Friday, November 27, 2009
Living as I do, and perhaps always have, on the far fringes of American consumer culture it is difficult for me to get my arms around the Black Friday madness. Especially the crazed appetite for these mechanical hamsters called Zhu Zhus. Why a synthetic surrogate for what is already a surrogate? Hamsters, it seems to me, are the pet we give to our children in order to avoid getting them a dog or a cat. "Prove to us you can handle the responsibility of a pet and we'll talk about a dog," goes the traditional refrain. Of course the whole thing is a set-up. Hamsters are about the least durable living species, if my experience is any measure. Step on one - dead. Let them escape into the walls - dead, stink. Put them in a Lincoln Log fort then bomb with D-batteries - mortally injured, soon dead. Take to fourth grade show-and-tell -- MIA, presumed dead.
If by some miracle a hamster survives and breeds, children are treated to the horrors of hamster moms eating their young. In other words, hamster ownership usually puts an end to any further talk of pets for several glorious years. A Zhu Zhu will not accomplish this. A Zhu Zhu, like its real-life counterpart, is unlikely to see the sun set on Christmas Day. But there will be nothing learned. It simply becomes another piece of junk in the toy box with battery juice leaking out of the underbelly. No horror. No shame. No somber funeral in the backyard. You might as well go pick out that stupid dog now.
My advice to holiday Zhu Zhu fanatics (zhumbies?) is to head directly to the pet store and surprise the little tykes with the real deal. Lie to them and claim it is a Zhu Zhu brought to life by Santa's magic, and look, it doesn't even need batteries!
Soon you'll be holding their little shoulders in the backyard saying last rodent rites and looking forward to two or three more pet-free years. Get 'em while they're hot! Or at least still warm.
(The author pre-emptively acknowledges that the torment or destruction of helpless animals is wrong and to leverage such cruelty in order to advance some twisted notions of entertainment is just as wrong and he feels as terrible about it as he did in the fourth grade.)