U.K. Toy Chain’s Latest Commercial Destroys Gender Stereotypes
A U.K. chain’s toy commercial is causing discussion on social media over the way it tears down gender norms. The computer-animated ad for Smyth Toys Superstores depicts a young boy named Oscar singing a song entitled “If I Were a Toy,” musically based on Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy.”
The video starts as might be expected, with Oscar imagining himself flying through a galaxy full of toys on a jetpack. Eagle-eyed viewers however will notice that amongst the Buzz Lightyears, Storm Troopers, and fire trucks are several traditional “girls” toys including a Barbie doll. The segment of the ad causing most of the discussion comes in the next sequence when the boy is dropped into a castle scene suddenly wearing a dress, and begins singing about being “queen of the land.” The scene then shifts to the child building a Lego city, and later riding a motorcycle. The implication is that the boy imagining himself as a queen – or any non-masculine role – is simply a normal part of any growing child’s play. The commercial ends with the CGI Oscar morphing into a real boy, and entering Smyths to discover a great deal of toys waiting for him. Notably, the toys displayed are once again a mixture of traditional “boys” and “girls” toys. Right up front action figures, sports equipment, and cars share the space with stuffed animals, and Barbie dolls. The commercial is the latest in a string of incidents in the last several years aimed at breaking down gender walls in the toy aisle. For example, Target has eliminated all gender signage from stores, and introduced a new gender-neutral home décor line, entitled Pillowfort, for kids. According to the Minneapolis-based company, they did so due to the wishes of many parents. Spokesperson Amy Goetz said in a statement earlier this year, “One thing that we heard from parents is that they really wanted more universal pieces.” It’s not only parents who are welcoming the change; it’s experts as well. Megan Fulcher, a professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University, explained the dangers of gender expectations to the New York Times last year.
“Play with masculine toys is associated with large motor development and spatial skills and play with feminine toys is associated with fine motor development, language development, and social skills. Children may then extend this perspective from toys and clothes into future roles, occupations, and characteristics.”While there are some against these changes, and the Smyths ad in particular, many on social media were quick to laud the spot.
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