Friday, August 20, 2010

Once upon a Time, There Was a Ralph Lauren [stereotype-laden] Fairy Tale...

Well, Ralph Lauren has decided that apparently there's something to all the hype about children's lit. After all, their most recent children's catalogue is an interactive Flash video modeled after a storybook.

Harry Connick, Jr. narrates The RL Gang: A Fantastically Amazing School Adventure, which puts stylish kids in Ralph Lauren designs against backdrops that appear as either paper cutouts or chalk drawings. And if one listens to the stories, they're...well, hardly fantastic.

Willow, the first child shown in the video, represents the extreme of this back-to-school fantasy; she resembles a modern day Robin Hood with her hat--a style that, no doubt, is not about to earn her any props on the playground. (It may, however, clinch her the lead in the elementary school's production of Peter Pan!) The other children in the video become less stylized and seem poised to sell Ralph Lauren's brand of cultural and ethnic identities to school children.

Clothes--yes, they certainly can be exciting, especially for fashionistas and those who enjoy a nice, new sweater. But these kids are being dressed up like their 20-something equivalents. There's Jasper, whose polo shirt, baseball mitt, and wavy blonde hair make him look like he's about to go recruiting for TKE. (Thank your lucky stars that his collar *isn't* popped.) Then Mae, the Asian girl, who wears a sweater over a collared shirt; it's as if the RL ad department has already relegated her to a life of crunching numbers and whipping out laptops or TI-83s whenever a problem appears. The worst of the lot, though, is Zoe, an African American girl with large, frizzed hair forced under a knit cap; her hair sags down around the sides of her face like Snoopy ears, and she's dressed in a flannel shirt under what appears to be a black, pleather bomber's jacket.

Ralph Lauren is dolling kids up as stereotypes before they're even old enough to understand what they're lampooning. But--if that weren't enough--you can click on each child's image and open their closet, which can help parents foist these fashions (er, stereotypes) on their kids. Or, just buy the hardcover book!

All this from the world's "first shoppable storybook," a narrative catalogue in stereotypes. Respond as you will.


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