What do the shopaholic Boxy Girls dolls say about the values we teach our kids?

Josh Glancy in America.

What do the shopaholic Boxy Girls dolls say about the values we’re teaching our kids?The Sunday Times,December 16,  many, many nieces and nephews — nine at the last count — none of whom I see enough.

. I try to compensate with presents, so at this time of year my thoughts turn to toys. You can learn much about a society from its toys, which express what values we think important to transmit to our children. Having browsed this year’s must-haves, I must admit I’m a little concerned

.There were lots of gender-reveal toys, of course, because the age of gender fluidity is also the age of gender obsession.

My favourite is the bath duckie that turns pink or blue when you drop it into wa-ter. Boy or girl, waddle it be? I was also horrified to learn that another big trend this year is for “nostalgic characters, like Harry Potter”. The fact that Harry Potter is now considered retro makes me feel older than Albus Dumbledore

.The toy that really troubled me, though, was Boxy Girl, which is a shopping doll that “buys” stuff on the internet and then unpacks it. There are four Boxy Girls to collect: Riley, Willa, Nomi and Brooklyn. Each doll comes with four boxes of accessories that include heels, handbags and make-up. One can, of course, purchase extra “fashion packs” for them online.

Indeed, so passionate are the Boxy Girls about packaging, they even have creepy box-shaped eyes and little box-shaped mouths, framed by a rather fetching array of lipsticks, which you can purchase more of online.Boxy Girls are the perfect childhood ambassadors for the new consumerism. Because the image of the fashionista trailing designer shopping bags on each arm belongs to the past; shopping today means boxes — they are the symbol of our age.I became painfully aware of this recently while furnishing my new apartment in Washington.

The influx of cardboard has been so vast that our living room resembles a Tracey Emin installation. Boxes line our street each morning, macerating slowly in the December rain: Samsung, West Elm, Walmart, Amazon, Amazon, Amazon.Inevitably, then, “unboxing” has become a giant trend on YouTube, where you can watch other people open stuff they have bought, or been sent free. The thrill of watching unboxing videos, or indeed playing with a Boxy Girl, is a vicarious one that evokes a mixture of envy and fantasy:

one day it could be me unwrapping a Lego Millennium Falcon, or a new pair of Jimmy Choos. It’s ex-actly as vapid as it sounds.Unboxing is now so prevalent that a seven-year-old influencer by the name of Ryan, star of Ryan’s Toy Review, reportedly made £17m in a single year from his YouTube channel, which features him unboxing and reviewing the various toys du jour. What are we doing to our children? Last week, one-year-old Ralphie was revealed to be Britain’s youngest influencer, having netted more than £10,000 for his social media posts.

“It sounds awful referring to him as a brand because he is a hu-man and a child, but essentially the name that we have created is a business,” said Stacey Wood-
hams, Ralphie’s mum, who has banned family from posting off-brand pictures of Ralphie looking snotty or unkempt.

The unboxing trend encapsulates the true genius of social media, which is as a marketing tool that has made us willing participants in other people’s advertising. Instead of brands paying to flaunt their wares at us, we now do it on their behalf, often for free. Algorithms built by dorky guys in un-threatening T-shirts have brought the market into our most private moments. Ralphie’s first year on earth has become a business. As have Ryan’s favourite toys.

This Christmas, tens of thousands of children will receive a Boxy Girl present, along with the mes-sage that unwrapping pretty stuff you bought online is the highest form of human endeavour. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel pretty nostalgic for Harry Potter.

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