DIARIO DI MAMMA
Two adult men are playing with superhero action figures. All you can see is their hands moving and manipulating Spider-Man and Superman. All you can hear is their voices acting out a scene featuring some of my son’s favorite characters. The men had just “unboxed” the toys and now Spidey senses are running high. Venom, or bad Spider-Man as my son refers to him, may be out to get them both. My son can’t take his eyes off the action in this YouTube video. When the battery on the Kindle dies and he can’t see the end, he cries as though someone is attacking him.
Although Rainbow Brite once fascinated me in a similar fashion, I simply can’t understand my son’s obsession with adults opening toys – not to mention those dang Kinder and Play-Doh covered eggs. If I let him, he would binge-watch these unprofessional, unglossy, unsophisticated commercials, known as “unboxing videos,” all day. But why oh why?
Professionals, who have written about this, suggest children – like adults – long for surprises. They want to see what’s inside the box or the egg. The fact that their favorite characters are often what comes out just heightens the excitement. Of course, the toy companies are hoping kids will see the videos, fall in love with the toys, and beg mamma to get it for them. I don’t know about the sales conversion. But I have learned that millions of people watch some of these videos, and the people making the most popular ones earn more in one year than writers like me can dream of seeing in a lifetime. (You can read about this crazy new profession of making unboxing videos on the CNN and The Telegraph Websites and have a good cry about the wrong turns you’ve made in your own life. I won’t judge. My own tears on the subject could make a new ocean.)
Much like the news about how kids playing video games are out-earning my college-educated self, the revelations about these toy videos inspire the kind of disappointment in yourself that has you wishing you could hide under the covers for the rest of your life. The first few times I watched these videos with my son after we had stumbled on them while he was viewing classic Disney cartoons, I thought this had to be a joke. The creators seemed like they had nothing better to do with their time or just felt the need to overshare. I never thought anyone was making money off this stuff. Whhhhhattt?
Not only are they making money, but they are ruining my life as a parent. I dread the words, “I need my blue Kindle.” It’s like a blaring siren warning me that my son and I are going to argue…a lot in the next day or so. It usually means I will be spending lots of time holding him in time out, hiding the Kindle, and saying no. And he will probably suggest replacing me with a robot mommy, an idea he has gotten from the book Robo Sauce. There will be blood, sweat, and tears – and that’s just me.
Still, I’m not sure what’s more depressing – the hours I’ve spent watching these videos with my son, the divide between us as I try to contain his viewing habits, the messages about materialism we’re sending to our children through this phenomenon, or the fact that these extremely low-quality, DIY infomercials are making millionaires of adults playing with children’s toys. In the old days, men carrying Spider-Man dolls were thought to be either pedophiles or the types living in their mom’s basement at 50 or both. Man, times have changed.
I hate these videos mainly because I hate that my son likes them so much. They suck time away from him, have few redeeming qualities, and interrupt the mostly sweet and loving moments I share with my pre-schooler. I’m not one of these parents who bans TV or tried to get my 1 year old to read or tells people I feed him kale (when he’s really scarfing down chicken nuggets on a daily basis). I try to let him do stuff and eat stuff he likes as long as it’s in moderation. I do better at it some days than others. But besides wishing my work as a parent was as valuable to the world as these silly videos, I wish “unboxing” would go away because viewing playtime will never be as wondrous as actual playtime.