crazes

   British culture has witnessed a number of youth crazes such as the hula hoop in the 1950s and the Rubik’s cube in the 1970s. The Rubik’s cube (to take an example) was based around the solving of a cuboid puzzle with six different coloured sides with each side made up of nine separate coloured squares. These were jumbled and the puzzle involved reconstructing the cube to recreate the six sides of original colour. The puzzle spawned a playground culture of ‘moves’ and ‘strategies’ that was exacerbated by time considerations. Manufacturers built upon this fascination and adapted the concept to include different shapes and designs (such as spheres). Similar crazes arose around other desirable playground ‘must haves’ such as slime and silly putty.
   In recent years crazes have tended to develop as multimedia events. Perhaps the best example of the early 1990s was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze, where not only were the figures desirable artefacts but a whole merchandising machine was brought into play with a number of products built around the same theme. Many Disney films have produced merchandising spinoffs, and there has been a shift from the general craze towards specific marked designer goods. The craze becomes more pronounced when the availability of the product is limited due to an unpredictability of demand. This is further fuelled when such (non) availability is immediately prior to times of conspicuous consumption, such as Christmas. Christmas 1997 was notable for example by the rush to obtain Teletubbies, small furry android creatures known by the individual names of Tinky- Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po. The success of the television programme was not originally anticipated, and demand far outstripped supply with numerous newspaper reports of Telletubby auctions and violent parental encounters in the quest to obtain one. At the same time videos, books and children’s cutlery were produced to fuel the demand for all things related to the Teletubbies. Some two months later, stocks were high and shops were overburdened illustrating once more the temporal nature of such crazes. A further prime example of the multimedia dimension to crazes is provided by the phenomenal Spice Girls. A manufactured all-girl band with six consecutive number one singles, the ‘spice girl’ brand quickly proliferated into many areas of product endorsement. Clothing and dolls were also produced and a successful film, Spice World, was released.
   See also: bungee jumping
   STEVE GREENFIELD
   GUY OSBORN

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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