More Strange Toys
American historian Christopher Lasch said "A child's appetite for new toys appeal to the desire
for ownership and appropriation: the appeal of toys comes to lie not in
their use but in their status as possessions", which is perhaps why the faceless doll below didn't do too well - nothing much to envy there.
Following on from Weird Toys, I've been scouring the internet for strange, interesting and nostalgic toys...
I remember this one very well. This faceless doll is from a very conscientious 1990s Australian children's television show called Lift-Off, about "a group of young children, and the problems they encountered
with growing up, their parents, and various other social issues".
The show was based on the ideas of a Harvard University developmental
psychologist so you knew it was doomed from the start. Generally, children want to be
entertained, usually by fantasy and adventure, they don't want a kind of group therapy...do they? Maybe I'm wrong, as the show did last for a few years, though I suspect
it was more or less forced upon our public broadcaster due to its
political correctness. I will however, give it full marks for experimentatal value.
'EC' stood for every child and according to the folks at the Childrens Television Foundation, who created the concept: "EC is the most highly expressive doll that a child could ever hope to find." Hmmm...so why does it look like something out of the Twilight Zone? Well...it seems the idea behind the facelessness was so the children could "transfer" their emotional mood onto the doll - the doll could be whatever they wanted. I'm no psychologist but personally I wouldn't want to give this to a kid, especially a troubled one, because it just looks way too sad and depressing. Apart from a few 'socially aware' parents foisting these dolls on their dissappointed offspring, EC didn't do all that well because..surprise, surprise, kids preferred their dolls to have faces.
The reason I remember this show so well is that one of the people who put it all together happened to be my lecturer at University; Dr. Patricia Edgar, Head of the Media Studies Department.
1928 Red Grange by Sterling Doll Company
Okay this is just mildly creepy, mainly because of its age and that sideways look and grin that seems to hint that it may just lunge at your throat at any minute now.
It's also either way ahead ahead of its time, or someone at the toy company stuffed up because it appears to be a transvestite football player. Harold "Red" Grange, whom the doll is modelled after, was a legend of the game.
All well and good but why would a football player would be wearing so much make-up and have such slim-line feminine eyebrows?? Well, maybe this is what happened:
Toy Company Headquarters, 1928
Evening. A dusty warehouse, filled with boxes. Two men are wandering up and down, rubbing their chins in the dim twilight.
Head of Marketing - Johnson, you fool. What are we going to do with that load of Betty dolls you over ordered on?
Johnson -Er, gee Boss...let me think. Hey, I know! Why don't we turned them into football players?
Head of Marketing - Johnson, you're a genius.
Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what happened. In any case, if you've spotted one of these beauties in a box over at Grandma's house, rejoice! ..as they're evidently highly sought after and worth quite a bit.
Johnny Seven Gun O.M.A
The only thing strange about this toy is that it's strange that it's not strange. We're still making toys like this (see Nerf gun). Will us humans ever get tired of war games?
O.M.A. stands for *one man army* and that's exactly what you got with this portable arsenal of deadly weapons of mass destruction. Never before had one child's toy provided so many impressive options for pretend destruction and mayhem by way of plastic projectiles. Here's what came with the Johnny Seven:
- a grenade launcher
- anti-armour gun
- anti-tank rocket
- bullet -firing rifle
- tommy gun
- anti-bunker gun
- cap-firing pistol
kaboom! kerchow! clack clack! ratatat-ratatat..bang bang!!
The ad for this is a classic - the kind that inspired the Buzz Lightyear commercial in Toy Story and it looks to me like the modern nerf gun (above right) was also inspired by it. Notice how in these insecure times, the Nerf gun is bright yellow and orange and not realistic looking like the Johnny Seven...? I guess this is so no-one tries to hold up a liquor store with it. .
The Johnny Seven was introduced to the market in 1964, (as far as I know, only in the gun loving US) and an American friend assures me that when they came out every boy instantly wanted one. Ah testosterone...gotta love it.
"Trailer Trash" Dolls
Aw, just like Mum and Dad. These fetching lower socio-economic dolls come complete with a micro chip full of charming trash-talk, such as "stop it Junior, get off your sister!" and "pour me a double...I'm drinkin' for two."
Trash talkin' Turleen (Momma) is inbred, pregnant and a chronic smoker while her partner Jerwayne Jr is a classic redneck, complete with mullet, missing teeth, beer and bad attitude.
These are about as politically incorrect as you can get and Im guessing they're not really for children but rather for jaded adults who want to make fun of poor, uneducated people. What a riot! The dolls came out in 1998 and were an instant hit.
The dog in the picture below isn't a toy but he is made out of them and he is strange. The canine sculpture is made by artist Robert Bradford and is composed of old toys such as plastic planes, phones, cars,Barbie hairbrushes, Power Rangers and whole lot more disposable playthings. Recycling at its most imaginative.
- Toy Robots
The little tin and plastic robots that came off the production lines in the US and Japan were technological mini-me's...representations of an artificial intelligence we hoped to create in our own image. True, they were only toys...but the concepts fr
- Pedal Cars and other Desirable Objects
Mini-automobiles for children have been around almost as long as the real thing, ie; shortly after full-sized cars were modeled in the 1890's and were handcrafted from metal- steel and sometimes from wood. When the Model T was introduced, pedal car v
- Weird Toys
The consumables we offer up to our children say much about what we are about in any given decade. Toys and products we may have happily given them yesterday, we might cringe at today and products we sell to children today would have horrified parents
More by this Author
Oh I know in these days of whizz bang high tech wizardry, old-fashioned no-tech games probably seem incredibly lame to savvy 21st Century children.
Mini-automobiles for children have been around almost as long as the real thing, ie; shortly after full-sized cars were modeled in the 1890's and were handcrafted from metal- steel and sometimes from wood. When the...
Post-feminist revolution, 1950's housewives carry a certain amount of hip kudos. Now that we have equality (or a facsimile thereof) we don't have to be on the defensive anymore. We can wear a stiff, full skirt, vintage...