Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Whodathunkit!? Whodathunkit!?: The 2010 Year In Bests: Kid's Stuff.

I'm a little behind on these, on account of my laptop at home (where I try to do most of this) is subject to some horrible virus that interferes with using the Internet, probably because it's emailing my passwords and financial information to everyone in the world, or at least everyone in Nigeria, but the jokes on them because anyone who steals
my identity not only needs to deal with the roughly $2 billion I owe in student loans, but is also going to have to shovel my driveway. That's how it works.

Anyway, we're only just 12 days into the new year, so it's not too late to keep looking back poignantly at the
old year, and I'm doing so via the series of posts I call


The Year In Bests;
The First-Ever TBOE What You Were Told,
And What You Should've Been Told Instead
Best Of The Year List.

Dramatic, right? We're up to Kids' Stuff, and as usual, I begin with what everyone else was saying was the Best of Kids' Stuff last year, and I'm doing that because even though I have a couple of 4-year-olds, I don't really know what was hot for kids last year, as in our house, what was hot for kids were toy trains and the Crash Nebula episode of Fairly Oddparents where they told Crash Nebula's origin.

What Everyone Else Said was the hot kids' stuff for 2010 ought to be instructive to me, only it's not. It's depressing, because it points out just how underserved the younger generation is.

This is
not one of those posts that complains that kids these days are all about videogames and how when I was a kid we used to get outside and do stuff, like play guns or go inner tubing down the Bark River in Hartland. True, I did those things, but only because my mom wouldn't let us sit inside and play video games, and when she did let us sit inside and play video games, they looked like this:

Which was an
actual game that I loved, but, let's face it, it was no Plants vs. Zombies.

No, I'm depressed because when I look at what other people thought was the Best Kids' Stuff of 2010, I realize just how
lame or stupid other parents are, and thus how lame or stupid their kids will turn out to be -- or are already. And those kids will be playing with my kids, which means you're making my job harder.

I mean, seriously: The Justin Bieber Singing Doll (with apparently melting face?) was one of the hot toys for 2010? A remote-control Bigfoot that can throw a ball? Those are
fun? I think not -- and I'm an expert on fun, with a degree in funology.

Books were no better. While they're a little advanced for my kids, I did keep track of the
Young Adult books that came out. Not because I want to, but because pretty much every single book released in 2010 was described as Young Adult -- in at least some cases, erroneously described that way simply to increase sales. Because of that, and because Entertainment Weekly, my primary source of pop culture news (after The Soup!) was enthralled with young adult books last year, I am up to speed on an area of literature that I don't want to be up to speed on, and because I am involuntarily familiar with that area of bookery, I also know that 100% of all young adult books dealt with teenagers in postapocalyptic futures dominated by overbearing governments -- teenagers who had to fall in love and/or shoot someone just to get through their day, but had to do so while wandering through the irradiated/poisonous/possibly made of crystal forests that dominate all postapocalyptic teenage landscapes.

Which I suppose is okay, because
everything is an apocalypse to teenagers, so everything they do is post-apocalypse, and also, reading about a future in which their government tortures people and starves them for fun and entertainment will prepare them for the Boeher/Palin era their idiotic parents voted them into, so in a way those books are training manuals, making it okay that Hunger Games and other books that ought, in fairness, to be called "Also Hunger Games But With Even Trendier Names For The Characters" were tops on the "YA" book lists for 2010, and, also, anything -- anything-- that gets rid of zombies and vampires is okay by me.

Movies are no better. While
Toy Story 3 rightly topped the list of kids' movies last year, everything below that movie was a piece of dreck designed simply to let parents park their kids in a theater for two hours while they (the parents) played Angry Birds in the lobby.

Well, not
everything. Despicable Me was underrated by critics, I thought. But The Karate Kid? Really? It's not enough that the Baby Boomers won't let go of their past, now Gen-Xers have to cling to the 80s like grim death, too, and bring their kids into it?

Let me make this clear, parents:
Your kids don't like your stuff. They just don't. You liked your stuff, and that was fine. But your kids don't. They like their stuff, and their stuff is not The Karate Kid because they don't remember Ralph Macchio and the Cobra Kai and they weren't 11 back in the 80s when it came out. Their stuff is postapocalyptic crystal forests stalked by girls armed with crossbows falling in love with boys named "Kellan." Just deal with it.

