Just as the critically important holiday season kicks off, Toys R Us has released a thoughtless, boneheaded and controversial video that portrays environmental education as boring and features a child sighing with pleasure as he fingers the trigger of his plastic gun. Truth is incredibly stranger than fiction. I couldn’t make this scenario up.
Toys R Us is on the precipice of its most significant quarter. Why take the risk? I ask myself. Why would Toys R Us produce and distribute – as the introduction to their seasonal #WishinAccomplished campaign – a video that is alienating a significant portion of their market. I am seeking that answer.
Leaving no icon unscathed, Toys R Us features an unenthusiastic “Ranger Brad” – a forest ranger impersonator, ushering kids onto a “Meet the Trees Foundation” bus. Leaning laconically against a seat he sighs “I’m a big fan of trees, I don’t know if you can tell” this fraud preaches to inattentive kids about leaf identification as they, understandably, squirm and yawn in their seat. Suddenly the inauthentic Ranger sheds his garb and reveals himself as a smiling animated Toys R Us toy guy amidst wild euphoria erupting at the promise that the bus is detouring from an actual real life “in the field” field trip to the artificial turf of a Toys R Us store. Wow! “Screw that outdoor shit. I’m going to get me some toy.”
Cut to the grinning and out of control kids storming the aisles of Toys R Us where girls grab their dolls and boy’s their microscopes and, yes, their guns. Wow!
So what is Toys R Us telling us?
- Being outside in nature is a boring thing
- Forest rangers and their ilk are nerds. We don’t want to be like them
- Girls play with dolls
- Boys do stuff with telescopes
- Guns in the hands of kids are part of playtime
Wow! Stereotypes and bad will abound. Why Toys R Us? Why would you do this?
On Thursday 10/31/13. An over-generous olive branch of a sort was sent by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) as an open letter. The letter calls out TrU and asks them to reconsider (as in not run) the video and to talk with them. On Wednesday 11/6/13, Forbes publishes “Reality Prank From Toys R Us Backfires With Women” And the Dallas Morning News published “Selling Toys at the Expense of Nature” calling it a “distressing message”. In the meantime, the Toys R Us Facebook page lights up with comments similar to “…Making a mockery of the outdoors like this is truly sad…” and “I felt sick when I saw that ad. So very sad.”
It is a sad error by Toys R Us. So incredibly avoidable in the pursuit of making their point. And all the more astonishing in their inaction and unresponsiveness to the backlash. But it can be fixed. It’s time for Toys R Us to disavow this promotion, issue an apology and, most important, “show us the money” to grow environmental education for the kids who are also their customers. There are a great number of environmental funds that could use the encouragement & support of TrU. Boys, girls come on out to the great outdoors.
Agree? Do this:
- Share this post (copy link and post on your social media)
- Contact Toys R Us: President Hank Mullany, Toys“R”Us, Inc. One Geoffrey Way Wayne, NJ 07470 and tell him what you think. Or just print this post and mail it to him.
- Support the North American Association for Environmental Education