I don’t want to come over all ‘ee bah gum, things were better when I were a lad’, but what has happened to children’s toys? My eldest, now six, is at the age I can remember really enjoying the excitement of opening a new toy and playing with it for hours and hours. One of my most memorable toys was an actual Slag. Bear with me here… there was a Transformer that changed into a Triceratops. It was called Slag. Why the toy company thought it would be a good idea to keep that name when selling it in the UK is beyond me. It doesn’t help that it was a horny Slag too. Two horns, in fact, on its head.
Anyway, enough of my Slag experiences. The point I’m failing to make is, whatever you feel about the fact that the early ’80s was the beginning of the era of mass-produced toys, sold to kids who were brainwashed by tie-in animations, some of those toys were actually pretty clever. Transforming a dinosaur into a robot was a fascinating experience for a six-year-old, and the cartoons provided lots of jumping-off points for your own imaginative adventures.
These days, my daughters get excited about things with names like Slooshy Mooshy Shopkin Choozy Woozy. Now, obviously, I’d rather they be called this than Slag, but by and large, these tiny cute characters really can’t compare. For a kick-off, I really take issue with the size. I understand ‘small = cute’, but how are children supposed to not lose these little creatures? Of course, the toy companies don’t give a rat’s arse about that. In fact, let them lose them, as they might get so upset, they could end up raising hell by screaming until they get a replacement. More money for the toy companies. Cynical, me? Yes, of course. I’m a tired, skint dad with sore feet from standing on a chuffing Slooshy Bushy Chee Cha Chum that went missing six months ago and has turned up inside my socks somehow.
The thing that really annoys me with modern toys is, if you do decide to calm your poor heartbroken children by getting them a new Tinky Stinky Debbie Doo Dah to replace the old one…. you don’t even know what you’re going to end up with when you bring it home. When I was a lad, if you wanted a Slag, you could point to the Slag in the shop and say, ‘Mum, please can I have a Slag?’. Now, there’s this awful random factor to toys, meaning it’s all about the surprise. There’s a big range of toys called LOL Dolls that come inside large eggs, like a massive Kinder Surprise, only much more expensive and without chocolate. If your little ones crack one open (which takes about ten minutes, only increasing the sense of expectation) and it’s a doll they already have… it’s tough shit, basically. You’re expected to make your money back by selling the toy on eBay to other parents who are also desperate for a quiet life. I’m assuming they’re called LOL Dolls because the company that sells them is collectively laughing out loud that this is deemed perfectly okay. Talk about ‘Broken Britain’… Why isn’t money saving expert Martin Lewis doing something about this shameful exploitation of immature emotions?
These Sticky Wicky Titchy Twatty toys… they do nothing. They just stand there. You can pick them up and put them somewhere else for a bit, but by then, the novelty is already wearing off, and my girls are asking where the iPad is. He-Man figures may have had weird squashy legs that were all bent as if they had scurvy, but at least you could make them hang from trees or… I don’t know, just DO stuff. Visionaries were pretty dull, but those holograms on their chests were interesting for about half a day. I didn’t play with Care Bears but at least they helped children learn about emotions, I suppose.
The only way I’d favourably compare them with toys from the ’80s is that at least they’re not Barbie or Sindy, ie, teaching girls that they can only trade on their looks as a profession when they are older. However, these Dinky Donky Poop Poops are still clearly aimed at little girls, and Disney have cornered the market with their Disney Princesses, so let’s not pretend we’re now in a new enlightened age.
It’s not all bad, though. Lego and Duplo are still immensely popular for good reason, and Wow toys are great for very young kids. They really are indestructible. When ‘silly old Trump’, as my eldest calls him, starts World War III and humanity is destroyed, the last remnants of humankind will be Wow toys. I am certain of this.
I am also very relieved my children don’t want to buy Cabbage Patch Dolls. I’m picturing the cold, empty stare of their beady little eyes right now and it’s sending chills down my spine, so I’m going to have to bring an abrupt end to this blog. Sorry.