Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I love the monster baby too

Have you ever heard a news report or documentary that you find so interesting, yet so disturbing, that you can’t get it out of your mind? That happened to me last week.

For many years I’ve loved the NPR radio show This American Life. Each week the show has a theme, and they invite their stable of writers to tackle the theme in their own creative ways. Sometimes they interview people with stories that match the theme as well.

Last week I think the theme was matchmaking. I missed the first little bit, but that’s what all the stories had in common. All the stories happened to be really good last week. There was a story about aid workers in Afghanistan who got drawn into a forbidden love tale between two locals who dared to skirt tradition and fall in love with each other. Then there was the story about a woman who, after donating her own kidney, decided to play the role of matchmaker between those in need of kidney transplants, and those wanting to do the ultimate good deed, to donate a kidney. That was intriguing to me as I find anything to do with transplants intriguing.

But the last story was the one that has haunted me for days now. It was about a young woman in New York who was trying to make it as an actress. She paid the bills by “acting” at a toy store in the doll section. She played the role of a nurse at the adoption center.

At first I was sucked into the story because as a little girl, I would have been totally swept up with the theater involved with “adopting” a baby doll from the store. But then the story changed. Two women from some MTV show came into the store one day and adopted a doll. Soon everyone had to have one of this special brand of dolls.

Only weeks before the big Christmas selling season the store sold out of white baby dolls leaving only ethnic minority baby dolls. That is except one – the monster baby. Nubbins, as they named him, was a factory defect and used as a display model since he couldn’t be sold.

As you might imagine, this store had far more white mothers shopping with their daughters than minorities. The narrator explains how the mothers, trying not to be offensive, would ask about the ethnicity of the dolls.

Soon the nurses/actresses had a bet about who would sell first – all of the African American baby dolls or Nubbins. Nubbins won the bet. The narrator seemed to find it disturbing that the parents were so consumed with race that they’d rather have a “defective” white baby doll than a perfectly cute African American baby doll.

I just found the whole thing disturbing. In my mind Nubbins wasn’t defective. He was disabled. I’ve known lots of children that, were they baby dolls, might be classified as “factory errors.” But they are perfect children none the less of all others.

I agree with the narrator that we are far too consumed with race when it comes to family. Perhaps, however, we are also equally far too concerned with perceived perfection.

At any rate, listen to the show for yourself. I promise, it’s entertaining. Go to:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1278

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