Monday, November 26, 2007

Where Do We Go Now, Sweet Child O' Mine?

I saw Transfomers recently under Rifftrax duress, and we must agree that it takes some tryin' to make a movie about cars which fold into robots boring and lame. And yet.... Transformers.

I must say I didn't have a great deal invested in the travails of Prime Number and his nemesis MegaDeath, or whatever, as Transformers in its Saturday morning cartoon form was a boy show and therefore uninteresting. All I knew about it was that there was more to them, apparently, than met the eye. Move over, folding and unfolding robots, I want my high-class entertainment in the form of singing chipmunks!

But even I was highly disturbed when, a third of the way through the movie, one of the Transformers--one of the good Transformers, whom we were supposed to root for-- started peeing on a human character. I repeat: THE TRANSFORMER PEED ON SOMEBODY.

It is no longer Morning in America. Retailers realize this, and have been shoving the childhoods of Generation X back at us in hideously repackaged form for some time now, although if I have anything to say about it, Jim The Small Child Nephew and Will The Baby Nephew will never know that Cabbage Patch Kids glow in the dark.

Of course, the rampage doesn't end at the Patch.

This is Minty, everybody-- a My Little Pony circa 1983. She was one of six pastel Ponies. You can respect this Pony, as much as a person can respect a bile-green horse who looks as if she just staggered out of a campus bar in the very early hours of March the eighteenth.

But look what they've done to my herd:

Wha' happen'? Has there been some sort of natural disaster which forced the species to adapt to the color scheme of just-vomited rainbow sherbet? Back in the day, I had a couple My Little Pegasus ponies with screaming-yellow fluorescent hair, and they were way more calming than this Crayola explosion.

Then there's Strawberry Shortcake:

This was the doll I played with, complete with her chokable comb and impetigo-infected cat. I forget the cat's name. The cat is not important. What is important is that an entire generation of girls grew up surrounded by the soft, fake odor of strawberries, and accepted large, pink hats with green striped pantyhose as a laudable fashion statement. She was fully herself, Strawberry was, what with her flat feet and her extreme lack of boobage, and God bless her. She was the anti-Barbie. You could feel good around The Shortcake, because whatever the state of the Pac-Man tshirt you were wearing, you were going to look better than she did.

Strawberry Shortcake, post-New World Order:

What th-- Girlfriend is wearing PANTS. Did she have a Special Experience at summer camp? I mean, notthatthere'sanythingwrongwiththat, but when somebody says, "Meet Strawberry Shortcake!" you are not going to picture a person who looks like she just rolled out of Lilith Fair.

Oh, but you haven't seen what they've done to Holly Hobbie yet. She was a woman of mystery, the original Holly, whose eponymous hobby essentially consisted of hiding from the world beneath The Bonnet That Consumed Schenectady:

I don't know what it was with us Daughters of the '80s and our preoccupation with enormous hats. Perhaps we believed if the Russians couldn't find us, they couldn't launch their missiles and make us stand in lines to buy bread.

Well, nowadays the Russians aren't even fun to play hockey against anymore:

Holly. Put down the macramé and step away from Carrie Bradshaw's stupid newsboy cap. Find some gingham and get back on my lunchbox where you belong.

But the biggest disappointment is the reincarnation of Toss Across:

Toss Across was bascially person-sized tic-tac-toe with beanbags and three-sided plastic blocks on a huge frame. I have many fond memories of standing in the basement across from Julie The NephewsMama, perfecting my inability to hit anything, including her.

So you can imagine my shrieking when I ran across Toss Across in a toy aisle, only the happy shriek trailed off horribly: "TOSS AC--why is it really small?"

This is the approximate actual size of the current Toss Across. It's, like, Smurfified. And neon. You'd think such an obvious chroma-shoutout to the Reagan era would make me happy, but no-- I just feel sad, and kind of calcium-deficient. Man, it just makes me want to pee on a Transformer.

don't even get me started on the Care Bears at:


Starnarcosis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I sympathize with ya, MB. My sister was sooooo looking forward to happy, blissful days of reliving her childhood when she had my niece five years ago. Of course, that was before she realized that, as you said, the toys of her youth had been hideously altered by some horrible Mattel conspiracy.
My niece does have some Care Bears that actually resemble the ones her mom had, but when I was home this Thanksgiving, she proudly displayed for me the one that GLOWED IN THE DARK!!!!! Wrong, wrong, wrong!!!!!
And as a girl of the 70s who once had a Holly Hobbie themed birthday AND the lunchbox you speak of, I will never, ever allow anyone to buy her a Holly Hobbie that looks like a Valley Girl!!!
I share your shock and dismay at the way our toys have been remade--or should I say vandalized!!!


