Innocence Lost

I headed over to Wikipedia so that I would be sure that my definition was as accurate as internet-ly possible. Wiki says –

A toy is an object used in play.

That sentence is a fairly complete, though it’s a very broad definition. Wiki goes on to talk about children and pets being the primary users – but not the sole users of toys.

In my head I think I often assimilate toys with kids – even if I am buying them. Perhaps it is the kid in me fighting the man… or something. Certainly some toys are meant specifically for kids while others are meant for a more adult crowd. And when you think about it as broadly as I am insinuating, the line is pretty clear. But life isn’t black and white. As a matter of fact – most of life is pretty gray.

In my opinion things are the most gray around the realm of comic toys or should I say “collectibles”, for the more hardcore folks out there. Whatever you call them, you know what I am talking about. Our favorite characters and heroes reproduced in detail out of various forms of plastic or resin. They sit on shelves, or on our desks, or sometimes in a toy box that is only opened when it’s time for an epic battle. Of course there are also people that leave them in the box with the hopes that they will be worth more than $9.99 one day on eBay.

As a child I remember countless hours with my G.I. Joe figures. They were so awesome – they could move “all” their joints – you know the knee joints, elbow and shoulder joints, neck joint and of course the stomach joint. If something else needed to move you clearly weren’t fighting hard enough. I also remember all my Star Wars toys – which my mom sold at a yard sale when I was in fourth grade. They weren’t quite as mobile as G.I. Joe – but awesome nonetheless. Of course there were Tranformers and LEGOs, too. I even recall a brief summer with my M.A.S.K. toys.

My toys were generally used for the purposes they were designed. Like Snake-Eyes would never fight Chewbacca – no Transformer ever bonded with a LEGO – there were clear lines. There was also innocence about everything. I understood that everything was make-believe. Although I knew that I wasn’t playing with the actual “actor” I saw on TV – I still likened the toys to that.

On my desk now I keep all sorts of toys. When I’m feeling particularly goofy I have them beat the crap out of each other – sounds effects and all. But most of the time they just sit there and keep me feeling young. They also help to provide the innocence that I mentioned earlier. When folks enter my office and see action figures and other toys – there is a certain sense of ease that I’m not a tyrant. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

However, this week the innocence of toys was compromised. Badly. At least in my opinion. My friend, who happens to be an adult, purchased a box of Lucky Charms cereal. I’m not one to judge him on his cereal eating habits – but in my head I do think of kids eating that more than a 30-ish man. I really have no problem with anybody that eats it – I’m just talking marketing here. It is a cereal that is marketed to kiddos. He was excited because there were Dark Knight toys inside. Already there was something odd here. I know that the movie is rated PG 13 – but it is a dark PG 13. And I still feel like Lucky Charms are playing to the 6-9 year olds. Well, imagine my friend’s shock and horror when he pulled out a little tiny Heath Ledger Joker action figure — with a swinging arm.

This, I feel, is too soon. It has compromised the innocence of toys. This is especially unsettling  because it was “free” inside a cereal box. A choice was not made by a child or parent to purchase a toy of a character played by a man that (possibly) committed suicide. Some even theorize that he committed suicide because of the role. I don’t stand on one side of that theory or the other – just throwing it out there. I understand that Warner Brothers is marketing the movie – I really do. I just feel like this one is slightly highly disrespectful. But perhaps I’m being over sensitive. Perhaps the 8 year old that should have received the toy would love it – and go see the movie. Then mommy and daddy can tell him later that the “bad man” killed himself after the movie.

So – after I got my panties in a bunch I decided to do some digging around for other slightly inappropriate toys. It’s a fine line – and many are marketed to adults for the purpose of satire – but others are not. Here are a few I found…

 


Harry Houdini – All tied up. Although he did not lose his life while trying to escape, it is a little unsettling to think about.

 


This baby – To be honest I have no idea what this is. It came up in google image search and just freaked me out.  

Spin Pops – I remember when these first started. It seems like a great idea – for kids that are too lazy to spin their own pops, you push the button and presto. Of course, looking at it now – if you push Darth Maul’s (or other character – they have tons) crotch, his head spins. Right… that’s totally cool for kids.

