Every year around this time, World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) releases their holiday list of “10 Worst Toys” in an effort to educate parents and other mindless consumers about the potentially deadly nature of certain products marketed to children. Though admirable in intent, the list’s overall utility seems questionable at best. Yes, sometimes a toy makes the list because it contains hazards that may not be readily apparent to the casual observer (for example, Fisher Price’s “Go Diego Go! Animal Rescue Boat” and its delicious coating of lead-based paint); other times, however, the danger a toy poses is already fairly obvious (for example, Hasbeen’s “2-In-1 Voice-Activated Ninja Star-Chucking Robot and Genuine Working Electric Chair with Authentic Burnt Flesh Scent”).
Don’t get me wrong (or argyle sweaters, for that matter). I applaud WATCH’s efforts to clock (HA!) the dangers posed by poorly regulated toy manufacturers and overzealous retailers; I just think their criteria for inclusion is a tad broad. Of the ten toys vilified in this year’s list, five qualified due to various ingestion-based threats. (My favorite: GeoCentral’s magnetized “Sticky Stones” which, if swallowed, “could stick together across the intestines, causing serious infections and death.” Help mommy, help! My intestines are pointing true north! Don’t be ridiculous honey; your intestines are pointing magnetic north. Now be a dear and fetch mommy her medicine bottle with the big, strapping pirate on it.)
Now, as regular readers of my irregular column know, I’m nothing if not devastatingly handsome. More to the point, they also know I’ve never been the type to shy away from an unorthodox stance on a controversial issue, no matter who it may shock and/or awe. So it is with this laudable strength of character in mind that I would like to take a moment to clear up a few concerns some of you may have at this time and state, unequivocally, that I do NOT support the accidental death of America’s children. Or their intentional death, come to think of it.
Nonetheless, including a toy on one’s watch list simply because there’s the possibility that a child might choke on part of it strikes me as somewhat arbitrary. Show me a children’s toy that can’t be gnawed to pieces by the freakishly destructive teeth of a two-year-old and I’ll show you Donald Trump’s titanium toupee. The fact is, anything can be swallowed by a toddler when he puts his mind to it—which, if you’ve been watching the news lately, is exactly why all those priests are getting into trouble. (Honestly, who gives strawberry flavored rosary beads to a preschooler?)
Therefore, in an exceedingly admirable effort to rectify (which is not as painful as it sounds) the blatant shortcomings of WATCH’s 2007 “10 Worst Toys” list, I have established an alternative anti-Christmas-commercialism task force, rigorously vetted and extensively trained to sniff out the legitimate holi-dangers your loved ones could find themselves facing come the morning of December 25. Here, in no particular order except numerical, are said yule tide terrors, as voted on by the unimpeachably reliable members of Serious Wackjobs Abasing Things Children Hanker for:
- Easy Bake Meth Lab – You just don’t know what people are thinking sometimes. I mean, seriously, whoever thought it was acceptable to install an exposed 10-watt light bulb in a place where some curious kiddie could reach it and possibly burn his fingers a little should be drawn and quartered at dawn (or at least sketched and halved, if the executioner isn’t feeling particularly industrious).
- Sitar Hero 4 – To date, there have been no fewer than 17 reported cases of young gamers—primarily from smoking families—blacking out during the three minute long speed-flute solo.
- PM (Private Mercenary) Joe – Especially dangerous in “tea party” settings, the controversial pay-for-play action figure is prone to opening non-retaliatory fire on Civilian Ken and Barbie without provocation.
- Nintendo Wee – Measuring only five-eights of an inch in circumference, the controllers for Nintendo’s smallest gaming system have a demonstrated tendency to become lodged under the user’s fingernail during rigorous play, leading to infection and, occasionally, gangrene. Also, the whole unit smells vaguely of urine.
- Badonka Donk Tonka – Conscientious engineers worry that the giant rear bumper on this plush truck might promote an unrealistic auto body image.
- Tickle Me Cheney – Has been known to collude with other stuffed animals to invade your bedroom under false pretenses while you sleep. (Also worth nothing that, despite its avuncular title, there have actually been no recorded instances of a Tickle Me Cheney doll ever laughing. Or demonstrating any other vaguely human emotions.)
- iSod – An artificial topsoil imbedded with musical grass, the iSod was intended to make yard work more appealing to the 12-and-under crowd. However, iSod’s parent company, CrabApple, was forced to implement a worldwide recall after independent quality control agents discovered a massive infestation of African termites in the inaugural batch. Chalk one up for the anti-outsourcing argument.
- Transformers Big Buzz Action Bumblebee – Although relatively benign in and of itself, an unfortunate mix-up at the factory resulted in the shipment of live bumblebees to the first 500 customers attempting to place an order for the popular Transformers “configurine” from one national toy distributor’s website. A spokesperson for the chain in question refused to comment on the matter at press time, but did note that—for reasons entirely unrelated to the incident in question—all Transformers products would now come with a free auto-injector Epi Pen.
- Hannah Mon-tuna Karaoke System – Expected to be the “next big thing” amongst pre-teen girls, health care professionals were dismayed when the rate of mercury poisoning in families with at least one HMKS unit increased almost 300 percent in less than a month after purchase. Fortunately for industry consultants, the mass tort following the poisoning cases effectively covered up the fact that a flopping, 650 lb fish in a blonde wig with a microphone tied to its fin probably isn’t the best interactive vocal-projection apparatus for young girls anyway.
- Crayola Draw n’ Saw – An innovative dual-speed rotary carbide blade cum crayon organizer, the Draw n’ Saw was trumpeted by market analysts and drunken step-fathers alike as the toy that would inspire a new generation of do-it-yourselfers to take up the “handy man-tle.” Unfortunately, that hope was dashed by a single factory defect that just happened to turn on every time the owner reached inside to retrieve his or her crayons. Sheesh, give one kid a sweet nickname like “Mr. Bo-Mangled” and suddenly a toy is no longer “age appropriate.”
Of course, as dedicated as SWATCH has been in compiling the above list, there is still a long way to go before anyone can say with anything approximating truth that Christmas is finally safe for the children of overprotective fear-mongers everywhere. If we truly wish to reach our goal of raising another generation of namby-pamby crybabies, we have to put aside our mutual differences (for example, how I have pi memorized to 200 places and you still fish English muffins out of the toaster with a metal fork) and unite against this common enemy I call “parents buying lame crap their kids don’t need.” Our task may seem overwhelming at times, but just remember: We can accomplish anything if we stick together… unless the second “we” in question is actually our intestines after swallowing a pack of Sticky Stones, in which case, we’ll probably die from infection before really accomplishing too much. Merry Christmas everyone, and happy Whatever-The-Hell-You-Celebrate to everyone else!