Toys We Had As Capitalistic Pre-Teens

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Words || Nikita Jones

Illustrations || Daniel Lim

Bratz

These Kylie Jenner-looking bad bitches came to our attention in 2001. Apparently, the moral panic around Barbie dolls and body image had died down to such an effect that MGA Entertainment could release a bunch of plastic girl-women with bulbous lips and eyes bigger than their teeny little hands and be met with huge success. Since the 2000s the brand has died down a fair bit. MGA came under fire for copyright breaches and sweat-shop scandals and the fact that the CEO used the phrase “the orient” in an official statement in the year 2006. The brand has tried relaunches to imitate its original success no less than three times, apparently not realising that their original market is now in their twenties and far more aware of the culturally exploitative nature of the dolls’ look.

Yu-Gi-Oh Cards

Look I’ll be honest, I am not, and never have been a mango (it is ‘mango’, right?) fan, but this shit was huge. It was on every Saturday morning and, try as I might to invest in the storyline, it always went straight over my head. According to my research, Yu-Gi-Oh! revolves around a boy who has a “secret gambling alter-ego within his body” which seems a strange premise for a super massive kid’s franchise. From its original manga, the series became several anime shows and films, spawning literally countless spinoffs and, eventually, a card game. The real-world game – clearly profiting off the territory that D&D had already established in the ‘making nerds talk to one another’ world – quickly became a success. Before you knew it, kids were buying those weird card-holder thingos that sat on your forearm and somehow made you look even LESS cool.

Tamagotchi

In 1996 Maita Aki created the original Tamagotchi for Japanese kids affected by the lack of pet-accommodating living spaces in the city. However, something about the pixelated interactive virtual pet struck a chord with literally every child around the globe and soon 76 million had been sold internationally. In rare interviews, Aki mentions that the toy had originally been designed as a genderless activity, and was surprised to find they were marketed mostly to girls in the Western world. Instead of Tamagotchis, boys were marketed the rival ‘Digimons’ which focused more on violence and competition than responsibility and social relationships. The Tamagotchi all but disappeared in 2008. Despite this, the forum boards on ‘Tamatalk.com’ have remained active in the near decade since. Of particular interest is the thread ‘Tamagotchi fanfiction’, which includes titles such as ‘Tamagotchi Blood’ and ‘Undieing Love- Part 1’. In recent months Bandai has released a new line of Tamas, mostly marketed at nostalgic millennials. They cost $40 if anyone’s interested.

 

Scoobie Strings

So, in the early 1950s, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for Soviet espionage – bear with me – leaving their two sons to be adopted by songwriter Abel Meeropol. Inspired by these very ridiculous circumstances, new dad Abel wrote his most famous song, “Apples, Peaches, and Cherries” and it was by all accounts a fucking bop amongst the pro-proletariat left. A few years later, Frenchman Sacha Distel covered the song, adding the nonsense refrain“ Scoubidoubi-ou Ah!” to the beginning and end. Despite it sounding like Distel was simultaneously having a stroke and an orgasm, the song became popular enough to inspire a ‘toy’ line – you guessed it, thin, brightly coloured PVC tubes which could be tied in knots. Predictably, Scoubidous didn’t do a great job of outliving the fifties. That was until 2005, when a Bristol woman and a small friendship group of 10 year old girls were single-handedly responsible for the bizarre, worldwide resurgence of ‘scoobie strings’. Young sales-assistant Amanda Miles noticed that her little sister and friends quickly became addicted to the string after one of them picked it up on a Nordic holiday. On a whim, Miles ordered literally 100 000 strings from a small retailer in Holland, inadvertently sparking a craze that would move from one small Bristol primary school to the entire fucking Western world.

Beanie Babies

These things were pure as hell right? They were just little stuffed animals with cute names and backstories. Well sit down and let me tell you about the cult-like multi-million dollar clusterfuck that was the real-life story behind these sad-looking teddies. In 1995 Ty Warner had been trying to sell a stuffed blue elephant by the name of “Peanut” for about a year when, according to his then-wife, a “never ending strive for perfection” drove Ty to change the elephant’s royal blue colour to a baby blue. After only about a thousand of the original elephants had been shipped out, the baby blue Peanuts started arriving on shelves with the famous ‘beanie baby’ tags and the royal blue ceased production. Little did Ty know, he’d just set in motion one of the most successful artificial scarcity scams of all time. Soon, and still to this day, people fork out thousands of dollars for these inane bags of plastic pellets just because there are ‘only 100 in circulation’. The speculative economic bubble created by Ty simply deciding to discontinue some of its own toys at random, has even been said to rival the first and most bizarre known account of an economic bubble -17th Century Dutch tulip mania.