Thursday, August 5, 2010

Catching that Boy's Interest

While shopping for a 5 year old male, there were three common toys that were popular: star wars action figures, legos, and transformers. For one reason this was not surprising because "Children's imaginative play has become the target of marketing strategy, allowing marketers to define the limits of children's imagination" (Jhally 254). All of these toys are ultimately enhanced with the child's imagination. another reason this was not surprising is that it is clear child audiences are segmented by gender, even at the young age of 5. Targeting children by gender at such a young age can form them into gendered consumers for a long period of time. By marketing action, violence, and power, companies define what a young boy should be looking for in a toy.

Katz says that "Stressing gender difference means defining masculinity in opposition to femininity." (351). Violence, power, and control are equated to masculinity, so this is why star wars action figures, legos, and transformers are marketed towards young boys. As you can see in the collage, almost every transformer and star wars action figure has a weapon, which appeals to the violence aspect of masculinity. Even the picture at the middle of the collage of the lego man is holding multiple guns and a few grenades. Many ad campaigns for these types of toys send a message that says violence is "cool" and "suave". There are also many star wars lego figures that hold weapons, because they are very popular. Young boys have the power to control these toys whether it be transforming a transformer, erecting anything they want from the legos, or fighting enemies with the star wars action figures. They also have the power to use their imagination with these toys.

It is very advantageous for some of these companies to form these young boys into gendered consumers. For example, a young boy growing up playing with a star wars action figure will probably buy the video games a few years later, and then a few years down the road they may want to purchase some type of star wars themed strategy game. You will notice when shopping for a boy or girl that boy products are defined by action and conflict elements while girl products are defined by emotional attachment and maintenance elements. This is why Jhally says creating gendered consumers is "making it difficult for boys and girls to play together because marketers have created a growing divide between the two genders" (254).

Jhally, Sut. "Image-Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture." 1990. Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Ed. Gail Dines & Jean M. Humez. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 249-257

Katz, Jackson. "Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity: From Eminem to Clinique for Men." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 349-58.