Ah, childhood toys. Hopscotch, skipping ropes, wiffleballs...what could be more wholesome?
Under normal circumstances, the toy world is indeed an oasis of happy, idealistic, and innocent fun and games. But sometimes, mistakes are made. Be it through lack of thought, lack of care, or lack of taste, history is sprinkled with toys that just should never have made it to market at all. Like these.
Oreo Fun Barbie
You know, you can kinda see what Barbie maker Mattel was getting at with this one. After all, Barbie fans come in all colors of the rainbow -- the doll should, too.
It shouldn't, however, come in a package like this.
In 1997, Mattel released matching white and black versions of Barbie, and kitted them out in clothing branded with a popular snack cookie. So far, so good…but the particular cookie Mattel chose was the Oreo. As you may or may not be aware, Oreo is a derogatory slang term used to describe a black person who adopts "white" mannerisms. In other words, Mattel couldn't have shot themselves in the foot any worse if they'd actually shot themselves in the foot. Buyers were incensed, prompting Mattel to recall all unsold product.
Of all the subjects unsuitable for children's toys, the 9/11 attacks have got to be somewhere near the top of the list. But -- unbelievable as it seems -- somewhere, at some point, an unknown toy manufacturer decided it was appropriate to produce a cheap plastic plaything depicting a plane flying into a crude replica of the World Trade Center.
As bad luck would have it, a batch of thousands of the toys found their way to Florida-based wholesaler Lisy Corp. in 2004, and a number then showed up in grocery stores, lurking as "treats" at the bottom of innocent-looking bags of candy. Outraged parents quickly notified the media, and Lisy rapidly withdrew them from sale.
Harry Potter vibrating broomstick
Looks innocent, doesn't it? This plastic replica of a broomstick from the Harry Potter films concealed something of a surprise. In addition to making cool swooshing sound effects, it vibrated.
Who knows what maker Mattel was thinking, but the prospect of a vibrating toy for children to straddle proved horrifying to some -- and hilarious to others. Amazon's product page was inundated with fake, tongue-in-cheek reviews, and the "toy" was quietly discontinued...along, we assume, with the employment of whatever doofus thought it was a good idea in the first place.
How do you make construction toys appeal to girls? It's a problem that Danish brick-maker Lego has been wrestling for decades -- and this year they tried producing a purpose-designed range of sets targeted squarely at female builders.
Their purple bricks, more realistic figures, and cute plastic puppies didn't play well with many parents and women's rights activists, who saw it as gender stereotyping. Petitions and Internet campaigns followed -- but, undaunted, Lego plans to expand the line later this year.
Dolls with realistic bodily functions have been popular playthings for years. But some just go too far.
Here's the perfect example: the grinning and very pregnant Midge, who's part of the Barbie range. Open up her belly, and there's an upside-down baby looking pretty much ready to be born. (No, the more traditional method of exit is not featured.)
While Midge was the very zenith of wholesome American family life (she already had a husband and three-year-old son), there was enough of a furor to make Wal-Mart pull the dolls from shelves in 2002 until Mattel produced a non-pregnant version.
Airport Security Play Set
So, which part of the modern airport experience do you want your kids to be re-enacting? Swooshing model planes about? Loading them with passengers and luggage? Towing them around the apron?
Here, try this Playmobil set. It'll let the kids re-enact the creepy, touchy-feely tactics of the TSA in the comfort of their own bedroom. But without a doubt the most controversial feature is that it comes with just one passenger -- making what has to be the shortest checkpoint line we've ever seen. Talk about unrealistic.
"Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle and Coo" doll
Like many baby dolls, this innocuous-looking toy makes cooing and babbling noises when you pick it up. Unlike many baby dolls, though, this one reportedly hid subliminal religious messages: parents claimed to hear the doll say "Islam is the light" and "Satan is king."
The so-called words were just random baby gibberish, of course, but that didn't stop the fuss. Fisher Price, the toy's manufacturer, issued a statement clarifying the mysterious messages and suggesting the toy's cheap speaker was to blame. The doll remains on sale.
You see, it's like Monopoly, but it's in the ghetto. Hilarious, right? Liquor stores instead of railroads, carjackings instead of income tax, crackhouses instead of hotels. How could you possibly go wrong?
As it happens, 2003 release Ghettopoly went quite far wrong indeed, making itself unpopular with an impressive array of folks: retailers, who pulled it from shelves, the NAACP, which publicly criticized it, and most of all Hasbro, owner of the Monopoly trademark, which extracted the decidedly non-ghetto sum of $400,000 from Ghettopoly's creators after a court battle.