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.)


Anonymous K.G. said...

[chuckles] I agree there completely... After seeing one of my hamsters die in his wheel and just spin there, much to my morbid fascination, I wasn't Quite so into the idea of a dog... Too big to go into the wheel. XD
Anyway, entertaining as always, sir.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Angelswatch said...

Ones trusted to my care by my 2 and 3 year old daughters were left on top of radiator by mistake when cleaning one day. I can only imagine the little hamster thoughts as the temperature began to rise. Being awaken to screams of horror once discovered by daughters i could never find a car alarm as loud. To ease their grief and sorrow i went to pet store and bought them a puppy. Needless to say i am never left alone with it...

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Samantha Laury said...

up until recently I have doubted whether or not the Zhu Zhu pet was a good idea but, after buying one, I realize it's actually quite a cute and clever little toy

3:48 PM  
Anonymous KPCH said...

I am on my 10th hamster. Being in my 20s all but one hamster lived to a good hamstery age. My last hamster was quite durable. She survived a number of plane rides, road trips, and even an encounter with the American Border Patrol.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Elemakule said...

I'm sorry, sir, but you seem to miss the point. If the child does well caring for the robotic hamster, you promise to get him an AIBO (robotic dog).

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the other day about some guy who has published scientific evidence that hamsters and other small rodents can be frozen solid and then resuscitated. I could have told him that. I've known it since 1965. It wasn't on purpose, mind you; my mom just stopped letting me keep my hamster in the house and it got really cold one night. I went out in the morning to check on it before going to school and found it lifeless and stiff as a board. I brought it inside and after about 15 minutes of sitting in front of the heater rubbing it and crying and praying for it to come back alive, it did! Of course, it froze again the next night, this time for good. But it was something!

10:58 PM  

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