Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Tis the Season

The circulars barely hit the table when the kids whip out their pens and begin circling what they want for Christmas. Each year the toys change, but the desire for acquisition remains the same. French theorist Roland Barthes analyzed toys in his collection of essays, Mythologies, and argued that toys are a means of indoctrinating children into their socialized adult behaviors. E-Z Bake Oven? Army Soldiers? Doctor kit? All toys conditioning children to fulfill their future roles by training them to be users of objects rather than creators.No movie typifies this thirst for toys more than A Christmas Story, by American humorist Jean Shepard. Shaped around a boy’s quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun, the film conveys the longing, the pathos, the memories of childhood without the cloying sentimentality. The object embodies the boy’s desire to become a man by protecting his family from marauders, not to mention that his friend Flick is getting one, too. The quest for the air rifle, which Shepard properly calls his holy grail, is ultimately less about the rifle and more about the universal anticipation of a fulfilling a desire.

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