The Loss of Identity Through Commodification

The movie Giants and Toys depicts the fierce competition between rival caramel companies as they fight to become the most prosperous. Though each company sells essentially the same caramel candy, the way they advertise and sell the caramel is much different. Through this competition, we are introduced to the idea of consumerism and ultimately the commodification of individuals. As business becomes the main focus of the film, we see the notion of individuality blur.

Kyoko’s image repetition representing a loss of individuality.

From the opening scene of the film we are presented with this concept of identity. The film begins with a full color image of Kyoko. The shot freezes, and the image turns into black and white. The image is then multiplied and eventually there are many of these identical pictures of Kyoko. This initial loss of color and then multiplication alludes to the loss of individuality that will be presented in the film. The next scene shows hundreds of businessmen (all wearing suits) walking to work. Another segment shows the mass production of caramels in the factory. Again, these scenes portray the commodification of individuals through reproduction.

A direct relationship between the masses of businessmen and the mass production of caramels.

The businessman manufactures Kyoko’s image to a more suitable one.

The film illustrates this concept of identity through the rise and fall of Kyoko, the figurehead of the promotional campaign for “World” caramel candies. When we are first introduced to Kyoko, she is depicted excitedly eyeing various desserts in a glass case. Immediately we can tell that Kyoko is a very strange individual (she has rotten teeth and keeps tadpoles as pets). She’s the polar opposite of the monotonous businessmen already depicted in the film. When she is recruited to become the face of “World” caramels, we see her gradually transform into a manufactured celebrity. Kyoko becomes something that people can quite literally “have”; her picture is posted in magazines and her voice is broadcasted on the radio. In one scene, children surround her to get her autograph and one of them says, “up close she’s ugly”. Despite this, they still want her autograph. Similar to buying candy just to get the prize in the package, Kyoko has become a commodity people desire even if she’s not very appealing.

Despite her appearance, the men still admire Kyoko’s appearance and desire her.

Not only does Kyoko become a commodity in the eyes of the public, but she also begins to stray from her quirky, unusual self. Symbolized by the death of her pet tadpoles, Kyoko eventually becomes the stereotypical, high-maintenance celebrity. Due to this, her actions in the film become more predictable; Kyoko has lost her quirky, unpredictable persona.

Though the movie focuses on the caramel companies, very little focus is put on the caramels themselves. The caramel candies are nothing more than products subject to advertisement and commodification. It doesn’t matter what the caramels taste like, it’s the material aspect of them that is appealing. Similar to Kyoko, image is all that matters. This commodification brings Kyoko into the spotlight, but as depicted in the final scene with Kyoko bending over and crying, a loss of individuality is actually a horrible thing: once it’s gone, it’s very hard to get back.

Kyoko suffering from a crippling loss of identity, but still being forced to maintain her new image.

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