Updating our childhoods

I’m not sure when I first became aware of the ‘updates’ being done to popular children’s characters (mostly) from the 1980s. Rainbow Brite. Care Bears. Strawberry Shortcake. I wasn’t particularly invested in any of the characters, as I was too old to have an interest when they were popular. Dora the Explorer was a different issue. The kids has really enjoyed Dora. I’m not sure why they felt she needed to grow up. Don’t characters (being fictional and all) have the benefit of being static?

I think the one that bothers me most is Holly Hobbie. I had some of the dolls and we had the Holly Hobbie / Little House on the Prairie – inspired wallpaper. Holly and her friends were vague in their actual historical placement, but I always figured them to be something vaguely pioneer-ish. (Of course, it also fit in with the early-70s aesthetic.) They provided scope for the imagination precisely because they represented something very different from the suburban Toronto setting I was living in at the time.

I was never much interested in toys or characters that reflected my own life too closely. I liked Wonder Woman. And MASH. When we played with Barbies, they drove around in their RV or took the pop-up trailer camping (something I would not do in reality until I was an adult).

So I don’t get why Holly Hobbie now wears jeans and is obviously meant to be ‘modern’ and urban in some way. Do they think that children can’t related to anything that is not a mirror of their own lives? Or are these toys meant to be somehow aspirational? I don’t get it.

And then, today, I saw the trailer for the new Smurfs movie (coming out this summer). They don’t live in their little mushroom cottages in the forest anymore. No. It’s live action with CGI in 3D and they’ve moved to New York City.

I was never much of a Smurfs fan (and I still have flashbacks to the horrible Smurfs and the Magic Flute movie that I look my younger sisters to), but it’s all more of the same. Trendy and monotonous and aimed at exactly who?

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