Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do Pink Ouija Boards Only Contact Girlie Spirits?

Via Celeste at Bust Blog (the magazine's online component), news that Parker Brothers (i.e. Hasbro) has recently launched a pink, sparkly Ouija Board game. This is in addition to their recent glitz-covered, bubble-gum pink edition of Scrabble. [Have girls ever felt excluded from Scrabble or its target audience?] Anyway...here's the description posted by Celeste:
Even more absurd is the pinkification of the Ouija board. All of those girls playing Wiccan didn’t know what they were doing when they were trying to contact the dead and scare themselves silly. The twenty-first century (pink) edition knows what us girls really want to know with the question cards that come with the set. Don’t worry, they have the really important questions included like "who will text me next?" "Will I be a famous actress oneday?" "Who wishes they could trade places with me?" Now our beloved Ouija board is nothing more than a glorified fortune teller.

Terrible! As IF Hasbro/Parker Bros feels the need to include extremely stereotypical pre-scripted questions...and as though girls couldn't come up with their own much more relevant and interesting questions. *sigh* Not to mention, of course, that girls HAVE been using Ouija boards just fine on their own for much longer than these branded versions have been around (and probably more so than guys, though I'd be interested in getting a hold of some stats on that. See Sadie's post at Jezebel making a similar point).

I'm actually more disturbed by the implications of the "Who will text me next?" cue cards than I am by the sparkly pink repackaging, which is likely designed more to attract much younger players than to appeal to older girls and teens. (btw: Have previous editions ever included question cards? We only ever played with an extremely old version (no cards, but the box was also ripped), and a quick search online didn't produce any evidence of cards in past editions, so I'm thinking no, which makes these cards and their contents all the MORE troubling).

In terms of the pink, though, while I obviously have pretty positive feelings about pink (as you can probably tell from this site), I'm also critical of the gender coding going on here and of how hugely problematic "pinkification" is generally as a marketing and design "solution"...problematic for everyone involved (promoting hyper-feminine stereotypes, excluding boys, subtly implying that non-prink things are therefore NOT for girls, etc., etc.). There are definitely some complex underlying issues here, and you can see some of the paradoxes play out in the post's "Comments" section. I've really appreciated the different perspectives Bust readers have expressed so far (isn't it supposed to be scary and doesn't pink sort of detract from the dark mystery of it all, why champion pink in some cases but not in others, etc.) and I also really like the author's (Celeste) assessment of the move:
Apparently the people over at Parker Brothers think they’re the hot jock in a nineties movie taking on the task of making over that nerdy, artsy girl into a hot chick. [...] We get it already. Girls like pink. It doesn’t mean that every product targeted at them has to resemble bubblegum.

Be sure to check out Amelie Gillette's article about the game over at AV Club as well. Funny (as always) and critical, her coverage incorporates some great satirical analysis of the game and it ridiculous cue cards, such as:
OMG. It's true. Thinking up questions about your own life to ask the dead is hard! Sometimes you're at a slumber party, and someone brings out a Ouija board, and the only question you can think of is "Slom?" which isn't even a word or anything, and would probably just make the princess ghosts who float around waiting for someone to use a pink Ouija very, very angry if you asked it. And you don't want to get those princess ghosts angry, because when they're angry they just go around and punch sleeping girls right in the fallopian tubes, which, everybody knows, is how you get your first period. Yuck.

Obviously, it's much easier to use the question cards."Who will text me next?" "Who wishes they could trade places with me?" "How many calories am I burning off right now?" "How condescending is this Ouija For Girls game?" These are the questions that you want answered, girl!

The official product description is also worth checking out for how the game is being positioned by its own marketing discourse (both hilarious and disturbing). It might also be worthwhile to think about how this all ties in (if at all) to the mounting buzz that Hasbro is planning to produce a Ouija movie (directed by Michael Bay no less). I think maybe the execs at Hasbro should do a little Ouija session of their own on that one...I predict it would that little plastic pink "planchette" about 0.1 seconds to position itself at "NO".

1 comment:

A. Surprenant said...

Adding cards into the game reminds me of the dwindling executive function in children.

http://www.hypnotherapy-training.uncommon-knowledge.co.uk/childrens-creative-play-and-psychological-development/