A 6-year-old girl is facing off against Batman, Elmo and Mickey Mouse in a Times Square showdown because, she says, the superheroes and cartoon characters make children sad.
Kamila Flishtinskiy, a first-grader from Brooklyn, has started an online campaign called “Get greedy Elmo and others out of Times Square” to try to stop the masked characters that beckon parents and children to take pictures with them in exchange for tips.
“Hugs should not cost money!” Kamila wrote.
With the help of her parents, Kamila, is now trying to raise $20,000 in an effort to buy 50 costumes of her own for her friends and family who then plan to go to Times Square to take pictures with kids and adults for free.
The spunky first grader says she sees the costumed characters every Sunday on her way to dance class and they upset her and other kids.
“I see all the cartoon characters walking around and taking pictures with kids and they always ask for money and if their parents don’t have money they become mean and don’t want to take pictures with kids,” Kamila said in a video posted on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo.
“It makes me sad, and it makes other children sad. Princesses and superheroes should not make children feel sad!
Hello Kitty, the Joker and all their masked character friends this year have come under heavy criticism – not to mention had run-ins with the law – for being overly aggressive in their efforts to extract cash from tourists, as described by the New York Post.
There have been more serious incidents, as well. Spider-Man was caught on camera punching a police officer during the middle of the day in July, and there were allegations that a Woody, the sheriff from the "Toy Story" movies, groped women.
A New York City councilman has proposed legislation that would require people wearing the costumes to sign up for a $175 license and wear badges bearing their names and pictures like taxi drivers do. Many of the costumed characters are undocumented immigrants who don’t speak English and are supplementing their income from other jobs.
According to the New York Post, Kamila’s parents Mikhail and Aziza Flishtinskiy said Kamila came up with the idea to offer free hugs while sitting in the Times Square Applebee’s and watching Mickey and Minnie Mouse interact with customers.
“[The] ingenuity of Kamila’s solution is that it will disrupt the 'market' by instantly oversupplying it with free service,” the parents wrote. “The hope is that once NYC visitors and residents will experience the free hug with characters, the perception and expectation will shift to create the new 'demand' for free hugs and pictures.”
But as far as Kamila is concerned her campaign is about one thing only.
“I want to make children happy,” she said. “I want all the kids to know that anyone can change the world. They just need to keep trying, dream big and ask others for help.”