Op-Ed for the Proud American Since 1988
By Jeff Koopersmith
Yes, killer toys are back settling old scores this holiday season.
This was a small shock to me, a sort-of liberal guy, who has much patience with his shooting Safari Club friends. Yet the gore of these toys for kids is stunning – and I am wondering what nature of parent would buy these “toys” for their children or yours. (Watch those grandparents and uncles closely.)
One of the most thought-provoking changes I have observed - that could be caused by our decade long national love affair with war, defensive or not, is the fantastic and perhaps disturbing concentration of war toys available in mail catalogs, toy stores, and of course on the internet.
I admit that I was running my first war toys in the mid-1950s – my favorite being a battery operated Remco pom-pom gun which made a loud popping firing noise with lots of flashing lights – but did not shoot anything from its semi-gleaming barrels. This was a small version of what you might have seen on a WWII destroyer manufactured to shoot down enemy aircraft.
I also had a Remco Bulldog Tank, at least 5 revolvers that shot “caps” – loud, red, bang-on-gun-hammer impact strips that sounded, at least to little children, like bullets firing. Nothing shot out from those guns, but the best thing at the time was the smoke that wafted around the gun from the tiny explosion made by the “cap”. I wonder if caps are still made? I think they are not – at least in America.
As I grew older my dream came true and at 12 I received a Daisy BB Gun – something that could really do some harm. I never shot anyone with it, but several of my pals did – and stories of these guns which shot little round metal pellets that one might find in a shotgun shell, abounded in local newspapers in the mid-20th Century.
What I really wanted was a pellet gun – but these were not toys for kids – even my 7 year WWII past master paratrooping father knew that. “Pellet guns could actually kill if your aim was good enough to shoot someone in the eye with one.” a neighbor across the street once told me.
These toys disappeared almost in total once these my collegiate peers and I marched against the Vietnam War and our own children rarely, if ever, got toys gifts fashioned after killing machines.
Added to my own collection of weapons-of-mass-destruction was my Johnnie Reb Cannon! It shot hard plastic balls out of it. I think I hit my cat with one by mistake (I hope) at some point. The box for the Reb Cannon was festooned with the Rebel flag – There was no such thing as “political or social correctness” just after the “Big War”.
I’m no goody two shoes, but I have friends at the Pentagon and in the military, coast guard, etc. and almost all of them never purchase guns and war toys for their children because they are normally pretty high on safety issues and the seriousness of killing another human being – or alien.
Toy makers, not to lose out on the current breadth of war-making have decided to return to hawking kid’s playthings with macabre imaginative purposes.
For research purposes I turned, of course, to America’s toy store – Toys ‘R Us (TRU) for examples.
Certainly all the Star Wars “dolls” (now called “figures”) are still available – complete with weapons. The Sandtrooper seems to be a favorite, and for a 6 inch piece of plastic at nearly twenty dollars, it dwarfs demand for the smaller Darth Vader at about ten inches. Both are, of course, armed.
Right next to these two Star Wars characters one can find a “True Heroes Soldier Force Rocket Hauler Playset” – Yes “Playset”. I would be remiss not to mention that this plaything is a TRU exclusive – I suppose that explains the TRU in True Heroes, which also includes: The Troop Transporter Set; The True Heroes Terrain Vehicle Set: The AB-115 Shark Plane; Amphibious Vehicle Playset; Mobile Squad Tank; Playset and, Mobile Squad Dune Buggy. Each Playset comes with more than a few weapons of mass destruction or at least a few automatic weapons and would excite any young boy or girl with an iota of bantam bloodlust.
World War II is also surviving, almost 10 decades later, and TRU features miniature troop figurines (Poetically made in Germany) and looking life-threatening with everything from hand grenades to bazookas in the grasp of the small grey plastic warriors.
Action figures are the most interesting. My favorite is called ‘Iron Man 3 Iron Flyers War Machine Launcher’, and added is the description: “This Iron Man 3 Iron Flyers War Machine Launcher features: Launches up to 15 feet! Send your hero soaring! Includes 1 dart, Launcher comes with dart: Ages 6 and ?. I swear the question mark here at least suggests that a one of two-year-old might love launching the dart at his or her nanny, or grandmother.
There are posters of WWII aircraft to festoon your child’s room walls.
And, let us not skip the WWII Jeep which is described: “This kit can be built as a stock command jeep, armed with 105 recoilless rifle or 50 cal machine gun. Detailed parts include straight six engine, shells, heavy cleated vinyl tires, detailed chassis and undercarriage, 50 cal. machine gun, 105 recoilless rifle, radio, and gas tank. Authentic markings for military and medic versions. Molded in white and clear. Bonus parts for surrey top version. Skill level 2.” Does that also mean “for two-year-olds?”
Added for the toddler with no nationalistic tendencies a yet there’s the WWII Henschel 33D1 German Army Truck that speaks for itself at $35.00 a pop.
The Erector Gears of War - King Raven would provide tumescence to any modern day helicopter warrior and the “Gears of War 7 inch Action Figure - Splatter Head just makes me squeal: This version re-creates the merciless enemy soldier taking an unfortunate Longshot Rifle blast to the head. The "Headshot" Locust Drone is precisely sculpted with loads of articulation and game-accurate detail. It comes with an interchangeable standard head, Hammerburst rifle and removable Boltok pistol accessories, plus a very special extra... Real metal COG tags for you to wear! Ages 17+. Age 17 plus?!
This figure, from the game Gears of War would not interest any 17 year old I’ve ever met – but it could interest some of the PLUS-agers that I recall from my own teen years.
My suggestion, for which I expect royalties, is this to Toys R Us: Why not make an age 1-17 years or age recommended plastic and locking gun safe for storing these toys? I am sure the National Rifle Association would back that toy. Including that addition would surely make these war toys more appealing to even those who see the puerility of the Second Amendment.