I went to a Christian book store yesterday to buy some books for the kids. Apart from the books, other bits of merchandise with Christian themes were for sale. These included a Christian version of Bratz dolls and Christian Ponies, for little girls. Later, I found this illustration, with the associated blurb from a catalogue, online here.
Why did I, and the two other mums with me, find this disturbing?
If I found them being sold in a church I’d probably be reminded of Jesus in the temple, but this was a shop, a profit making business, so why should there not be Bratz dolls and Ponies marketed to us as well?
The Ponies were disturbing, as they seemed almost identical to those without a Christian theme. There were three available, called ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ or ‘Love’, with accompanying bible verses. They seemed to be made by a different manufacturer to the ‘worldly’ ponies. We wondered if there was a big copyright infringement there, which would have been a form of theft, which is not very Christian. Presumably Mattel would have sued if there was a problem, so it was probably OK.
The Bratz dolls were similarly disturbing. Why did a Bratz doll have to have a Christian theme? These dolls have been particularly criticised by some for aiding in the sexualisation of children at a very young age, with their sexy clothes and exaggerated figures and features.
Of course my next thought was to wonder if I was just being prudish in some way and should just get over it. After all, my little girl wouldn’t care; it would probably all go way over her head.
Are the manufacturers Christian enterprises, or are they just cynically catering to a large niche market? Why bother buying ‘Christian’ toys when you can go out and buy the ‘worldly’ one – if you wouldn’t buy it normally, why would you bother buying a ‘Christian’ version, particularly a toy that’s attracted criticism even in the secular world for its potential effect on little girls?
Is there something off about marketing this kind of merchandise to Christians? Does it cheapen the Bible and our faith, or overcommercialise it? Does it make our faith kitsch?
On the other hand, is it just a helpful way of introducing aspects of our faith to our kids?