The latest from the media gods, whose gifts keep on giving for all the wrong reasons. In the newest installment, this Toys R Us ad blows over all commons sense like a climate change induced hurricane. The ad depicts a busload of mostly kids of color who are being taken on a field trip to “nature” (I use quotation marks because it is ultimately a false distinction). It mocks environmental education by falsely depicting a boring, un-engaged presentation about oak leaves. Then suddenly the kids learn that they had been tricked and were actually going to Toys R Us. Like moths to a flame, they sprint ecstatically into a furnace of Chinese-manufactured toxins.*
The ad is wrong on so many levels, but let’s start with the demographic of the children. Urban kids of color have been shown to have “nature deficit” because of a lack of access to environmental education and “nature.” Under-served youths tend to live in cities and attend schools that don’t have the resources for environmental education. This problem is being addressed by the No Child Left Inside model, but there is a long way to go, and ads like this certainly don’t help the matter.
Toys R Us offers itself as a kind of WIllie Wonka of the consumer sublime, a concept developed by David Nye. Over the past hundred and fifty years or so as we have shifted into techno-scientific modernity, the sublime has transformed from an experience of awe of nature to awe of the technological cornucopia that surrounds us. The ad reinforces this by representing its toy store as a magical kingdom of discovery and amazement. But the ancient meaning of awe–“terror–comes closer to the reality behind Toys R Us, a kind of Lord of the Flies of globalization.
It just amazes me that the more we know about the state of our planetary ecological crisis, the more corporations shill denial. Also, it’s hard to believe this wasn’t made by The Onion.
* I’m not China bashing here, just drawing attention to where this crap is made. Just as the Colombians shouldn’t be blamed for our coke addiction, nor should we accuse the Chinese for our over-consumerism.