Jimmy Kimmel (trigger warning for serious public embarrassment) asked parents to give their kids a “terrible present,” film their reactions, and post it on YouTube.
Maybe I’m oversensitive, but I didn’t find this video funny at all: I actually thought it was horrifying. Imagine your parents tricking you into opening a present you didn’t want, filming it, and showing it for the entertainment of national television audiences, all of whom are laughing at you. This is the sort of thing people with social anxiety have nightmares about.
But going beyond my… personal discomfort… with the video, I found something sociologically interesting about it. Namely, the terrible presents fell into two categories:
1) Food. (Half-eaten sandwiches were a recurring theme.)
2) Gender-inappropriate toys.
And most of the gender-inappropriate toys were given to boys. There was one girl who received a Star Wars activity book and said she wasn’t a boy, which I think is clearly a sign of shoddy parenting. Star Wars is for everyone! Star Wars is awesome! Hmph.
The gender-inappropriate toys given to boys included a Hello Kitty sweatshirt, a girl’s activity book with stickers, and ponies. “Ponies are for girls”? Seriously? I know a few people who’d disagree with that. In general, there is no logical reason why ponies, Hello Kitty, or stickers are “naturally” feminine; they just are, because we have to divide everything up into either dude-things or girl-things.
I really think this video shows the strength of gender-conditioning at an early age, particularly for boys. The boy who recieved a Hello Kitty sweatshirt told his parents he hated them! For receiving a sweatshirt that had pink and an adorable little kitten on it! I’m sure everyone has experienced getting terrible presents (I, for one, endured about five years of getting makeup kits for Christmas). However, when I received my makeup kits, I had to smile and say thank you and write a thank you note; only gender-inappropriate gifts are allowed to have the dramatic “I hate you” reactions.
It’s suggestive that most of the people who received gender-inappropriate presents were male (even the girl had brothers). That suggests that we might find boys receiving girl presents to be far more transgressive, and hence hilarious, than the other way around.