Marie Antoinette – Really? “Ejector head”? Actually – this one I am probably going to order.

These are but a small sampling of innocence lost. There are all sorts of wacky toys out there that are corrupting our youth in all sorts of ways. For a nice selection head over to Archie McPhee. Or just look around – you may be surprised by what is hiding in your cereal box!

 

Comments

  1. Correct me if I am wrong but Heath Ledger did not commit suicide, it was just an accident.

  2. After a thorough investigation, it was found that Heath Ledger, who died on January 22, 2008, died of an accidental drug overdose. The drugs that he took were addictive perscription medications.

    They included:

     

    • Oxycodone for pain
    • Hydrocodone – the pain reliever found in Vicodin
    • Valium (diazepam)
    • Temazepam for anxiety or sleeplessness
    • Xanax (alprazolam)
    • Doxylamine – a sedating antihistamine

    I guess I was drawing conclusions…

  3. Well, it does not change the fact that it is a highly inappropriate toy.

     

  4. What is or isn’t apprpriate is for each indivdual to decide.  I’m sure if pressed, most people could find something objectionable in just about all toys.  As for the Joker in the ceral, didn’t they use to give away little chocolate vampires in Count Chocula? On this one i think you need to un-bunch the panties a bit.

  5. Maybe it’s the pediatrician in me, but I’m with Gordon on the Joker toy. It’s not the fact that it is Joker per se…but just look at that toy…if you can even call it that…a line has been crossed for certain. Kinda reminds me of the old Saturday Night Live skit with Dan Ackroyd’s toy company selling bags of glass…. If you are going to package a Joker toy, it should probably look more like the JLU cartoony version, and not the homicidal maniac version. And before i get screamed at for trying to somehow dictate morality, it is up to the parent to decide in the end, I just hope they do make a wise decision. Oh and Archie McPhee is awesome! I’ve been visiting them since the 80s…they have some awesome totally inappropriate Jesus and Nun toys too!

    Now will someone please pass the Super Sugar Crisp….

  6. @target242

    I’m sure the joker would look like a cartoony JLU version if that was what they were marketing.  They are marketing a movie that includes the likeness in the box.  Inappropriate or not, it’s just not what they were promoting.

    As for my thoughts, I don’t really see a problem with it.  Were they not supposed to promote Wagons East! because it was John Candy’s last film?  Or Almost Heroes because of Chris Farley?  The bottom line is that the movie was made to make money and it would be disrespectful to not get the message out about the movie.  People are saying this was Ledger’s best performance and might even deserve an Oscar.

  7. I think the point isn’t that the actor portraying the Joker dies but instead that a movie that probably pushes the limits of a PG-13 rating is being marketed towards children who aren’t old enough to SEE the movie. I agree that this is inappropriate. If McDonalds caught flak over marketing Happy Meals with ‘Batman Returns’ merchandise I can’t see where this would get a pass.

  8. If you look at the toy itself, it’s pretty innocuous.  It’s funny looking and weird.  If you know anything about the Joker character, you know all the bad stuff anyway.

    C’mon…Mad Love was meant for kids.  ‘Nuff said.

  9. I’m totally going to get some Lucky Charms now, because that toy is Bad Azz. Respectful or not, I’m hunting for that toy.

     And speaking as a kid who bought Batman Return stuff from McDonalds, I didn’t even think about it back then, and now am so stoked to have those toys.

    I’m not sure about the marketing thing being disrespectul. To me it’s more disrespectful that just because an actor died he should therefore be cut out of promotional ties.However it is he died, there shouldn’t be a reason to act like the person wasn’t part of the film (unless I guess they died by drivin a bus full of children off a cliff…but that’s something else). Because years from now we’ll look back on that actor fondly (perhaps) and have to deal with due to gut reactions he was sorta disrespected and ignored during the marketing. I mean I’m not an actor, but if I worked on a film, and died and wound up in whereever, and saw that they were taking my image out of everything out of "respect" I’d be pissed, I’d be one pissed angle. I remember reading a report about screenings of the Dark Knight, and some of the screenings had notes about Joker scenes that people thought were "Too soon" considering the death of Ledger, and WB was talking about cutting them out! Really? Are people that sensative that they can’t take the difference between the real world and a man in clown make up fighting a man in a bat suit? I hope those scenes weren’t cut out, because if people can’t handle seeing a dead actor doing their craft, whatever the scenes may be, then don’t go to the movie, stay home and watch something with living people or read a book with no actors at all.

