I’m glad that the world has finally woken up to the narcotic properties of children’s toys. The manufacturers of Bindeez beads say “with a little spray of water join them together to create works of art”. But we now know that as well as art, you also create a substance that is similar to the date-rape drug known as liquid ecstasy, fantasy or GHB. Meaning that the kids who were given them may end up a great deal happier than their parents intended.
Several children have ended up in comas after swallowing the beads – which makes me wonder what kind of parent buys young children beads as a present in the first place? Surely the danger is considerable even when they don’t contain narcotics. So it’s not surprising that the toys have been recalled the world over. We can assume that the US DEA is preparing a counterproductive helicopter gunship raid on the Melbourne headquarters even as we speak, as Moose Enterprises becomes the latest target in the War On Drugs.
It’s not all bad news, though. They were the Toy Of The Year, and you can presume that a lot of parents have a few packs stashed away, and are now celebrating the motza they’ll make thanks to the dramatic increase in Bindeez’s street price. I expect skanky-looking guys are already pushing kiddie playtime beads up in Roslyn Street. You can’t even buy them on eBay anymore, so they must be really dodgy.
I’m prepared to admit there’s a difference of degree, since not all children’s toys literally transform into toxic substances when you merely add water. But surely all popular children’s toys can technically be classed as dangerous drugs. Take Pokémon for instance. They were highly addictive, had detrimental lifestyle effects and addled the brain, encouraging users to squeak “Pika, Pikachu!” in a high-pitched voice. In other words, the effects were identical to many party drugs.
During the heyday of this inexplicably popular toy, kids themselves were being recruited as pushers by the manufacturer, Nintendo, which encouraged our children swapping Pokémon cards freely in the playground. And, like many drugs, they were inappropriately glamorised in the movies; or at least in Pokémon The Movie. Children in the midst of severe Pokémon addiction imagined themselves as the trainers of an imaginary magical menagerie, which is an effect also reported by many LSD users.
In hindsight, many of the toys of my youth posed drug-like dangers aspects as well. Is there any wonder that our nation is suffering from an obesity crisis when so many Australians played with Cabbage Patch Kids as children? After supposedly appearing in the cabbage patch – leading, incidentally, many kids to be severely misguided about the reproductive process – they literally did nothing except sit there and look chubby. Appropriately, given their origins, they were literally vegetables. Like the pot smokers their owners went on to become, they sat lifelessly in their cabbage patchism, greening out in keeping with their logo. Even the story behind them creates severe nausea – although to be fair it probably won’t put anyone in a coma.
The childhood toy whose appeal I find most difficult to fathom, though, is He-Man. I’m proud to say that I never much rated him, which probably accounts for my highly un-He-Mannish appearance to this day. But I remember many of my primary school friends were obsessed with Him. Now, his battles against Skeletor may be perceived as a metaphor for combating anorexia, and I think that’s admirable. But his absurdly muscular appearance was almost as damaging for the male body image as Barbie surely is for girls. If you can’t achieve a He-Man like appearance through exercise – and really, who can? – there’s one easy way to get there, and that’s anabolic steroids. We don’t all look like Dolph Lundgren, who portrayed him in the 1987 classic Masters Of The Universe (and has a chemical engineering degree from Sydney Uni, strangely!). And I wonder how many kids who grew up idolising muscle-bound action figures ended up injecting themselves with the chemical equivalent of the Power Of Greyskull(TM) to look like He-Man themselves?
There is a strong argument for banning pretty much all children’s toys. They’re addictive, highly expensive and ultimately harmful. As many drug users will tell you, once hooked on something like Bob the Builder or My Little Pony, it can become a vicious cycle. The only escape is simply to grow up, and hope that you don’t succumb to the next craze. As I found in my youth, even Lego can be dangerously addictive – although the manufacturers figured out how to bond their pieces together without using GHB.
So I am considering simply not buying toys for my own offspring – not just because they are dangerous, but also because I am cheap. My children, when I have them someday, will be given miscellaneous lumps of wood and perhaps the odd pebble or two, and told to use their imaginations. And that is perhaps the greatest gift I could give to them, and also my bank balance. In the end, I figure it’s safer to encourage the kind of fantasy that doesn’t come in liquid form.