On many an occasion have I woken my daughter out of a dead sleep (to go to the bathroom or from a car seat nap) and after doing so she has uttered something quite unforeseen: "I'm afraid of spiders," or "Matisse is my best friend." But last night, I could not have imagined when rousing her from my bed to move her to her own room that I would hear her expound, "Princess Celestia!" Princess Celestia is a sparkling, pink unicorn from the My Little Pony series that Maxwell chose yesterday above all of the other toys at Target to be her present from Uncle Krik.
Truth be told, this is no ordinary unicorn; she is really quite...well...celestial with multicolored ringlets, and wings that light up when you push the cheeky button on her rump. As it turns out, she is also a chatterbox, spouting ear-cringing inanities. Now, I would never expect a toy with the unwieldy moniker Princess Celestia to extol the virtues of world peace or recite Portia's soliloquy or the Pythagorean Theorem, but come on, Hasbo, I about snapped a femur when the first words I heard out of the good princess's speaker box were "My barrettes look so pretty."
I immediately insisted on listening to Celestia's other bon mots and was not amused: Oh, my hair looks beautiful; My wings are so pretty (a bit self absorbed, don't ya think?); Let's fly to the castle; Spectacular! Spectacular, indeed. Spectacularly imbecilic.
I thought the dumbing down of little girls was passé. The new wave of American child rearing is supposed to be conscientiously moving away from the girls are beautiful/boys are tough style of parenting that was prevalent, oh, seven or eight decades ago. I get that kids like sparkling toys, I'm not saying Celestia has to resemble a school marm all gray and dour, but I'm pretty sure most parents would welcome this unicorn to have a more worldly view.
Also, my five year old, like other five year olds, loses shit all the time, especially if it's small. Many a vacuum cleaner has had to be unclogged because of the Barbie pump, or diminutive hairbrush that's jammed into the sucking mechanism. And the thing is, Maxwell isn't really into the accoutrement. They usually end up scattered on the kitchen floor, lying in wait for my vulnerable bare foot. Language more colorful than Princess Celestia's mane has escaped my lips when I've unsuspectingly stepped onto a mini tiara in the middle of the night. I imagine (and I haven't checked) if asked the whereabouts of Princess Celestia's rosette barrettes Maxwell wouldn't have a clue, and what's more, she wouldn't care.
Perhaps this speaks to my character, but I find it excruciating to listen to Her Highness proclaim over and over, "My barrettes look so pretty" when, in fact, she isn't wearing a single barrette! It's practically surrealism. Speaking of which, I imagine Rene Magritte would appreciate the mind bending conundrum that is the barretteless pony. It reminds me of his pipe, that he says is not a pipe, but goddamnit, it sure as shooting' looks like a pipe to me.
Come to think, if Celestia were marketed as "a surrealist unicorn" I would have more respect for the product. I could imagine her also waxing curious witticisms like, Your third nose is beautiful, or The melting pocket watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, or The minotaur took my fiddle! But clearly, surrealism was not intended, so to my mind the toy is a total and abject failure.
Not to mention, I've had this bizarre image niggling at the back of my mind. I can't help but compare the fancy Princess Celestia with another flashy demoiselle with feathers...a showgirl named Lola...
Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair
She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind
She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she's lost her mind!
Lola may have merengued and cha-chaed, while Celsetia flew to her magic palace, but both females are full of themselves to an almost obsessive degree. Here's the bottom line, little girls are pretty. And they don't need Hasbro or any other toy company validating girl-power prettiness over more desirable qualities: honesty, integrity, intelligence, and good grooming. If from time to time my daughter's topic of conversation lists towards the inane so be it, but there must be a balance. Otherwise, if she is modeled only platitudes of beautiful hair, pretty barrettes, and "a dress cut down to there" of the me, me, me variety, she very well may end up at her own private Copacabana, pining for times gone by, and a hot, dead bartender named Tony.
As I'm cobbling together an end for this piece, my children, I kid you not, are in the other room asking Celestia, "What is two plus ten?" To which the equine responds, Flying is so much fun. Then the kids break out in fits of giggles, as if even they are aware of the foolishness that is Princess Celestia, but damn does she have good hair.