    Also kids aren’t as sensative as everyone thinks, sure some are, but they don’t need to be hidden by the scary joker toy. Should a dark PG-13 movie be marketed to kids? I don’t know, maybe not. But the fact remains that this is a Batman movie, and kids are going to know about it marketed or not. Hell Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 were marketed to kids, and those are two films that have people being eaten and blown up, and one was Rated R. I bought those toys, I saw those movies as a child, I was by no means tramatized, had nightmares or had to have that shit explained to me by my parent. I realized that it was FAKE. And if there’s a kid that sees Batman and doesn’t get the Joker being fake, or perhaps not a sutable role model, then that kid needs to be held back for a while, because they are clearly one of the special people.  

    Sorry, I realize this was a bit ranty, and this wasn’t aimed at you Gordon, I highly enjoyed the article, just very passionate about the subject of children’s understanding and things of that nature.  

  10. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    It’s interesting.  I think toys are very similar to comics in that they both started as something aimed at children and went on to become something with a broader range of demographics.  The Houdini toy is most likely aimed at older kids and adults who wouldn’t even recognize the bondage imagery and just see it as an iconic image of escape artistry. 

  11. "$9.99"? Whenever I look at action figures on the shelves now I usually get repulsed by seeing that they charge closer to $19.99, which I find pretty much the most offensive thing about them.

    P.S. Joker toy? You mean there’s going to be a new Batman movie? Huh, weird, I hadn’t heard about that.

  12. Over 10 years ago I somehow got a toy of Areala the Warrior Nun – I don´t remember if it was a gift or my own purchase. It was more or less like the one below, and when you took off the lower cape section of her habit (not that I would do anything like that!) she had some pretty bodacious gams.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Areala-Holy-White-Warrior-Nun-ACTION-FIGURE-Mint-NR_W0QQitemZ160241314874QQihZ006QQcategoryZ36557QQcmdZViewItem#ebayphotohosting

     Anyway, when my daughter was about a year or so old she found the toy and started calling her "Mad Girl" because of her angry expression. To my knowledge, she never realized there was anything inappropriate about the toy. However, we did sequester it before she was old enough to tell any of the Sisters at her school about it.

  13. Just to clarify – I have no problem with WB using Joker and or Heath Ledger for marketing the movie – and I totally agree that Heath should get all the credit he is due for what is (most likely) an incredible role.  What I do have a problem with is marketing to children that I feel (as do the ratings folks) are too young to see this movie by giving free toys in a box of Lucky Charms. 

    Do I think that kids will see this movie?  Yes.  Do I think that is good?  Well – I’ve been working with children of various ages for the past 9 years.  Some might be able to handle the movie, some won’t.  A lot of responsibilty falls on the parents for that – and I have no business getting involved with that.  However, when a second grader is hounding his parents about seeing the movie because he is being bombarded by his cereal – not OK.  Wall-E = different story.

  14. I can’t understand both sides here. Overall, I don’t have a problem with it.

    Warners handled the tragedy of what happened Heath with great tact, in my opinion. They focused the marketing onto Harvey Dent for a few months (which they claimed had always been the plan, but you never know), and even replaced the official Dark Knight website with a single splash page memorial for Heath. I know they still had the whysoserious site doing it’s viral thing, but I still think it was a classy, respectful move on the part of the studio and film makers.

    Then, when it wasn’t quite so raw to people, they brought Heath’s Joker back into the marketing. And good on them. They realized what an amazing performance this guy had given them, and I believe (from what I’ve seen so far) this performance should be celebrated. Marketed to kids as well? Hell yes!

    To me, and I understand I’m speaking as an adult here, but that toy is cool and scary. Kids like things that are cool and scary. It’s why they watch things like Doctor Who, or Mummy/Vampire movies. Am I the only one who tried to get into movies I was too young for as a kid? Am I the only one who went round a mate’s house because he’d managed to get a copy of …(fill in the blank of whatever horror/sci-fi movie was around when you were young)…?

