Friday, July 9, 2010

Your Stuff is Alive, So Feel Guilty: Toy Story 3

I went to see Toy Story 3 this week. Everyone had told me to go. It got something like a 99% approval rating on some site my partner checks to see if movies are worth seeing. And it was definitely cute. There were places I cheered, times I repeated lines in my partner's ear, and times when I felt close to inching forward on my seat. I am not someone who spends much effort trying to predict plotlines, but I found this one to be remarkably fresh in many ways, as were the previous two incarnations, truth be told.

That said, I take issue with some of the underlying Toy Mythos: toys are alive, they have vivid feelings including fear and insecurity, and it is up to their child to satisfy all their needs for love and affection by playing with them often and in an appropriate manner. However, toys are unable to express any of their needs and feelings to the child responsible for meeting them, and must sneak about in order to pursue any of their own ends.

I find this a formula guaranteed to engender worry and guilt in anyone who cares about their toys (like kids). Are your toys okay? Do they feel neglected? Are you ever allowed to get rid of old stuff without feeling like you are betraying your (possibly real) toys?

Toys are things. I have read that modern toys that come with their pre-determined story line are actually detrimental to kids and the development of their imagination and creativity. Toys are tools for learning, for thinking, and for imagining, all the things that are going on while a child is playing. As the child develops, new toys become the tools of the hour and it is appropriate to let go of the sorting by color and move on to the number and word puzzles when the time is right.

I think what I object to most is the popular acceptance of the idea that inanimate objects could be people, when as a society we are having a hard time recognizing the humanity in Muslims and Hispanic immigrants, among others. We treat them as the less-than-human "other", and yet how many of us will now hesitate to throw away broken old toys for fear of the terrible furnace that awaits them at the dump?

And now I am really getting het up, and so will have to do a second post about the racism, and other prejudice in the movie as well....

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