So we had two good kids' movies -- and maybe a third, because I haven't seen
How To Train Your Dragon yet because Mr Bunches is hooked on Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch has a glitch and won't let anyone else watch anything else, and also because I've been playing Angry Birds a bit, so I haven't been pushing Dragon much.

And that's what it boils down to: Last year, the best the world -- which we parents create -- had to offer our kids was Justin Bieber dolls, postapocalyptic wastelands, and some toys nearly dying. Also, we taught them that some bad guys are not
really bad guys, they're just good guys waiting to learn that they're good, and that kids can teach the not-really-bad-guys how to be good, which, if you think about it, is a really dangerous lesson to be teaching our kids now, because the real bad guys are not secretly loveable; the real bad guys are just waiting for their minions to blow the head off a 9-year-old so they can go on collecting insurance company money.

Why I Assume They All Said That: Everyone thinks that junk and crappy movies are great for kids because everyone but me doesn't actually pay attention to their kids.

That's what
I assume. When you give your kids toys, or take them to a movie, or buy them a book, are you really looking at what it is they're getting/seeing/doing? Or are you just buying yourself some time to play Angry Birds or practice Guitar Hero, a game that no adult should be playing anyway because it's a ridiculous game and also if you're that into music, just take up an instrument.

If you
are looking at the stuff you're giving your kids, then I'm alarmed -- moreso than usual-- for our future because it means you're voluntarily and knowingly giving kids this junk. So I opt to assume that you're just getting whatever it is that EW and the Sunday newspaper said to get your kids and continuing to not pay attention to them.

Kids don't deserve better than "
yet another knockoff story that's more or less the same as the knockoff story they just read," right? Kids aren't interested in seeing a movie with an original plot line and well-developed themes and characters -- not when they can see Shrek fart, right? Kids aren't interested in playing with toys that don't mimic the pop stars they see on MTV (do they see them on MTV? Does anyone see anything on MTV.) Right?

That's what you parents believe -- or that's what I have to believe about you, anyway, because I don't want to think anyone's picking this stuff up on purpose.

What I Assumed They'd All Say: Pretty much what they did say.

What They All Should Have Said: Only a few people got it right: Toy Story 3. What could have been a cynical exercise in marketing to teens and younger kids (or their parents) all along turned out not to be.

A movie based on toys should naturally be a marketing tie-in, and Toy Story 3 (along with its predecessors) didn't disappoint in that regard: this year, for the first time, kids had a variety of different Woodys and Buzzes to choose from, along with pretty much every other toy that appeared in the movies, in any kind of setting you can imagine. (We got Mr Bunches a Lego set that let him recreate the magic of the Pizza Planet truck stopping at the gas station in the first movie.)

But along the way, someone forgot to tell Pixar to pander. I watched Toy Story 3 -- three times, as it turned out -- and didn't see a single fart joke, or too-hip/too-modern reference to something that would immediately feel dated. I didn't see any inside jokes aimed at Hollywood big shots or knowing parents. I didn't see weird accents or unnecessary musical montages set to Smash Mouth or anything that would create an obvious sound track or spinoff or anything like that.

Instead, I saw a movie that actually drew me in and made me forget I was watching a movie -- let alone a cartoon about toys -- and made me care about what happened next while also making me think about how my life mirrored, or did not, the events in the movie. I saw a movie that made me think, and it wasn't Inception (which I liked, too, but that's not the point) or any other adult movie. It was a kids movie that, in 2010, had the most emotion packed into it and some of the largest themes -- moving on, growing up, friendship, the ties that keep people in touch (or not), how we interact with our world, and more.

Toy Story 3 didn't need all that heady stuff; it would have worked just fine if it had kept on the same fun-but-frivolous level of the first movie. But the makers of Toy Story 3 didn't want to just occupy kids, or take their parents money. They wanted to entertain kids, and their parents, and give them something to remember.

They achieved their goal.

Previous Entries From The Year In Bests:

The Best Celebrity Story of 2010.

The Best Book I Read In 2010

The Best Short Stories Of 2010

The Best Food of 2010.

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