Who knows CPR? Creativity is dying

Connor Guy

Creativity is under attack. Now, I know this rant is overdone, but I promise, I have enraging news from the front lines of this war. After reading this, you’ll be at least a little upset.

Take the age-old example of television, for instance. This is over-discussed, but bear with me.
When we were young, a typical kid watched maybe one or two TV shows with any regularity. We watched “Arthur” on PBS, and then it was “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer”: our cue to go play in the yard, or build a fort with the couch cushions, or even do homework.

These days, there are many, many channels on cable (which is like, five million times more common now) devoted exclusively to kids shows. Kids can come home from school and watch shows like “Hannah Montana” and “Kim Possible” until bedtime. When kids’ schedules are full of Disney’s programming, where’s room for creativity?

Crayola has exacerbated this situation with a new line of products called “Color Wonder.” A special coloring book and marker set comes packaged in the familiar Crayola yellow and green. The marker is full of special ink that will only show up in the coloring book; the idea is to keep kids from drawing on the walls and other inappropriate places.

But get this: walls aren’t the only place that Crayola has deemed inappropriate for drawing. These markers won’t even work outside of the lines on the page.

The package says, “Color Wonder Coloring Books are specially printed so that color appears only where it should.” Crayola is chemically forcing kids to color inside the lines! If this doesn’t piss you off, you were never a kid.

Not only that, the marker will only color each part of the picture whatever Crayola prescribes to be the proper color. It will only make the sky blue, the grass green, etc. So, were you to take the marker and scribble all over the page, the picture would turn out perfect, or, rather, whatever Crayola decides “perfect” is.

Giving your kid this coloring set would be tantamount to putting them in front of a player piano. Would you call that creative? Stimulating? In any way productive?

What if a kid wants to make the sky cloudy, or the grass dead? As gloomy an expression as that may be, if that’s how the kid feels, who the hell is Crayola to tell him, “Your picture needs to be happier”?

In a preface to one of his books, Joseph Conrad said that art should be “the appeal of one temperament to all the other innumerable temperaments” and, in order to be effective, it must be “conveyed through the senses…in fact, it cannot be made in any other way.”

As humble as a kid’s drawing may be (I’m talking about the kind drawn with real markers), it is still that kid’s expression of himself; it’s art.

But how’s a kid supposed to express himself, or appeal his temperament, when before he even sits down to draw, Crayola has decided exactly how his picture will appear?

We live in an age when corporations are constantly trying to pre-program what we express: to form our temperaments for us. People these days think that they’re expressing their individuality with the color of their iPods. They use brand names like building blocks to craft themselves.
Now, to qualify this angry rant: Crayola is not forcing Color Wonder into children’s hands. There is, and will always be the alternative of drawing on plain, white paper with real markers (although they can get on the walls).

So, Crayola is not so much waging war against creativity as much as they are illustrating (no pun intended) an alarming trend: Creativity is dying.