Frozen folly: why the parental pursuit of Elsa dolls just doesn’t make sense
Opinion: ‘Why does an anxious parent work themselves into a state, convinced their child’s Christmas will be ruined without a particular gift?’
‘Frozen Snow Glow Elsa is just another sign that constantly force-fed with commercial fantasy and technology, children don’t need to make an effort to entertain themselves any more, so creativity withers.’ Photograph: John Stillwell/PA
Parents have been fighting in toy shops over the last Elsa doll, from the Disney film Frozen, and paying from €100 up to €500 for the €45 doll online. If I hear another parent talk about the sacrifices they’re making to buy their child a €500 iPad Air or €1,000 iPhone 6 – then it’s obvious that even seven years of austerity haven’t dented the culture of entitlement for some families.
Why does an anxious parent work themselves into a state, convinced their child’s Christmas will be ruined without a particular gift? One imagines a child as obnoxious and manipulative as Ross O’Carroll Kelly’s Honor making life hell when disappointed. One imagines a parent who, if they’ll fight over a doll, might be short-tempered in general. Yet these same parents are driven to give their children a “good” Christmas, defined by acquisition. Anything less would make them a “bad” parent.
Santa has become an intimidating beast – an omnipotent, omniscient secular God of Mammon, an old man who sneaks into the houses at night and appears at every turn to remind parents that happiness is defined by spending money. The coveted Frozen Snow Glow Elsa doll that has whipped so many parents into a tizzy is 18 inches tall and sings Let It Go – the title track from the highest grossing animated film of all time.
The film’s story is loosely based on The Snow Queen, a series of seven stories by Hans Christian Andersen. In the first story, a troll (or devil) invents a mirror that shows the opposite of what it reflects – good becomes evil and evil becomes good, and when the mirror is shattered, it breaks into so many pieces that it gets in everyone’s eyes and distorts their views of the world. Written in 1844, it’s a prescient description of the Web and its wicked trolls, where the good are bullied, information is twisted and success is measured in “clicks” rather than substance. You never really know what you are seeing. And it’s so shallow, that children will have seen more silly cats and views of Kim Kardashian’s bottom than have stories read to them.
Frozen Snow Glow Elsa is just another sign that constantly force-fed with commercial fantasy and technology, children don’t need to make an effort to entertain themselves any more, so creativity withers. An ordinary, if beautiful, doll is too much work. She lacks a back story. Screentime has eclipsed family time, where stories were traditionally told.
An example: a family are having Sunday lunch together, which you’d think would be a time for children to practise patience, table manners and conversation. Not at all. Each child is focused on their own tablet connected to an online universe and is thus isolated from the rest of the family, while eating chicken goujons with their fingers. For the parents who resort to this, it means peace to chat and eat, but at what cost of their children’s development? Christmas Day will be the same. Turn off the Wifi and there will be rebellion.
At least the gadgets have a lifespan, but the must-have toys? Old news by New Year’s, if not Stephen’s Day when you will have taken the batteries out of Elsa to stop her singing. Remember Furbies, Cabbage Patch dolls, Ninja Turtles, Tamagotchis and Tickle Me Elmo? All landfill.
To the parents who persist in going to the ends of the earth to acquire a Frozen doll this Christmas – or whatever other thing they can’t really afford – there’s only one thing to say. Let it go.