Posted by: robinsonwarner | July 28, 2008

The Easy Bake Oven, Ronald Reagan, and The End of the World

I’d like to take some time today to write about toys.  Yes, toys.  It has come to my recent attention in the last day or so regarding a bill in 1984 (George Orwell just got an erection up in heaven) that deregulated a standing law that stated that there could be no toys linked to cartoon television shows.  What was yielded from this change in current policy was the definitive moment in advertising where toys based on cartoon shows could legally be advertised and nothing has been the same since.

 

Let’s think about this for a moment.  Who was in the White House in 1984?  Who was that pesky scallywag who sold weapons to Iran in exchange for American hostages and then part of those funds from the covert weapon sale were then funneled to the Contras in Nicaragua?  Oh yes, it was Ronald “Fuckstick” Reagan.  Why would there be this massive regulation between cartoon shows and toys?  Well toys are made by large corporations and large corporations want to have large profits.  And for those of you who took an ideologies class in college or just actually know anything about conservatism as an ideology, it is a big fan of business, especially corporations, and concurrently, large profits.  So our conservative president at the time decided that he wanted to act in favor of corporate interest by supplying them with a whole new market of children who watched the television shows and as a result would want their toys.  This yields massive profits.    

 

So Ronald Reagan, who was the fucking cat’s pajamas poster boy for the clusterfuck trickle down economics, appointed his like minded friends, who I’m sure were in no way qualified, to be in charge of the FCC.  So these guys, who were also big fans of business and the resulting profits, deregulated this law in 1984, which was in place to protect the minds of children.

 

Now I don’t mean to get on my soapbox here and start saying “Corporation this” and “Corporation that”, but come on, if this one of the more dubious things I’ve ever read, well I don’t really know much of anything anymore.

 

What better way to get lots and lots of money than to prey on the insatiable desires of children.  I’m not saying that all children are natural consumers, but they are sort of mildly obsessive about things.  If a kid wants something, well they’re going to ask for it… a lot. 

 

“Well why didn’t the parents just say no?” you ask.  Well what was happening in the 1980’s was the rise of the Young Urban Professionals (or “yuppies”) and they often had a tremendous amount of disposable income and they also had children.  These yuppies had worked hard for their slice of the American dream and had some money to show for it.  With this disposable income combined their parental instincts of protection, bought expensive foreign cars that were geared towards luxury and safety.  You saw a massive influx of Volvos, BMW’s and Mercedes-Benz’s in the United States.

 

These families had disposable income and they already bought vehicles that were geared towards the safety and happiness of their children, so they would acquiesce to lunatic ramblings of their now obsessed children who absolutely needed toys that were licensed with their favorite shows.

 

This was also helped by the popularity of the television shows in themselves.  If a television show is popular, then the toys are going to be just as popular.  I would imagine that the rationale of many parents was probably, “It’s just a toy.”  And you know what?  It was just a toy until it was partnered with television.  At that point the toy no longer remains a toy, but becomes something entirely different.  It becomes a tool.  It is a tool to get into the brain of its consumer:  the young child.  With the two-pronged attack on the psyches of children across the globe, the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Do you know how many Ninja Turtles I had growing up?  I had forty seven.  I will never forget that because I used to hoard those things like they were made out of diamonds and cocaine.  I remember how many Ninja Turtles I had growing up as a child, but I get a C in Intro to Meteorology 101 because I can’t remember if a hurricane spins clockwise or counterclockwise.  Fuck me.

 

I think I recall a distinct moment in my life where I was 100% certain that I could not love a human being as much as I loved that sassy Michelangelo action figure with his proclivity towards Italian cuisine and “partying”.  My knowledge of “partying” at that time in my life meant I got to have pizza, ice cream and cake and be able to go to bed thirty minutes later than usual.  Plus I did a bunch of heroin too.

 

On a side note, I’m certain that the growth of the pizza industry can be attributed to an entire generation of children that watched Ninja Turtles growing up and subconsciously remembering that their favorite heroes, despite their differences, all loved pizza.

