. But there was always an element of openness to it. Diagon Alley was fascinating not for the places Harry did go, but for the places we merely glimpsed.
For me, the last Harry Potter book was a particularly telling event in my family. I would talk about the motivations of the characters and possible outcomes. Curtis, on the other hand, bought a book with "theories" and "odds of death" and repeatedly quizzed us on them. He didn't want to think about possibilities, he wanted to know what was written.
I would always read and think "what if it happened differently there?" Like, would Sam be able to carry the Ring? Etc.
(by the way, I guessed that Mad-Eye Moody was going to die, and Curtis's book didn't even have him on the list! HA!)
What about Video Games?
Video games are probably not helping kids' imaginations. The "adventure" game sets up a world defined down to the last element, and makes veering off the expected path impossible or harmful to the mission at hand. What kind of adventure is that?
The strategy city-builder type games were always my favorite. It's very disconcerting to watch my little brother play these. He builds carelessly and gets frustrated with things' progress instead of realizing that he's responsible for poor design.
Sadly, I haven't gotten him interested in anything without some senseless killing.
In Conclusion, I could be wrong
Maybe I'm biased because of a "sheltered" childhood, or maybe it's my background as a wannabe engineer.
But I don't think it is.
Curtis and Jeremy have never had imaginary friends. Who needs an imaginary friend when you and everyone in your class has the same imaginary acquaintance - SpongeBob - who you can all see and talk about, and even play games with stuffed versions of him that you demanded from your parents?
Curtis and Jeremy have never expressed much interest in art, music [other than playing piano emotionlessly], constructing things with blocks, writing stories, or anything creative.
I sure hope I'm wrong about this.