    The toy is cool and scary. If I was 10 years old, I’d want it, and I’d want to go see the film. The MPAA has rated TDK PG-13 which means, whether you agree or not, the studio is well within it’s rights to market it to children. If your child wants to see a film called ‘The Dark Knight’, and with Heath’s tragic death and the trailers I doubt there are many people unaware of this film or it’s tone, then here’s where the responsibility lies: Go see it first, or (as that isn’t always possible for families) find a review that details the suitability of it. Not everyone can afford, or find the time to see a film before taking their children to it, but everyone has the internet these days… there’s a lot of info on that thing, you know?

    Did I mention the toy was cool and scary? 

  15. That first sentence above should have been "I CAN understand both sides here". Sorry, typo!

  16. What I always thought was weird was back in the late 80’s early 90’s (and this is a few years before the ‘collector toy’ market boom) Kenner released a series of figures based on several properties: Aliens, Predator, Police Academy, and Robocop. Think about that for a second. Each one of these properties were based around R rated films. Granted, Police Academy and Robocop had animated series at the time as well, but still…I always thought that was very strange. Now there are toys made everyday for R rated films, but even back then, I think they were the first and they were definetly marketed at kids. I know cause I was one then.  

  17. Oh god…that baby is going to haunt my waking dreams.

  18. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I had Robo Cop toys and I still have yet to see Robo Cop all the way through.  I certainly hadn’t seen any of it back then. 

  19. It’s only offensive if the money he would’ve gotten for the promotional stuff doesn’t go to his child.

    That baby is fucked up, though. Whoever decided naked babies are ok to be viewed regularly (as toys or in TV commercials) should be beaten to death with their own shoes.

     

  20. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    It would appear to be a Kewpie doll from the 1900s.  At least that’s where the style originated.  Based on Cupid. 

    So you want to fly back to ancient Greece and beat them up for coming up with Eros in the first place.  

  21. Coming up with the concept isn’t the same thing as putting it on TV. The latter is considerably more sinister.

    That reminds me, though, that the inventor of treasure trolls also deserves to be crucified upside down with their head in a bucket of wildebeast dung.

     

  22. Paul has a really good point.  I had Robocop toys when I was a kid, and it was long before I ever saw the movie.  I may have watched it on TV at some point where it was censored like crazy.  Most of those toys don’t really have anything to do with the movies or TV shows they were spawned from, they just needed to look cool to get the kiddies attention in the stores.  I don’t think every kid that had the Queen Alien saw the movie.  It’s more likely that someone’s grandmother heard the kid was into space aliens and bought him the most expensive space alien toy that they had at the store, slapped some santa claus wrapping paper on it and shipped it off.

    And what the hell is wrong and "sinister" about naked babies?  They’re certainly not violent or satanic in any way.  Nothing vile or evil.  Which only leads to one other explanation of why you feel that naked babies are sinister, and that is some kind of sexual context.  If you have a different explanation that makes sense, please, do tell…

  23. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    IT all goes back to the rating system in America and how it differs from those in outher countries.  While nudity and sexuality are considered the worst offenders here, violence tends to sneak by.  My friends in Europe are baffled at this odd dynamic. 

  24. Funnily enough, I bought a new box of Cheerios today and out fell that very Joker toy.  I’m holding it right now.

  25. @Conor – 20 bucks for that toy! 🙂

  26. I love me some toys.  Now a days I’m collecting the DCU Classics, those damn cute Superhero Squads, and anything Green Lantern.  My wife collects anything Iron Man.  Gordon’s point is mute to me.  Its sad Heath died but he’s in a major motion picture and its coming out in less than 2 weeks.  Would you try to promote a movie without the use of a star character?  If Christian Bale died would you say they shouldn’t make Batman Toys?

  27. My 3 year old was watching Noggin today and a commercial for that toy came on.  Noggin is a channel for pre-school kids.  Don’t you think that is a little young to market a PG-13 movie to?  The toy is creepy and totally inappropriate for pre-school kids. 

  28. More than the fact that Ledger died, is that the toy depicts a crazy murderer who slit his face into a disfigured smile with a knife.

  29. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Toucan Sam is an addict!

  30. @josh- but it’s so cute!  that’s a serial killer the whole family can enjoy.