Friday, July 4, 2008

How Do You Make a Friendship Cake?

Remember the character Strawberry Shortcake? Do you know that she grew up to be a 'ho?

Okay, maybe not quite, but as many of you probably saw, the Times did this piece on how all these cute vintage kiddie franchise characters have been tarted up for a new generation. Meaning that Strawberry Shortcake now has, like, hip-slung jeans and a tween mini-bra and plays with Bratz and stuff, and Holly Hobbie ditched her Amish dresses and frumpacious physique for toned abs and a half-top. Or, that's the gist of it anyway. Here's the vibe:Seems corporations feel that kids of today won't relate to the vintage stuff completely, but apparently relate to them enough to resurrect them from the 1980s; thus the modern makeover. I noticed this phenomenon before reading that piece, since I had grabbed some DVDs for Crabtot at the library and thought she would find Strawberry Shortcake cute. I couldn't remember much about Strawberry except for her giant fruity hat, but I figured her DVD would be wholesome and sweet and not annoying.

It is wholesome. That is, if you tune out the terribly insinuating pop soundtrack with Strawbs rocking out to electric-guitar based riffs. Then it becomes incredibly saccharine and cheesy and stupid, I suspect also a part of the modernization. For example, Strawbs goes around the world on a global "friendship tour," like Angelina Jolie. Except that instead of a private jet, she has a strawberry-shaped hot air balloon and instead of Brad Pitt by her side she has a little dog called Cupcake.

What really gets my goat in this series is not so much the rock-out revamp, but the fact that the movie is so full of utterly inane conceits that dovetail perfectly with modern parenting trends to over-sweeten everything in childhood. Like when Strawbs goes on her world tour she meets a French girl and a Japanese girl and they meet in this cute Strawberry clubhouse because they are in the Friendship Club. A club anyone can join.


I guess the nature of friendship and the process by which young girls make friends has changed since my childhood. I remember clubs, but they were exclusive by definition. That's why they were called clubs or groups or gangs, duh! I was actually part of an actual Secret Friendship Club when I was about ten. We met beneath a hollow umbrella-like bush in a park. We called ourselves the Golden Eagles. I was admitted by the top-ranking officials, Devina and Michelle, but only as an underling. To be specific, I was Secretary Treasurer. And this meant when the other two entered the room (or climbed inside the bush, as it were) I had to stand as a gesture of respect. Which was fine with me as I worshipped and groveled before the feet of Devina who like her name suggested, was ethereal and divinely beautiful with a heart-shaped lip and a cool manner and a complicated relationship to fawning underlings that included equal doses of benevolence and rejection. Girls and friendship: never simple, only sometimes sweet.

Crabtot loves the Friendship Club. And she loves the friendship clubhouse where the friends meet and loll about on fruit-shaped couches eating confectionery and catering to each other's self-esteem. Crabtot is so taken with all of this that she sings the Friendship Song all over the house:

How do you make a friendship cake?
What's it gonna take?

A drop of kindness

A touch of generosity...

[insert a number of other admirable ingredients]
And that's how you make a friendship cake!
The friendship song is dreadfully infectious. Which is berry berry annoying. And just not berry realistic. Or is it? After all, nowadays we see birthday parties where everyone in the whole class is invited, and where everyone receives a present, not just the birthday girl...

Truly it's a different world of childhood out there for my Crabtot, one perhaps sweeter in many ways than my own. However, there will come a time when she, like the rest of her peers, will not be able to sustain the culture of sweetness, fairness, and democracy with each other that I think we are raising them in. And I wonder what happens when the world tells them that actually life is berry much the opposite of what we told them, and that the big open-to-all friendship club they're looking for isn't there. Yes, I know these little cutie-pie movies aren't meant to be real or impart actual deflating truths about the suckiness of life. But do they really have to take to be so appallingly misdirected?

To be the mother of a girl carries with it special dangers...for girls have their machinations and their subtle ways of courting and crushing each other. And that's how you make a friendship cake!

Slightly unsweetened thoughts of a Sunday. Btw, I wrote this entire post sitting on a package of fireworks left over from 4 July celebrations. A box of poppers under my rear end.


kim said...

could be worse....could be Barney...*barf*

Karen said...

So glad I have boys about right now... *shudder*

Anonymous said...

I can't stand the new Strawberry Shortcake. We spent WAY too much time in the video store last week because I kept nixing the revamped versions of cartoons that I used to enjoy. The semi-helpful video store employee found it quite humorous each time I said, "No. Mommy likes the old version." He never DID find the old Shirley Temple movies that I was after.

Anna said...

This was really a fun post to read! who knows how strawberry shortcake will look like for your kids' kids..
Anna@ m80parents blog

crabmommy said...

we are obsessed with shirley temple, notably this one movie called Captain January. I thought ST would be cheesy having ever seen them as a kid but found the movie really dear.

Shelly G said...

Having a 13 year old daughter and a three year old daughter living in the same house... I can honestly say they are worlds apart... I have to wonder how children transform from the sweetsy friendship clubs of Strawberry Shortcake to the brutal reality of mean girls of junior high... At some point from 3 to 13 my older daughter left the all inclusive birthday parties to the reality of not everyone is going to like you... and you aren't going to like everyone... I haven't had the chance to view the new Strawberry Shortcake... but I can see she has grown up in her taste of clothing and style... This bugs me... Why do movie producers think little girls need to be little miniature women? Argh... I don't think I am making sense... but your post has me thinking...What is a mom to do?

Anonymous said...

Touching on a tiny bit of this entry, I had my first experience with the "whole class is invited" birthday party. The girl was turning 4, the class isn't terribly huge. I thought it might be a good time to meet some of the other parents I regularly see, but only exchange the polite nod. Little did I know there would be 20 kids, a moon bounce, TWO sheet cakes, and she opened her presents so fast that she didn't even see what she got before hurling them at her mom's head asking for more gifts. For the first time in my life I was actually mad that I didn't get a thank you card. Normally I don't care, but why did I waste my time with this chick who I don't even know? Are all class parties this bad or did I just pick a bad one?

girlsmom said...

Courting and crushing...that is by far the most accurate description of adolescent girls' friendship I have ever heard.