“Whereas the ancient Israelites were reminded to place their primary, identity-bearing commandment on their doorposts and tie it to their foreheads (Deut. 6:4-9), contemporary children find their identity-bearing stories on their underwear, their sippy cups, their fruit snacks, and their sheets.”
- Katherine Turpin, Iliff School of Theology
**Turpins article "Princess Dreams", mentioned here, can be found in the book Children, Youth, and Spirituality in a Troubling World by Mary Elizabeth Moore and Almeda M. Wright.**
Turpin suggests that while we, parents, are not as aware as we often should be, commercial and commoditized characters are forming the identities of our children. Her argument with the franchise is that it creates misleading ideologies and identity characteristics pertaining to gender, race and class. She also, though briefly, mentions similar affects on boys pertaining to their consumer market.
One of the challenges Turpin talks about in relation to the “Princess Dreams” is the affect that commodification has on spiritual formation. Turpin quotes Susan Linn’s argument that these “Princess Dreams” supply us with the idea that purchasing something “Princess” can bring little girls happiness. Linn further states that this is something that goes against all mainstream religions. (53). The false identities and forms created by consumerism has and will continue to lead, explains Turpin, to social inequalities.
Beginning on page 57, Turpin lists 5 approaches to limiting the influence of commodification on the lives of children that can open the doors to spiritual development and formation.
- Fighting Fire with Fire – mass-market religious merchandise.
- The Practice of Abstinence – refuse entry of any commoditized character into ones house. (Ex. Barbie)
- Contestation – Questioning children: “Do you think Cinderella made a good choice for her life
- Non-Commercial Connections – focusing on real relationships and human interaction; deterring focus away from a false sense of relationship with characters.
- Changing Social Policy through Collective Action – marketers are interested in selling what people want to buy. If special interest groups, organizations and/or social movements continue to knock on the door of change, the door will eventually open. (Ex. physical changes in Barbie over the last several years).
I have three discussion questions that stem from this article:
1) What is your initial reaction to the quote you read above?
2) How might we, as people of faith, be leaders of counter-formation? Can we be more intentional about sharing the stories of our faith?
3) Have you ever applied any of the five suggested proposals? If so, what results did you experience? If not, is there one you would consider using.