Strawberry Shortcake Goes “Fruit Forward”
I have this distinct memory of being 6 years old and covertly trying to chew the hair of my Strawberry Shortcake doll. She smelled like chemically enhanced cupcakes, and I wanted to know if she tasted that way too.
Even though she was devoid of sugary hair, I loved my Strawberry Shortcake, as well as the Saturday morning cartoon she starred in. All of her friends were named after cakes and pies, and that was awesome. Plus, all they ate seemed to be cake and pies. And S. Shortcake was covered in sparkles. Sparkles and cake. What else could a girl ask for?
Apparently, these days, girls ask for a lot more. According to the New York Times, toy companies are trying to update old 80’s brands for today’s kids who are way more media savvy than we ever were. Strawberry Shortcake no longer spends her days talking to her animals and making muffins. Now she has a cell phone. Oh, and all that cake and pie talk? Outlawed.
“…In keeping with contemporary nutritional concerns, the franchise will downplay the sugary dessert theme and move…“fruit-forward.””
Something about this update makes me sad. Sure, obesity has increased since I was in stirrup pants and side ponytails (two things that are inexplicably still around), but replacing sweets with brain melting technology and “fruit-forward” thinking?! Toys and cartoons are not supposed to be school – they’re supposed to be the opposite. Just because I liked watching 1988’s S. Shortcake make hundreds of pies an episode doesn’t mean I immediately went into the kitchen and did a post-show gorge of everything covered in sugar.
Are today’s parents so freaked out that they’ve decided to sabotage their own children’s imagination?
Alfred R. Kahn, chairman of 4Kids Entertainment, a company that also owns the Pokémon and the Cabbage Patch Kids franchises, has an answer for me:
“It’s a terrible world, and modern parents are trying to cocoon their kids as much as possible.”
You know what’s terrible? The fact that anyone thought Earring Magic Ken was a good idea. Cake imagery is bad, but a dude in a mesh shirt and purple vest with a hideous earring and blonde dye job is okay? It makes sense that Mattel discontinued the Vegas showboy equivalent of Ken, but still remains a mystery why they think devoting a Saturday morning cartoon to “fruit forward” (I can’t get enough of that catch phrase) programming is going to be any fun.
Thank God I was a kid when there was still some joy left in the process.