One of my son's favorite fictional characters right now is Spot the dog. In many ways I'm happy about this. He doesn't know who Elmo is, or Barney, or any of those big-name kid franchises. His knowledge of Spot comes entirely from two Spot books, one from my own childhood, and one a recent edition of the first Spot book, Where's Spot? Sam loves lifting the little flaps to see what or who is hiding under them, and he also likes alternately laughing at and scolding Spot for his mischief. All this builds on Sam's natural love of dogs. His grandfather has compounded the situation by naming a yellow puppy on the farm "Spot", and this weekend Sam and the living Spot met each other and became very close friends, with hugs, kisses, mischief, and scolding exchanged between them. Whenever things got dull at the farm, Sam would bellow out, "Botsch!!!!!", which is his approximation of Spot's name.
Sammy has books with Sesame Street characters (many of them from the 1980s, before Elmo was anything but a minor character), and we tell him the names, but Sam has not yet developed any obsessive fixation on any one character. Likewise, he is aware that Mickey is a mouse, but I don't think the little rodent has much marquee cache with my kid. I credit this in large part to Sam's seeing little television, which means that he is not bombarded by a media machine seeking to develop young customers for endless ranks of toys, books, movies, DVDs, CDs, and dolls centered on one character. With a book, there is no outside force ramming a character down my kid's throat, to the exclusion of all other characters.
Out of curiosity, yesterday I looked up Spot on Wikipedia to see what other books he had that we might get. I was amazed to find an entire official website dedicated to Spot, with online games, over 200 book titles for sale, and a fourteen-year-long run of a TV program. I guess Spot's people also jumped on the "create-addiction-in-little-kids" bandwagon, and quite successfully. This all sort of terrified me. If Sam caught wind of this, especially the TV program, we could all be condemned to months or even years of obsessing over Spot, long sessions of watching the same TV shows, and a big hit on our wallet as Sam drove us to snap up any Spot merchandise we could find.
So I'm going to do my best to limit Sam's regard for Spot to his two books, his living, wiggling dog at the farm, and whatever else my baby's imagination can dream up. But at all costs I'm going to hide that damn website!