What would childhood be without illogical fads and manias? Since well before the Zhu Zhu Pet, Webkins, and Tickle Me Elmo there was the Cabbage Patch Doll, the Rubik’s Cube, and Beanie Babies, and before that there was the exemplary consumer trend of the Hula Hoop.
Hudsucker Proxy Hula Hoop Scene
Needless to say, as long as children hold an innate and irrepressible desire to have and consume, there will be marketers out there willing to exploit this phenomenon. It is difficult to clearly say whether it is simply a desire on the child’s behalf to simply fit in with one’s peers, or if there is some pleasure receptor that is tweaked or unlocked in the premature brain that just informs the child, without equivocation, that it is something that must be had.
Either way, the latest specious trend in the universe of children would have to be Silly Bandz (spelled with a “z” to make them all the more novel and appealing). These are silicone bands (near identical to rubber bands) that come in a variety of neon-like colors and animal-like and fantasy shapes (think princesses, baseball players, rock star silhouettes, etc). Now regular rubber bands just don’t have the same appeal for children (despite their problematic, and impressive, ability to roundly cut off the circulation to hands and fingers and turn them all shades of violet and blue) as Silly Bandz do. This is in large part to the way these bands stretch and neatly snap back into their prescribed shape, as well as the appealing colors and the ability to make this toy totally portable (most often worn on the wrist) and easily tradable – therefore making them somewhat of a schoolyard commodity.
Each package of 24 Silly Bandz goes for about $5, and makes for some seriously lively conversation between over-excited, and sometimes overindulged, adolescents (no word yet whether this is a fad exclusive to girls). The fashion of the day dictates that your arms should be heavy with Silly Bandz running up and down the length of your forearm; easily ready to whip off and trade when the moment is right. Understandably, many school districts around the country are just now beginning to ban the wearing and trading of these Silly Bandz, as they have become way too distracting (not to mention they have engendered a little micro economy among students).
Without a doubt this trend will blow over before you could say, “I lost my Silly Bandz Unicorn!” and this particular trend is fairly benign, as well as affordable, compared to some trends of years past. However, short of looking directly into the brains of little consumers, why is it that our children are so susceptible and defenseless when it comes to these sorts of fads, trends and viral marketing? Is this simply an exploitation of some reptilian part of their brain that they have not yet figured out how to regulate? Is this good clean fun that we should passively encourage, or is this the first step along the slippery slope that leads to wanton and reckless consumerism?