 

These were not obscure television shows that had licensing agreements with toy companies.  It isn’t that people didn’t know about this going on. We are talking He-Man and in G.I. Joe.  The reason this is never brought up is because it has become the standard for advertising in our lives.  I would think we’re at the point where if we didn’t see toys being licensed with cartoons and television shows that someone would call someone to get that shit fixed immediately because it would freak us out so much.  You would see parents at toy stores ripping their hair out trying to calm their sobbing children who, with crack addict like predictability, require toys from the recently released summer blockbuster, The Dark Knight.  They would be trying to desperately explaining to their children that an evil man with a blog with too much free time did a horrible thing that got rid of toys with movies.

 

People expect toys with television and movies now because it has become the standard To reference The Dark Knight, “It’s all part of the plan.” 

 

Now back in the 1980’s there was a woman who wrote a book all about this connection between cartoon television shows and toy licensing.  Her name was Nancy Carlsson-Paige.  Now she is a very bright lady and is a very accomplished professor, but does anyone know who her son is?  Her son is goddamned Matt Damon.  Does anyone realize what this means?  This means that Matt Damon didn’t have any of those toys we all had growing up.  He was reading books, acting, playing outside, playing with constructive toys like Legos, writing fucking screen plays, acting, being awesome, and acting. 

 

Does anyone realize the implications of this horrifying reality?  I could have written Good Will Hunting!  I could have been Jason Bourne!  I could have been in Ocean’s 11 and met Brad Pitt.  Fuck me.  But nooooo, I wanted to play with my Ninja Turtles and their van that shot pizza at bad guys.  What does shooting pizza even do to bad guys?  You’re giving them free snacks and at most, giving them a higher dry cleaning bill. 

 

What I should have been doing was performing at the local theater, working on being Matt Damon, or hanging out in Southie, looking for inspiration for my screenplay.

 

Ok, so I’ve strung you along for a little while my little snowflakes.  Where am I going with this?  Well I wanted to give a little back story, well actually a long, terribly loquacious back story about toys and their distribution so I could talk briefly about toys and gender.

 

Does everyone remember the Easy Bake oven?  Well you should because I remember sitting on my couch as a five year old, probably eating pizza while whispering sweet nothings to my Michelangelo action figure, and seeing this “toy” on the television and thinking for the first time that there probably was a god; and She was good.  The Easy Bake Oven allowed for tasty treats to be made at home with a tiny oven without going to a bakery or the grocery store or any of that nonsense.  But then a strange thing happened in the commercial I was watching.  But after they showed the Easy Bake Oven and explained what it could do, besides be as close as a toy could be to being divine, they only showed girls using it.  I remember distinctly thinking “That is what girls are good for.”  I mean everyone knows (remember I’m five) that girls are yucky and gross and boys require circle-circle-dot-dot injections weekly to repel their naturally repulsive bodies, but despite years of field research we guys never knew what girls were for.

 

See as human beings, we are all interested in finding our function.  Aristotle commented that function was the true key to excellence.  And what really is function?  Function, to me, seems to be very closely related with purpose.  It is one of the questions that have made mankind wonder for as long as we could think rationally.  We then responded to this quandary by finding new and inventive ways to kill each other over the course of history.

 

The Easy Bake Oven helped me realize what girls are “for”; their purpose, if you will.  They are here to cook for us.  Oh, of course!  That’s why daddy keeps mommy around.  I mean I know she’s a gross girl, but hot damn can that broad cook.  Now this isn’t the exact logic going through my easily impressionable cerebral cortex, but it’s definitely going something like that.

 

So once I got this out of the way in understanding what girls were for, you might imagine my surprise when I would be watching the television the next day (because I was only allowed one hour of television a day.  Thanks Mom.), and I saw a commercial for a doll with a name like Suzy Shits-A-Lot.  So the commercial unfolds in its fifteen second format and it shows Suzy requiring a diaper change, requiring a bottle, requiring to be rocked to sleep, requiring measles shot, requiring attention for her diaper rash, and requiring mashed carrots.  Plus, if you don’t do it in the right order, the baby cries for twenty minutes as punishment for being a horrible mother.  This was like a fucking homework assignment, but there you would see three girls, generally one Asian, one White, and one African American, happy as can be.  They had the same face as if they were eating cotton candy.  Something was askew.

