What young family wouldn’t hold out the image of a sexually precocious 12-year-old as the image they hope their young daughters will have dancing in their heads as those innocent heads hit the pillow at night. The London Times reports that Woolworths has had to pull a certain ill-named piece of bedroom furniture from the market after a widespread internet protest by offended mothers.
“The Lolita Midsleeper Combi, a whitewashed wooden bed with pull-out desk and cupboard intended for girls aged about 6, was on sale on the Woolworths website for £395.”
“Whereas many mothers were familiar with Vladimir Nabokov and his famous novel, it seems that the Woolworths staff were not. At first they were baffled by the fuss. A spokesman for the company told The Times: “What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either. We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now.””
As my colleague, Matt Roth, suggests it’s hard to know which is worse, that they made the bed in the first place, or that they didn’t know about one of the iconic literary figures of the past half-century.
However, given the international state of our reading crisis, perhaps its worth asking how so many mothers even knew who Lolita was. I wonder if they read the book or saw the movie.
In any case, cultural illiteracy will get you nowhere.
Still, I’m just a tad bit suspicious about Woolworth’s protestations
According to the same Times article, the Brits business community has a penchant for salacious pitches to the preadolescent crowd:
“In 2006 Tesco was removed its pole-dancing kit from the toys and games section of its website after it was accused of destroying children’s innocence.”
A pole-dancing kit. What every nine-year old girl wants for Christmas.
Similarly the BBC reports the following:
“In 2005, WH Smiths came under fire for selling youngsters stationery bearing the Playboy bunny – a symbol of the pornography empire.
“Prior to that Bhs decided to withdraw its Little Miss Naughty range of padded bras and knickers for pre-teen girls after attracting criticism.
I’m not sure what’s naughty about knickers. I thought it was just a weird British word for underwear. And according to the grammar they were padded anyway. Sounds uncomfortable to me. Still, I draw the line at padded bras for pre-teens.
For the record, I did a Google search on women named Lolita. Turns out there are thousands of them. And not just Lolita Davidovitch. And most of them aren’t even on sex sites. I’m sure that the Woolworth’s bedrooms set was probably named after the owner’s great aunt Lolita in Birmingham. And after all, it’s not pole-dancing. Come on people, lighten up!
Anyway, though I’m appalled at the marketing division’s literary illiteracy, isn’t it a great thing to see literature making a difference in the world.
More solid evidence that the NEA is correct in saying readers are more likely to be social activists. 😉