I am a member of Generation X. After suffering years of being painted as apathetic creatures of extreme privilege and sloth, my Generation X counterparts have been let off of the hook for some time now. “Generation Y,” though saddled with the phenomenon of the “helicopter parent,” seem to be holding down jobs and buying houses. Now the media’s attention is on the “Millennials,” who must find a way to survive the “digital native” label. I’m sure they’ll be fine.
But some of those labels slung at Generation X still sting. We were accused of being stuck in perpetual adolescence, a generation of do-littles and dreamers, pouty and dyspeptic advertisement-chasers raised on cable television and sugar. The greatest generation stood by and watched us with wonder, wondering when we would give up our toys and grow up.
How can we let it go? How can we grow up? My children are playing with my toys. And by that, I don’t mean that they have hauled boxes out of my parents’ attic and are literally playing with my toys. I mean that they have all new versions of the same toys that I and my peers enjoyed as children. It’s weird.
Let my childhood go
Star Wars. My Little Pony. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. LEGO. My childhood is everywhere! It’s a little creepy. Modern parenting books encourage us to get on the floor and play with our kids. Did those authors know that we would find a plastic diorama of 1984 when we knelt to our children’s level.
Matching TV shows and movies roll out to drive these merchandise trends. We have new movies and shows for all of the brands I mentioned above, and also for the likes of Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, Hello Kitty, and so on. Not only is 1984 on my floor, arrayed in mock battle, but it’s on my television as well and in my my local cinema.
Familiarity breeds contentment
In some ways, the reappearance of our old toys makes it easier to identify with our kids. “I loved these things!” we exclaim when they open a birthday present or ogle some item in the toy aisle. Did my parents have the same experience when I was a kid?
My father, who claimed not to have toys as a kid and enjoyed nothing more than a game of “kick the can,” certainly never stopped me at a hardware store, picked up a bucket and exclaimed “I loved these things!”
There’s something comforting about seeing our taste as children confirmed in the choices of our own kids. And why not? Our toys were awesome!
Wait just a dang moment…
As penniless as I am, I realize that my children have even less purchasing power than I do. Are these trends a way to unite us as a toy-buying public, children and adults alike? Is this… collusion?
I know that the market dictates what toys go on the shelves, but I also know when I’m being targeted as a consumer, and targeted brilliantly. As much as the new Star Wars movie is playing on my son’s interest in video games and action figures, am I not also being kept in mind when LEGO introduces a $400 Star Destroyer set?
Generation X to the world: Get your own childhood
This is all working very, very well for the entertainment industry. Recycling what worked on the six year-olds of 1979 for the kids of today is, if nothing else, cost effective. If the kids aren’t into it, maybe the adults will get nostalgic and buy it anyway.
Rest assured, however, that the post-millennial generation being raised with copies of my toys still insist on trends of their own. Have you heard of Minecraft? Ask an eight year-old about it sometime… but be sure to clear your schedule first.
So to the detractors of Generation X, I only ask one thing: don’t accuse me of not being able to grow up, and then roll out my childhood in front of me like a die-cast metal and plastic carpet of memories. You may have been right all along: these awesome toys remind me that growing up might not have been all it was cracked up to be.