Tales From Toyland

Tales from Toyland:Chucky ain't so cheesy anymore


TMNS Contributor November 9, 1999

Toys. Playthings of the young and the innocent. The stuff of which childhood memories are made. Did you have a favorite toy? Sure you did. You may not have possessed it, held it in your grubby little kiddies hands.But you had a favorite toy.

I remember this cannon. I think it was called Johnny Reb. All I remember is that it was a cannon. Here was a real guy's toy. Not a Fanner 50, but a big gun that could really do some serious damage in the neighborhood.Fanner 50? I actually had one. It was a cowboy six-shooter with an oversized hammer made for fanning. I think Mattel made it. I think Mattel made the cannon, too. Way back when, Mattel was the NRA's toymaker of choice.

But getting back to the Fanner 50. Quick draw. Pull the trigger. Then use the other hand to fan the hammer until you were out of bullets. I think the durn thing even had some plastic projectiles. And, if my memory is working almost 40 years later, the buckle was actually a spring-activated derringer holder. If some lowdown, dirty hombre got the drop on you, all you had to do was pooch out your stomach and the derringer would spring out and shoot the bad guy.

OK, so you also put out the neighbor kid's eye. But that was back in the innocent days of toys. Another Mattel toy is Barbie, every parent's nightmare. She's cheap and shallow. She's willing to change her clothes and hair color several times a day. She's proud of her big, plastic breasts. All of her female friends are also cheap and shallow, constantly changing their clothes and hair, and sport equally big, plastic breasts. And they attract guys who don't seem to care about any of that, who are easily manipulated, and who have real bad toupees.

But these days, toys are serious business. Just ask Wal-Mart, which had to pull Summer Slam '99: Road Rage Al Snow from one of its Georgia stores. The doll is modeled after professional wrestler Snow who carries a fake woman's head into the ring. Wanting to be true-to-life, kinda like Barbie, the World Wrestling Federation put out a doll that comes with a woman's head with the words "Help me" scrawled backwards across the forehead.

One mother didn't cotton to the idea of a male doll carrying around the disembodied head of a woman. She wanted to know what kind of message this toy was sending her 6- and 11-year old sons. "I could see if this was an adult novelty item, people could make a choice about whether to buy it," the mom is quoted as saying. "But the label says it's recommended for children ages 4 and older. That's terribly wrong."

Well, yes and no. It is rather tasteless, but so is everything about the WWF. That's why it's so popular with certain segments of the population in Georgia and elsewhere. And it sends the wrong message, but so does everything about the WWF.

But no one is forced to buy it, lady! This mother, an assistant professor of communication, thinks just because the doll is recommended for kids over the age of 4, that parents have to buy it.

Maybe what she's saying is: "We parents are really, really stupid and will go out and buy every tasteless toy that's recommended for children ages 4 and older. Please protect us from our imbecilic selves."

In the end, Wal-Mart agreed that the people of Cartersville are easily duped into buying vulgar, tasteless merchandise. It did not, however, pull the toy from the shelves of other Wal-Marts across the nation. Does this mean Wal-Mart officials believe everyone else knows better than to buy vulgar, tasteless merchandise?

What does this say about Wal-Mart's future?