 

So you can imagine again what is going through my head.  I’m thinking, “Okay, so girls, despite their intolerable yuckyness, seem to be good for two things:  cooking pastries and taking care of babies.”

 

If I have any female readers, please forgive my five year old self and realize, that despite all my jokes, I do not feel this way at all.  To show little girls that is what they should be and aspiring to be, is both unjust and reprehensible.  They should have just renamed the Easy Bake Oven to “Bitch, Get in the Fucking Kitchen”. Or they could have renamed any one of the ten thousand dolls to “Bitch, Stop that Baby from Crying”. 

 

I have the utmost respect for women-folk, and as a self-diagnosed mama’s boy, I have to.  So you must understand how alarming this was as I got older and basically got my ass kicked by girls in every non-athletic thing you can imagine.  I lost my first spelling bee in sixth grade to a girl.  I know girls that routinely got better grades than me all through elementary school and middle school.  Both my valedictorians from high school and college were women.  My first girlfriend in college, her GPA was significantly higher than mine.  One of my favorite contemporary political philosophers is a woman.  These are all lessons in humility that I have grown and taken much important information from, but then there’s the Easy Bake Oven which significantly downplays (not negates) worth and potential that women have played and will continue to play all through human existence.

 

Now what the Easy Bake Oven did in ascribing gender roles for women, G.I. Joes and action figures did for boys.  I wasn’t allowed G.I. Joes however because I believe that my parents recognized the potential damaging effects of giving me toys that not only advocated violence, but glorified it.  But I understood the premise of G.I. Joes in a very absolutist way as a child.  The G.I. Joes were good guys from America, while The Cobra Commander and his buddies were bad guys not from America, so they must be killed.

 

Of course I didn’t stop to think that maybe The Cobra were a group of revolutionaries trying to hinder American imperialistic advances across the globe.  Maybe The Cobra was the victim of a vicious P.R. campaign to vilify their communist ideologies?  I never once thought, “Why is this war going on?”   But I always thought, “Why can’t The Cobra be killed faster.  We’re Americans.”  So G.I. Joes taught little boys to be intense patriots all the while buying more and more toys that reinforced the same message.

 

As our generation grows older and we marry and have children of our own, let’s please be careful.  If there ever was a time in human history where we need our patriots to have questions, this is the time.  If there ever was a time where traditional molds regarding gender roles need to be broken, it is now.  Let us be more aware of what people are trying to sell us and conversely what we are buying.  Because it is important to realize that what we’re being sold is often done so through a very subliminal and sinister means with an even more sinister end:  greed. 

 

That’s all for now, my brownies are ready.

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. As Simone de Beauvoire once wisely wrote, “one is not born a woman, one becomes one”. I think your experience with the easy bake oven kind of backs that up…you saw it, ya digged it, but it was chicks only, dude. What we see and what we come to know as socially constructed gender roles are so dangerous and have really shaped every one of us whether we think it or not…but I’m optimistic. I, for one, did not have an easy bake oven. I had the oven that came with molds shaped like bugs and you put goo in them and baked it and POOF you had gooey fake cockroaches. and look how i turned out.

  2. Hilarious.

    Talk about a walk back in time. My best friend had the pizza-shooting van… you are right. Terribly ineffective as weapons. You should try it in real life and see what happens.

    I definitely had the EB Oven, and you know what? Not sure if you knew this, but it BAKES THE FOOD USING A LIGHTBULB. How’s that for a backstage secret.

    I concur with the last guy. The Creepy Crawlers oven was much better. At least I didn’t feel like I was being trained to be a wifey when I was using it. If anything, I was being trained to be a mad scientist. Who doesn’t want that for their kid?

    Another good post out of you, I’m enjoying it =) Keep it up kiddo.

  3. See I thought about mentioning Creepy Crawlers. I was having a difficult time having it fit into the post.

    Realistically I should have added something about that. In the same vein of logic, the Creepy Crawlers set was conditioning all little boys to become mad bug scientists. If my cynical vision of the future is going to come true, this generation can see the average family consisting of a mad scientist husband, a Suzy homemaker wife, no children and ten thousand bugs as the new nuclear family.

  4. […] Most kids loved their toys growing up and whether it was Barbies, action figures, Legos, or an Easy Bake Oven, they all cost […]


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