What the hell happened to Toyland?

When I go to the mall, look at amazon.com wish lists or even peruse periodicals, I’m getting a sense that other people are doing this without respect to children. Meanwhile, our president has exhorted us to do our part and be good patriots and shop until our eyes cross and our credit card debt deepens. But judging from recent news reports, consumers are not shopping like housewives addicted to uppers. No one has any money. They are either poor tech geeks who lost their jobs when the dot-coms tanked, or their investment portfolio vomited its profitability after Sept. 11. But this has stopped neither our president nor the retailers.

My morning newspaper is full of glossy ads proclaiming the latest Meier and Frank sale (it is becoming a running joke, “hey, do you think we can get it on sale at Meier and Frank?”) or the latest Harry Potter toys.

I see commercials and print ads that feature a halcyon Christmas scene, with a full, beautifully decorated Christmas tree surrounded by a train set, a ball or two and a rocking horse. However, these are most definitely not the kind of toys I’m seeing in the papers.

Balls are still balls, but they have to compete with robotic pets, video games, dolls with preternaturally large eyes and a whole host of noisemaking amusements that require one or more batteries. Do kids these days even know what a rocking horse is? If the advertising is leading me down the correct line of thought, simple is not better when it comes to toys.

For example, when I was little, I had a baby doll. She was wholly unremarkable, except that you could pop a plastic bottle in her mouth. You could not put anything in the bottle; it was just a bottle in her mouth. Now, you can get dolls that eat, drink and wet. The future teen moms of America can enjoy their first taste of motherhood. Some dolls, as a bonus will burp and coo after being fed. Mmmm.

Some toys are very frightening, and I am not just talking about ultra-violent video games. Have you seen Robo-Baby? Visit your nearest Meier and Frank to view this little monstrosity. It has large eyes that light up and a gray body that crawls around. It even comes with a bib! I can think of nothing more horrific than robotic babies with light-up eyes. It makes me want to scream.

Not only are these toys disturbing, but they are also expensive. Little kids are expected to write outlandish things on their wish lists to Santa, like ponies and Land Rovers. However, the toys on this year’s list cost almost as much. It is hard to want to stimulate the economy through Christmas shopping when the toy items on the list cost more than your first nice car.