Grasping at Straws: Bubble Wrap

Welcome to Grasping at Straws, the weekly blog where the unheralded, the underappreciated, and the long forgotten get their time to shine! Each week, I will “make the case” for an unpopular opinion regarding any topic or category of culture and life. Suggestions for future topics will be taken and considered at any of Sour Power’s social media channels, but please, keep it classy.

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Image result for bubble wrap


The satisfaction that comes with popping bubble wrap has always fascinated me. It has to be one of the most inexplicable phenomenons of the past 50 years. Why do we all love playing with these sheets of plastic so much? Have you ever met someone who didn’t immediately smile at the sight of bubble wrap?

It seems like such a minor idea, but when you place that bubble in between your index finger and thumb, and then proceed to squeeze that air into oblivion, it can feel unbelievably powerful. As if you just conquered an entire nation. Yet all you conquered was packing material. How can this be?

I believe that somehow, some way the human brain is innately connected with bubble wrap, which may sound ridiculous considering that bubble wrap is man-made. It makes sense, however, if you think about it from this angle: Infants, toddlers, any other word for small children, they can’t get enough of bubble wrap. Tiny humans who may not yet even be able to speak will be handled bubble wrap and automatically start going to work, their little fingers popping away at each round pocket of joy.

From a capitalistic standpoint, there’s an unspoken bond between our brains and the feeling/sound of bubble wrap being popped that has not been properly tapped into yet. People everywhere shouldn’t only have the pleasure of popping bubble wrap when they receive a package, they should be able to do it whenever they feel like it. Whenever the kids need to be reeled in so Mom and Dad can watch Game of Thrones uninterrupted on Sunday nights, whenever dinner won’t be ready for another 15 minutes, whenever the adults simply need a break. It’s in these scenarios where bubble wrap is being underutilized in our society.

This is why I think that bubble wrap could easily be one of the best-selling children’s toys on the market if the right manufacturer/developer put their mind to it.

Bubble wrap pretty much sells itself at the pitch meeting. The primal instinct of wanting to pop bubble wrap is exactly what toy developers are always looking for. It’s probably an endless debate over what exactly causes our devout amusement to bubble wrap. Is it the feeling of squishing something with tangible air resistance simply by pressing two fingers together? Or is it the sound that the popping makes? Honestly, it might not even matter. What matters more is that our brains are somehow wired to derive pleasure from performing this action, and knowing that fact should make any toy executive anywhere rub his/her hands together like Birdman.

If you’re not convinced that bubble wrap could plausibly be a legitimate children’s toy, consider its cousin in child amusement: blowing bubbles. A staple of children’s birthday parties everywhere, blowing bubbles is a tried-and-true source of kids’ entertainment. These bubbles’ appeal comes from the sense of wonder it inspires among its participants; most kids become amazed when they see that pushing air out of their mouths into a stick dipped in liquid can create this beautiful, three-dimensional bubble that majestically floats through the air before it gracefully explodes. Simple concept, simple design, guaranteed enjoyment.

Bubble wrap works in a similar fashion, except it builds on blowing bubbles’ formula because popping bubble wrap is more active and plays to more of the senses. With blowing bubbles, the only thing you actually do is blow (an entirely unremarkable action), and then the bubble water does everything else; the stimulus associated with blowing bubbles is purely visual. Meanwhile, when popping bubble wrap, one feels the sensation of the pop in your hand, hears the distinct burst of the bubble, and sees the gratifying result of the pop. All this, wrapped up in a snap-of-a-finger motion, one that can be repeated again and again without any explanation or instructions needed.

Another difference between the two bubble activities is in their possible drawbacks. Blowing bubbles carries the small, but potentially very harmful, risk of your child drinking the liquid. On the other hand, show me one child who has ever gotten hurt playing with bubble wrap. I’d genuinely love to see it. He or she would basically be the human embodiment of every older person saying the new generations are “too soft.” That kid would have to be literally made of bubble wrap to sustain any type of injury from popping bubble wrap.

The likely biggest knock against my case for bubble wrap’s viability as a sell-able children’s toy is the fact that it is already sold all around the country, so people can and probably already do buy it just for their kids to play with. This is where the smart people at Hasbro or one of its competitors come into play. I’m just the blogger planting the seed, it’s up to their experienced marketers and developers to figure out how to package bubble wrap to consumers. Perhaps the sheet of bubbles was evenly divided into four colors and the person who had the least amount of their bubbles popped wins. Perhaps the bubble wrap is paired with another game and popping the bubbles becomes the reward for success in the other game. I don’t know, I can only do so much to usher in the new era for bubble wrap.

What I do know is the link between the popping of bubble wrap and the release of endorphins in our brain should be a gold mine. This is why all movies nowadays are just reboots of old material. Nostalgia is one of life’s greatest natural pleasures, so movie studios are capitalizing on that by re-purposing all the stories and characters that people grew up loving in a slightly different way. It’s a very similar concept with bubble wrap, and it’s time for the toy industry to catch up.

Bubble wrap has long been considered an underrated treasure among those who truly know of the joy it provides. From the time we were kids discovering it for the first time to it still being a guilty pleasure of adults everywhere, bubble wrap is cherished by anyone who seeks some reprieve from the seriousness of life. Most of the time we all have to work really hard to get the opportunity to do something fun. This delivers great satisfaction, of course, because you know you earned it. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to feel some joy without exerting any real effort whatsoever? Sure, popping bubble wrap doesn’t exactly feel as good as sunbathing on a beach in the Caribbean, but it’s comparable in proportion.

Bubble wrap is the easiest way to amuse yourself. The easiest route to a smile. Who couldn’t use more of those?

This is why bubble wrap could be a wildly successful children’s toy. This is why bubble wrap is missing out on being one of the most beloved and shared aspects of childhood. Bubble wrap deserves to be a fixture in all our lives because bubble wrap is solely here to serve us, with no negative side effects or unintended consequences. Bubble wrap should unquestionably be celebrated as a crowning achievement in amusement innovation, our finest example of “less is more.”

Or maybe I’m just grasping at straws.