Life's a Laugh said...

You do realize that everything that we children of the 80s held sacred is now being regurgitated in a manner that all advertising firms across America can be proud. There is going to be a Alvin and the Chipmunks movie where Alvin actually utters the line "bow-chica-wow-wow". Yep. Say it ain't so, say it ain't so. What's next, the Smurfs coming back as a bunch of muscle-bound human rights fighters and Smurfette clothed in a halter top and some Daisy Dukes? Oh the humanity!

As far as the Transformers go, yep, had the same reaction as you, though I did watch the cartoon of the 80s. They made the car pee on someone. Oy.

Nicko McDave said...

My five year old daughter just loves her Holly Hobbie Christmas DVD movie. Of course, it's the 21st century Holly who stars. There is a flashback scene that introduces us to Holly's great-grandmother, the ORIGINAL Holly Hobbie, who was the child hiding her face beneath the massive bonnet oh so long ago. Apparently the two Holly Hobbies are completely identical.

Space Age Holly's mother gives the child her great-grandmother's old dress, which the girl promptly cuts to bits with scissors so that she can fashion the scraps into a puffy hat.

The metaphor is obvious, and apt.

willow3x3 said...

Holy cow! Holly Hobby is now Holly Hippie Ho-bie? My illusions of good in the world are shattered. Thanks MB.

PatsFan said...

OMG - WHAT HAVE THEY DONE to Holly Hobby??

I had all the Hobbys as a kid, beautiful little rag dolls, swathed in calico, with yarn hair. In fact, I believe I also had her sister, Heather Hobby (whose coloring was more brunette and who had a cream-and-green dress and contrasting bonnet rather than a blue one), and there was a boy doll as well (I'm not going to say it was Bobby Hobby, but it was something close to that).

You've made me long for my childhood .... and sorry that my nieces and nephews won't get to enjoy that innocence, rather they will be sickened by lead-containing, plastic pieces of ugly.

For Shame.

Jules said...

!!....your new banner!!

Me likey!


I had Holly Hobbie bedsheets. That's as far as it went with that kind of stuff.

Anonymous said...

My sides hurt from laughing! Toys just aren't what they used to be, as my nephew proves to me every chance he gets.

Thanks for making me laugh!

Anonymous said...

first off, I must say, I really love the new heading! looks very classy!

and... extreme disappointment with the Ponies. I thought we were done with nuclear accidents... but it looks like they've mutated.

jcat said...

Oh, my poor Care Bears, what have they done to you?! I was so excited when they came out again, until I saw the evil that was afoot. I only bought the 'classic' bears, and I refuse to buy any of the new movies or watch the new shows. Share bear was the only exception, they changed her tummy symbol, but I can live with that, but poor Champ bear, they made him blue. BLUE! I love blue, but you can't do that! You just can't! And now they're coming up with new Care Bears. Oh, make it stop!

red pill junkie said...


If you found THAT disturbing, wait till you see Alvin eating one of Theodore's TURDS in the new Chipmunks movie!

And you definitely have to send this toy reviewing article to MSNBC. Specially the part abut the little ponies designed by a peyote addict!

What happened? did all the creativity in the world disappeared throught the Antarctica's ozone layer hole by the end of the 1980s? Why is everybody in Hollywood and Mattel on the job to try and destroy my childhood memories?

classickelly21 said...

Wow, and we haven't even started to discuss those new Bratz dolls yet... poor kids with these toys. The new designs are almost as harmful as lead.

Thanks MB for this post though :) You're lovely.

LiteraryAlchemist said...

Yesterday, I was going to inquire, "What happened to the really classy champagne flute and tasteful typeface design from the TShirt era?" I then thought better of it, you know, being an insensitive boy (jerk?). I'm pleased that all was resolved for the classier, today, MB. I'll only hint at the correlation between yesterday's banner and what so offended you about Transformers.

Transformers wasn't true to the 80's material, I agree. But, I rather enjoyed it. The film understood what it was - a movie for guys who wanted to see explosions, folding cars and um... well, that girl. It didn't try to be anything else, just a bunch of explosions and pretty things to look at.

