Why Toys R’ Us Should Have Never Caved
Since the early days of PTA Mob Mentality went mainstream with Tipper Gore’s founding of the Parental Advisory in 1985, mothers and fathers everywhere have found irrational things to get angry about.
There were the spelling bee protests of 2010, which argued for the phonetic spellings of words; the same year, a school district in Ohio banned their high school teachers from showing historically valuable films like Schindler’s List after parents protested their violence; and then just last month, some Texas moms and dads successfully pressured the school their kids attend to stop letting them read 7 notable books because they had subject matter that made them uncomfortable.
Yesterday, after a Change.org petition started by a Florida mother reached upward of 9,000 signatures, toy giant Toys “R” Us removed a series of action figures based on the popular show Breaking Bad from their shelves. An excerpt from her petition stated, “While the show may be compelling viewing for adults, its violent content and celebration of the drug trade make this collection unsuitable to be sold alongside Barbie dolls and Disney characters.”
The chain’s initial response had been to continue carrying the product because it was only made available in their section that is for customers aged 15 and older, but perhaps fearing bad PR on the cusp of the holiday shopping season, they deemed the risk too large to stand their ground and flip-flopped, cowardly adhering to the noise.
This is ridiculous.
First, because from a completely corporate standpoint, these dolls had the potential to be a top seller for the chain. Though Breaking Bad ended last year, its prequel spinoff Better Call Saul is slated to debut in February, which has kept the characters front of mind for many fans. Plus, the publicity surrounding the petition made many aware of the toys who may not otherwise have known about them. Even the show’s star, Bryan Cranston, poked fun at the controversy with a hilarious tweet directed at the Florida mom.
Second, because it’s nothing short of hypocritical to pull one type of item from shelves for what it represents and then leave the others available for purchase.
Specifically, Toys “R” Us proudly offers the video game Grand Theft Auto, which has a “Mature” rating and features a content description that reads, “Enter the lives of three very different criminals, Michael, Franklin and Trevor, as they risk everything in a series of daring and dangerous heists that could set them up for life.” Warnings include: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol.
In the action figures category, they also sell a variety of G.I. Joe products, some that contain words such as “ambush” and “attack” in their titles.
Are you seeing my point here?
Though I would never be interested in violent video games or war toys, I certainly think Toys “R” Us has every right to sell them, just as I think they should have continued offering the Breaking Bad toys for those of us who have a sense of humor. In essence, this Florida mom has not removed any potential danger from children’s lives by causing this stir; she’s simply created an expensive collectors’ item that is now in much higher demand.
At the end of the day, if parents are worried about what types of toys their child is playing with (or, gasp, seeing on a store shelf), they should become more present in their lives.