Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Dangers of 80s and 90s Toys

Remember the late 80s and early 90s? Weren't they a fun, vibrant time? But didn't those fun things have horrible, horrible implications for the future? No, this time I'm super, super serial. And I'm going to go through all the great things we all played with as kids and show you their impact.

Video Games

When I was little, my brother and I parked our little asses by the TV and played SNES till the cows came home. We loved Yoshi's Island and Donkey Kong in particular and debated their merits with the dedication of senior citizens arguing between the Matlock-a-thon and 24 Hours of the Golden Girls.

With both video games, making your character eat as many bananas or bad guys as possible was a huge component. Even if Yoshi had eight eggs trailing behind him (the limit) or Donkey Kong had forty-eight lives and we had Diddy along, I could never stop myself from eating more nanners and shy guys.

And this is why overeating is rampant today--why Cookie Monster made cookies a sometimes food, why companies have to put the caloric content on the back of even carrots, and why hospitals are now investing in newer, unbreakable obese person proof toilets. We learned to overeat when playing video games because you never knew when you might need more. And, in the case of Yoshi, it was eat them before they ate me.

You may be staring at me skeptically. I'll just let you guys know that the Grand Daddy of video games, Pac Man, is currently being homed at the Claudia Kishi Center for Bulimia and Overeating.

American Girl

I know, the socially responsible feminist mothers reading this are in shock. The moms who read their little girls the Paper Bag Princess every night and who write angry letters about Hermione's breasts being photoshopped on the Order of the Phoenix ad, and who wish their daughters would put down the Barbie doll and all her myriad accessories. What could be bad about a wholesome company manufacturing dolls that don't have breasts or hips and who teach girls about the importance of reading and learning history?

Because they also taught me how to be a good little capitalist piglet. Go consumerism! When I was eight, I pored over this magazine with the intensity of a 15 year old boy with his first Penthouse, longing for furniture that cost more than some IKEA products do today. And when I met a friend who had all of Samantha's birthday apparel (yes, even the tiny plastic $18 dollar petit fours and the forty dollar teddy bear that was barely Beanie Baby sized), it was like the preteen girl equivalent of entering the Playboy mansion. And hey, American Girl cashed in on it, too--it's the only brand of doll I know where people are paying serious money to get its hair styled.

There was also a huge amount of social status connected with each doll. Samantha Parkington had the most cachet. And now that the doll-pire has expanded, the girl who gets the homeless doll gets ostracized just a bit. (Yes, Virginia, there really is a homeless American Girl doll.)

In case you still doubt my theory that American Girl=consumerism deluxe, Paris Hilton had a Samantha, Felicity, and Kirsten. I rest my case.


These were basically the "Carry an Egg" around project that kids in Home Ec classes in books and TV. Except you had to pay money for the privilege. They also came with key chain holders, for today's kid on the go.

If you did well, your reward was a happy pet that you'd get to go on taking care of for the rest of its life (kind of like the reward you get when you make partner). Huzzah for the status quo! If you neglected it by forgetting to feed or clean up after it, you'd come back to one big pile of virtual shit...or in some cases, a dead pet with x's in its eyes. And that's more traumatic than the time we all learned the Truth About Milli Vanilli.

When you're used to hearing a cacophonous beeping noise every five minutes that dies if you don't pay attention to it that exact minute, is it all that strange that we carry around iPhones, Crackberries, and attend to them like they're miniature babies? And this is why I can't go to the movies without being assaulted by texters and sexters.

Littlest Pet Shop

We all had these as kids. Adorable little plastic animals with oversized heads and eyes. Because they were so small, you could collect as many as you wanted and then just shove them into the little cages they came with. (Or, in my case, as many as it took my parents to say, "You know for the price of all this sweatshop produced plastic, we could have gotten her a real goldfish and about eight replacement fishies.")

And you people wonder why so many sad folks on that show Hoarders have about fifty cats living in their own filth. Don't quote big fancy words like "serotonin imbalance" or "childhood abandonment issues" at me. It was Littlest Pet Shop making Crazy Cat Ladyism a socially sanctioned ill. Hey, for all the hate the Ty company got, Beanie Babies didn't come with little plastic cages to shove your pets into. Go free range beanies!

Don't get me started on Pokemon. I blame them and their "Pokeballs" for why so many people end up kidnapped and stuffed in dungeons a la Jaycee Duggard and that freak in Germany.


This was a really cute Home Alone 2 tie in. Basically, it was a glorified tape recorder. You put in a tape and taped yourself, then you could press a button and slow it down or speed it up. Oh, you could also rewind and fast forward. Like I said--glorified tape recorder. But since we saw Kevin McCallister using it to record sexually inappropriate stuff his uncle said, and to get away with credit card fraud, it became cool. I myself was so insecure in proving my femininity that I had the lady Talkboy, also referred to as the Talkgirl. (Same as the Talkboy, only lavender.)

Why is the Talkboy on the list? Because it's spawned a culture so interested in recording its own voice that we have entire websites devoted to self promotion. Insecure girls photographing their T&A in black and white for deviantart. Blogs devoted to cats that look like Hitler. The equivalent of "Did you hear about Hugo and Kim?!" getting twittered. Before I start to sound like the younger female version of Andy Rooney, I'll point out that I did cave and join Twitter. (John Stamos is there. And my philosophy is that if it's good enough for Uncle Jesse, it's good enough for me...which led to some really interesting hair styles back in the day.)

Leg Warmers

Leg warmers? you ask. Those are harmless. They encourage proper leg circulation. And make it so we don't have to shave as often.

Wrong. A society so mind boggling stupid who decides to put cloth warmers on their legs rather than, you know, pants or warmer trousers, is too dumb to live. It's reasons like this why when we get cold, we buy a Snuggie--a blanket with arms--rather than putting on, say, a sweater or a cardigan. Come on, people, we saw Mr. Rogers do it twice a day. We can do this! Together!

This post is dedicated to my little brother who loves nostalgia toys just as much as I do, in lieu of a birthday gift. (I keed, I keed.)