Sometime in the 1970s, toy makers realized that not all the children of the world are rich, healthy, white Americans. Eager to get their hands on some non-white dollars, they got busy redecorating their dolls with new ethnicities, diseases and unwanted teen pregnancies.
And really, who better to handle sensitive racial and social issues than toy makers? As it turns out, just about anyone.
#7. Happy Family Pregnant Midge
Wanting to stay vigilant at the forefront of producing children's toys that make everyone horribly uncomfortable, Mattel identified three universal truths about little girls:
1. They love dolls.
2. They value - no, cherish - no, get high on the institution of marriage.
3. They love uncapping pregnant bellies to get sneak peeks at unborn fetuses.
Using this wisdom as a blueprint, Mattel conceived (get it?!) Happy Family Pregnant Midge and Baby (her original name "Unwed Janet and Bellysack Full Of Jason the Blockbuster Clerk" was deemed too controversial).
So What's the Problem?
The pretty picture of wholesomeness starts unraveling the minute you lift up Midge's dress, which every single one of us would do within two seconds so there's no point in denying it.
She looks pretty much the same as our moms did, minus the tattooed stretch marks and appendix scars. Things don't get offensive until the kids want to play C-section with Midge, which by the way they totally fucking can. Her baby gut is magnetic, so snap that son of a bitch off and boom, it's upside-down fetus time.
Whip that placenta-less baby out and it's ready to play dress up, but don't forget to snap Midge's skinny belly back on or else Daddy will have to beat the pretty back into her.
The quickest way to tight abs? Child birth, apparently.
Shockingly, Knocked-Up Midge and her creepy ass baby were scrapped shortly after their launch.
#6. Chinese New Year Barbie and Amazonia Barbie
Much like Madonna, Barbie is super great at bastardizing other people's heritages in the sexiest, most gap-toothed way possible, and Mattel decided she needed to give the ladies of China and the Amazon a makeover. Check out the picture above; the Chinese is practically radiating from her body.
Meanwhile, Barbie's visit to the southern hemisphere yielded similar results in the form of a doll that doesn't look a thing like Megan Fox.
Clearly modeled on actual people living near an actual river called the Amazon.
Mattel captures the spirit of both of these mighty nations flawlessly, from the feathers atop Amazonian Barbie's sleek, gleaming hair and the tribal tattoos on her pasty white thighs to the distinctly European facial features of Chinese Barbie, these dolls scream EFFORT from the get-go.
So What's the Problem?
In the case of Amazonia Barbie, "effort" means crapping out a design of a white woman wearing enough make-up to pass for a gay guy passing for a white woman posing as an Amazonian disco queen.
Looking at authentic pictures of Amazonian women, we can see where there'd be some confusion:
And their depiction of a Chinese woman can be excused provided that your definition of "Chinese" is "Catherine Zeta-Jones."
Besides the full-on disregard for a major physical trait of Asian races (THE SHAPE OF THE FUCKING EYES), Mattel went through the trouble of actually painting on eyebrows that were distinctly lighter than the color of the doll's hair, as if they weren't quite ready to go "full-Chinese" just yet.
It's much better to imply that this pale-skinned, sedately smiling beauty is gently aware of the people of China and honors them with her wig and Mandarin dress, but at the end of the day she can still take all that shit off and go back to being white.
#5. TheSock Obama and Cuddle with Me Lil' Monkey
During the presidential election race in 2008, a Utah-based company called TheSock Obama Co. released what they referred to as "historical presidential memorabilia" and what everyone else in the world referred to as "a sock monkey Barack Obama."
Basically the same thing.
They began selling the doll on their website www.thesockobama.com, proving that some marketing campaigns never move beyond the weed-fueled play on words they began with.
"Dude, you know what totally rhymes with Barack? Like... sock. Do we have any more cheese?"
Meanwhile, Brass Key Keepsakes, a company known primarily for manufacturing children's dreams in the form of Disney Princess dolls, recently introduced a line called Cuddle with Me, which features racially diverse infants packaged together with a stuffed animal companion.
This can do nothing but succeed.
Depending on which version you buy, that companion is either a panda bear or a monkey, animals that rank just below "crocodile" and "scorpion" on the list of things you should never let anywhere near your children. Both dolls were available in white, black and Hispanic and were sold in Costco warehouses, presumably bundled together with 200 AA batteries and a triple pack of Frosted Flakes.
So What's the Problem?
This may come as a surprise to people who've lived their lives completely isolated from all black people and black culture as a whole, but they tend not to like the "black people are monkeys" thing. Yes, it's truly political correctness run amok when you can't even stereotype an entire race as subhuman.
As you may have noticed, both Barack Obama and the Lil' Monkey baby doll are in fact black people. Media outlets across the country picked up the story on both, as tends to happen with this sort of thing.
"Damn! They're on to us!"
TheSock Obama Co. defended their product, calling it "cute and cuddly" and insisting they hadn't meant to upset anyone with their "charming association" between a black man and a monkey.
In fact TheSock Obama is still available for sale online along with a sock monkey Joe Biden, which was probably meant to be given as a gift to misbehaving children.
Lil' Monkey, meanwhile, was pulled from stores and the line was discontinued, presumably teaching Brass Key Keepsakes to spend a little more time developing their next product before unleashing it on an unsuspecting public.
#4. Spirit and Airborne, Native American G.I. Joes
Hasbro upped the racist ante in the early 80s with not one, but two Native American G.I. Joes. On the left up there is Charlie Iron-Knife, AKA "Spirit," a mystical tracker. On the right is Franklin E. Talltree, a thrill-seeking airborne specialist creatively nicknamed "Airborne."
So What's the Problem?
Despite their somewhat confusing and stereotypical last names (Talltree, OK, fine, but Iron-Knife... what?), there doesn't seem to be anything immediately objectionable about these two NavaJOES. Except for, well, Spirit has an eagle on his arm and seems to be wearing an apron for no reason... but Native Americans get those standard issue on the reservation, right? Maybe his file card clears that all up:
"Spirit comes from a family so far below the poverty line that they never realized they were poor." Yes, seemingly unhappy with the regular old "Indians are poor" stereotype, they decided to go all-out and have Spirit be so fucking broke he doesn't even know it.
He was a hunting guide, because hunting is all Native Americans know how to do, and after Vietnam he rejoined the Army for "reasons inexplicable to anyone but a Native American mystic warrior," which might as well read "because of some Dances with Wolves bullshit."
Sadly, Airborne fares no better:
See? He's wealthy, he's smart, an accomplished lawyer-OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD:
You look at him and sometimes he's looking right through you. Must be the Indian in him. The Navahos [sic] call it "the far-seeing look." Spooky!
Those crazy Native Americans. If they're not summoning spirit devils with their mystic mind powers, then they're just looking at you, all aloof-like. Damn them and their crazy injun ways!