How does a girl know how to be a girl? One would think that she learns it from her mother. In reality it is the media and advertising of her favorite dolls that shape and form how a little girl walks, talks, and acts as a human being. As a child, my favorite color was pink. I don't believe it to be a coincidence that Barbie and I had this common, as well as many other favorites. The toys that are advertised today, such as the Hannah Montana line of products, play a large role in forming the identity of a young girl.
Hannah Montana, a pop icon that seems to be on every corner, tries to send out a message to all of her fans that she is just a regular girl. The problem is just that. She and her large line of products define just what it means to be a regular girl. The Hannah Montana line includes everything from microphones to t-shirts to wigs and even a makeover set, the last of which I find particularly disturbing. The young females of today do not need to be told that they need a makeover. That is simply implying that they are not good enough just the way they are. Hannah Montana products are targeted to a specific population. This population consists of white middle class girls ranging all ages into their early teens. When Disney, the creator of Hannah Montana, chose Miley Cirus to become this super pop star they knew who their audience would be and they knew exactly who could afford to buy their products. The argument could be made that Disney uses "inferential racism." (91) It is not that they are banning people of color from buying their products, but they are specifically creating a model female character that is white and middle class.
Through their toys, both boys and girls learn what the standard for society is and what is expected of them. Almost all of today’s toys have some type of gender specification, and when a girl wants to play with a boy toy or vice versa, it is frowned upon by friends and even parents. Toys made for young girls teach them, for the most part, to wear feminine clothing, and do their hair and make up for the sole purpose of attracting a boy. A clear example of this would be Mattel’s Barbie and her boyfriend Ken. Mary Rogers discusses the effects of Barbie on young girls, “...they pay increasing attention to the size and shape of their bodies…the style of their hair…and the making up of their faces.” (Rogers 94) On the other hand, toys intended for boys send the message of being tough, in essence to protect the girls. From a very young age, children are trained to fit into society by accepting these standards that their toys and games portray.
Advertisements for children’s products are prevalent everywhere you can imagine. From ingenious catchy television ads to brightly colored posters in the mall, the people who create the marketing and advertising of children’s products know exactly what they are doing. A prime example is a parent and a child walking through your local grocery or chain retail store. The marketing skill of impulsive point of purchase buying is at use when Hannah Montana endorse a brand of gum and those special eye catching packages appear on like at the cash register. Children are being trained every minute of everyday to desire the things they are most familiar with and to eventually become consumers, with their own funds, purchasing those products targeted directly to them.
Hannah Montana products, which range from clothing and accessories to game boards and make up kits, bluntly set the norms for young girls across the nation. Unfortunately, this is not a counry filled with Hannah Montanas leaving the majority of girls across the nation with a feeling of inferiority, always wanting to be what they cannot. Toys today are created with a clear cut gender in mind, so much that it is nearly impossible to find a gender non specific toy, except for maybe a slinky. Along with many other popular lines of children’s products, Hannah Montana plays a large role in forming a little girl’s ideas about the world, how it works, and where they fit into it.
Rogers, Mary F. "Barbie Culture." 1999. Rpt. in Gender, Race, and Class in Media . Ed.
Gail Dines, Jean Humez. London: SAGE Publications, 2003. 94.
Hall, Stuart. "The Whites of their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media." 1981. Rpt. in Gender, Race, and Class in Media . Ed. Gail Dines, Jean Humez. London: SAGE Publications, 2003. 94.