The fact that my daughter is empathetic, kind and patient surprises me none. The fact that I myself am NOT a brawling hellion surprises me greatly. I say this because the toys she plays with are largely figures of characters who are friends and who solve problems together whilst overseeing imaginary kingdoms. My toys were designed to kill one another with guns and swords (and the dark side of the Force).
My daughter Viva loves to play with toys—particularly superheroines, mermaids, princesses, Descendants, Star Wars heroines—be they 3 ¾ inches, 6 inches or 12 inches (Barbie) scale. As a withering Gen Xer, I’m still deeply attached to the toyetic franchises of my ’80s youth: G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, Star Wars, etc. I keep many vintage or collector toys around the house, much to my wife’s chagrin, and they all seem to find their way into Viva’s doll house and into regular rotation as the friends, suitors and sociopolitical rivals of her toys.
My die-cast Voltron lions nuzzle with Snow White, Pocahontas and Princess Leia. Darth Vader and Maul and Kylo Ren are currently promenading at some sort of plastic cotillion with Belle, Elsa and Anna, and my Marvel Legends Moon Knight seems to be in a long-term relationship with Superhero Girls Cheetah.
When I see these fierce warriors eating birthday cake, dancing and mending one another’s broken hearts—with their tiny blasters, sabers and assault weapons dumped by the wayside—I feel a pang of regret that I’ve filled the house with militant little monstrosities while Viva role-plays problem-solving with her tiny totems.
Boys’ toys seem to be preparing males for a war-like society that is largely and blessedly past, while girls simulate potentially useful interpersonal skills cloaked in ball gowns. I’ve got a lot to learn from Viva, and if I ever get my Moon Knight figure back, he and I are going to have a long talk about how to solve problems without using violence… and I’ll ask him how things are going with Cheetah.
Viva Toys. Viva Viva. Viva Daddy.
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This article originally published in November 2019 issue. Read the rest of the issue.