Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Consuming ponies, Part 1

What is the appeal of this Pony Pals pony bike (above), which its manufacturers / marketers describe as having been invented for this reason:

What we love most of all is watching the joy children get when riding ponies. Four simple words describe it best; "saddle up and smile." But, unfortunately, not every child has the chance to experience this thrill. So that's why we created Pony Pals.

The bike pictured above is priced at $220.

What are American middle-class girls made of? Apparently, a mania for horses and ponies - which to parenthropological eyes like yours and mine does not emerge from a "natural" affinity with horses (despite what the story books tempt us into believing...), but an even more fascinating cultural and social relationship that I have been musing upon in recent posts.

If you know a little girl who is horse crazed, then you know that part of the relationship involves lots of stuff, like the bike above, or what anthropologists call "material culture" - and the production and especially consumption of said stuff is what we American middle-class parents decry as "materialism."

As an aside, I confess that I do not dislike stuff and in fact, derive enough enjoyment out of it that I sometimes get a little bit tired of everyone climbing on their high horses all the time about stuff... The problem with "consumerism" is that it deflects our attention from production and the work that we do and the conditions in which we do it (and also create). Stuff itself is not intrinsically "bad" and "evil," as I sometimes hear other parents describe it. Is it?

The pony bike probably makes more sense and has more appeal to a child than to an adult. I know, I know, I am an anthropologist and should be all about hybridity, but I find this particular hybridization a bit unsettling... The whole "Godfather" aspect with the horse's head, I think.

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