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Not to be toyed with

2/6/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

I have two Cap’n Crunch toy memories. One is when I sent away for the Cap’n Crunch Sticky Wicket Target Game. It was a wheel with suction cups on its spokes, and you flung it at a plastic target. I couldn’t get it to stick to the target, but I could get it to stick to the basement window. That is, until I broke the window with the Wicket.

That is the more pleasant of the two memories. The other was when I coveted a particular prize inside the Cap’n Crunch box. I don’t recall exactly what it was (a whistle? a ring? a rocket launcher?), but the box promised it would be in the image of either the Cap’n or one of his crew. His crew consisted of the canine Seadog, three boys and, eech, a girl.

The odds of getting a male character were 83 percent, an even higher percentage than the box’s sugar content.

So when I reached in the box and pulled out Brunhilde, the girl, I was disappointed, and I regret to say my reaction was a little over the top. In fact, orbiting Apollo astronauts contacted Mission Control to find out what all the commotion was down there on Randal Avenue.


I bring up this embarrassing episode because of a recent controversy surrounding McDonald’s Happy Meals. The controversy, surprisingly enough, has nothing to do with the meal’s meager amount of french fries, which, if smooshed together, would not equal one JoJo.

It’s about a toy that recently came with the meal. They were figures from “Adventure Time,” a wonderfully imaginative Cartoon Network program about a boy named Finn and his talking dog, Jake. The show takes place in a post-apocalyptic dreamscape and can be enjoyed on many levels. Adults rave about its visual style, complex characters and fantastical stories that mirror the trials and triumphs of adolescence. Children like the way Finn and his friends regularly kick the behinds of super-gross monsters.

Some members of Finn’s inner circle are female, though you wouldn’t know it from the Happy Meal giveaways. Only the male characters were made into toys. (Two female characters got a little space on the box, however.) If you request a Happy Meal for a girl, your prize is a Paul Frank monkey trinket. I’m not sure of the sex of the monkey.

Having no female “Adventure Time” toys is very, very wrong, the adult in me says. But my inner child recalls how I acted in, um, Crunch time, and is not so sure. Maybe children of today are more enlightened and better behaved. Surely they cannot be any worse.

It would have made sense, particularly from a business standpoint, for McDonald’s to have created both male and female “Adventure Time” toy figures. Not only would it have staved off controversy, but if children had a problem with the gender of the toy they received, it would have encouraged them to continue buying the product until they got what they were looking for. To quote the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but you can get yourself a pantry full of Cap’n Crunch trying.”

McDonald’s made a decision. They wanted their Happy Meal customers to be, well, happy, so they eliminated the chance that some boy in fear of contracting cooties would find a Princess Bubblegum figure among his seven french fries. But in doing so, they gave short shrift to girls, as well as to anyone who judges characters not by their gender but by the awesomeness and weirdness of their powers. Admittedly it’s a sticky wicket, and sticky wickets can be dangerous things. That, I know.

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