‘Shopkins’ first came into my vocabulary after my partner asked our niece what she wanted for Christmas this year. I didn’t know what they were, but the name alone kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I tried to keep an open mind, but the more I read about it, the more I knew this would not be what I was getting our niece.
Shopkins are small collectible toys modelled after purchasable items such as shoes, makeup, or fruits and vegetables. They are marketed towards young girls.
Their slogan is “Once you shop, you can’t stop!”
I wish I was making this up.
While I’m not one to get into a moral panic about children’s toys (I’m sure many of mine were ‘problematic’ in some way or another), something about these Shopkins just do not sit right with me. I’m not sure if I’m more bothered by the gender stereotypes (the main line is marketed to girls, but the “gross” line is for boys), or the weird glorification of consumer culture to such a young age bracket. They’re basically training the next generation of consumers.
Shopkins also reminds me of one of my most beloved toys as a child: Melanie’s Mall. This toy not only glorified capitalism, it had the added bonus of reinforcing damaging gender roles! Fun for the whole family. Best of all, the elevator really worked!
My point is, toys like this have always existed. However, I’m still a little grossed out at how heavily this product promotes consumerism. With Melanie’s Mall, I just liked to pretend to be a cool teenage girl hanging out with her pals at the mall. With Shopkins, consumption is the primary purpose. They are teaching kids to consume for the sake of consuming.
As for our niece, I will stick to the type of present I usually get her (and that she has always liked!): something we can create together or read together. I won’t say anything negative about her Shopkins–I will even play with them if she asks me to–but it’s not the type of thing I want to support with my money, and I’ve always believed in voting with one’s wallet.
Now I want to know: is the concept of Shopkins actually as weird as it seems to me? Or am I just turning into a grumpy old woman shaking my fist at the sky?