Regular stuffed animals vs webkinz
Slate, MSN's somewhat edgy editorial column, has a new article up by Emily Bazelon, an author who writes about parenting. I've been reading her stuff for a while, well, mainly because she's funny and doesn't take herself, or parenting, too seriously.
Lately Emily has been considering stuffed animals. The way we treat them, think about them, what we're raised to believe about them. Stuffed animals aren't exactly the most interactive of toys. In fact, they don't really do anything other than sit around and wait for a child to play with them. But that's exactly the point. They're toys that need kids in order to come to life.
Emily laments the whole stuffed-animals-have-souls concept, though, because separating a child from one once that attachment has occured can be daunting and heartbreaking. She refers to the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, who has to go "away" because he was so loved by the little boy in the story that he became basically infested with disease.
She then becomes enamored of Webkinz, a new toy that utilizes both the plush world and that of the internet. I don't have a child old enough for Webkinz to be relevant to, so I have no idea what these little things are. Apparently, and I'm sure you know more about them in your household than I do, you register your Webkinz "pet" online and set up a whole online world for them. Sort of like the Simms of the stuffed animal world, I guess.
The difference between Webkinz and your regular, average, every day stuffed animals seems to amount to the fact that you can replace a Webkinz more easily if it goes missing or gets destroyed. This is because, as a friend of Emily's points out, the, er, soul of the stuffed animal lives on the computer. And therein lies the beauty.
Maybe I'm old-fashioned--heck, I know I am--but I don't know if I could get involved in a stuffed animal that has more of an online social life than I do. Then again, I'm not a kid. I haven't been trained since birth to use a computer. I'm more of the cute little big-brown-eyed teddy bear type who's interested more in cuddling with a stuffed animal than with buying it food and all that business that goes on online. I have three living pets already--and that is more than enough responsibility.
My Potsy, the pink pot bellied teddy bear I've had since I was a kid, asks nothing of me. Well, except for that one time my mom had to resew on one of his button eyes.
Webkinz photo by *ejk*.