Alvin and The Chipmunks, I don't get it. Never did, so it doesn't bother me much.

But, if you found all of the aforementioned subject matter disturbing, may I submit for everyone's (dis)approval:

Step away from the children's books, Hollywood.

Katrina said...

I must step forward and defend the Transformers. Not the movie, which was pretty graphic and will not be seen by my 7 year-old son for many years, but the toys themselves. I think they are cooler now than they were back in the 80s, and as the only girl my age in a neighborhood of boys, I actually played with them. Now I play with them with my son, and find that the new ones are more complex and can do many more things than the old ones. They are more of a challenge now, and I think that makes them a better toy. But don't get me started on what they've done to Operation...

Adrian said...

I've read some books about advertising and let me tell you, they would curl your hair! They actually use child psychologists (may they be damned to hell!) to tell them what the vulnerabilities are of their target age group so they can tailor their marketing to make the child feel bad enough about themselves that they "need" the new widget to solve their "problem" - very scary stuff! My particular rant of the month is the "new and improved" Monopoly with ATM cards. Gee, I wonder which credit card company sponsored that one? (shudder)

the celina(s) said...

I guess I'm just a touch too young to remember Holly Hobbie and Strawberry Shortcake. Well, ok, I remember Strawberry Shortcake but I would have thought MB imagined Holly Hobbie into existence had there not been other comments here about her.

They're messing with MY toys, too. When I was but a young 'un, my Polly Pockets could actually fit in my pocket. You'd probably injure yourself in a bad, bad way if you tried to shove the new ones in your pocket.

I agree with classickelly21 about the Bratz dolls. And they actually spawned a MOVIE??? ::shudders::

But, um, IactuallykindoflikedTransformersbutthatmaybeduetomyslightbutpersistentcrushonShiaLeBeouf.

smc said...

No, Holly! Nooooooo!

Anonymous said...

Ohhh...what a great thought provoking article!
I am a youngish 30-something with a sister (yup) who was(is) obsessed with Transformers.
I loved Strawberry Shortcake of course.Had the skates, and the big smelly doll and the big Lemon Meringue smelly doll. Mmmmm...they are both around here somewhere and when the box is opened it's like being plunged into a cold, wet, wide sea of childhood.
I also have 3 boys, ages 10,8 and 6 and we all saw the Transformer movie together with my sister. She's a freakin' purist so she had kind of an "eh" response to it.
I thought it was bada$$. My kids loved it too...compared to Billy and Mandy the violence was negligible as well. (My kids are very good about separating fantasy and reality on that score.)
I wasn't too hip on the whole masturbation insinuation smack in the middle of the film...sheanotsomuchas,as:asnot.
Holly Hobby was nerdly to me then and now, but my (admittedly weird) sister loved her too. Strange combo; Holly meet Optimus, Optimus;Holly.Then again my sister is the one who knows all things Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh, and Naruto(among others).
Nowadays I think the main marketing scheme is this: put out made over old toys just to piss off parents/aunts/uncles-then remanufacture exact duplicates of the originals so we will buy them for our kids instead.
Either way they win.
~Still eager to expose my kids to diluted and distorted memories because, well...aren't they all a little diluted and distorted anyway?

SusannahS said...

Custard. Strawberry Shortcake's cat was named Custard.
By Golly, I might not be able to remember how many times I used my Visa card yesterday but I can recite the names of Strawberry Shortcake's friends and pets, circa 1982.
I'm too upset to talk about my old friend Holly Hobbie. I had the HH kitchen set with cardboard and plastic oven/stive. I still have my wooden rocking chair and toy chest which were handpainted with the old HH silhouette. I loved Holly in her bonnet.
And I miss the old Barbie with her impossible measurements.
*Sob* Calgon, take me awayyyyyy!

Anonymous said...

I don't know who the other ClassicKelly21 was but I do have to say I HATE the Bratz dolls.

I still have a HH cradle, my neice uses it now when she plays with my original Cabbage patch Kids.

I haven't shown her my SS stuff or my real MLP.

I cringe at some of the stuff they want to play with today. Dora's head is really scary if you look at it. There is just something so wrong with those eyes. (Shudder)

Anonymous said...

Holly Hobby redo devastates me--as a Hollee who grew up with her room festooned with Holly Hobby paraphern, parafanerl, uh,. . . stuff.
Oh the humanity . . .
Am calling my therapist.

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