McGinnis: Toys R for Adults, Too: National retailer under fire — again — for selling collector figuresWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Once more, we trek into the aisles of “Toys ‘R Us” to find one of the most horrific, egregious dangers to America’s youth: Bryan Cranston.
Yes, as with the controversy over the sale of “Dexter” figures four years ago (as covered in this very column), the country’s most prominent brick-and-mortar retailer of toys has found itself on its heels after a petition popped up on change.org, taking them to task for daring to stock action figures of characters from the acclaimed AMC series “Breaking Bad.” After some hemming and hawing, the chain removed the toys from shelves, saying they were on “hiatus.”
The figures, created by Mezco toys, depict series leads Walter White (Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in garb appropriate to the show — White in his “Heisenberg” outfit, Jesse in his traditional stoner wear, both in Hasmat suits. Prop money and scale recreations of the characters’ trademark blue meth are included. Other figures, including Giancarlo Esposito’s iconic villain Gus Fring, are planned. (Wait. A Gus Fring figure? A Gus Fring figure! GUS! FRING!)
The sight of these very adult characters in a “kids’” store has brought the righteous indignation of the moral minority once again. In the change.org petition, Florida mother Susan Schrivjer demanded that the figures be removed from Toys R Us, as they present a “dangerous deviation from their family friendly values.”
I have no doubt that Ms. Schrivjer is well-intentioned. I also have no doubt that she has a vision of Toys R Us’s business that has little resemblance to reality. The fact is, if she really thinks that toys inspired by characters from “Breaking Bad” are in and of themselves dragging down the chain into the depths of moral depravity, she’s going to have a coronary if she looks any closer at what the stores’ shelves hold.
As Toys R Us pointed out in their original response to the petition, the toys were clearly marked as only to be sold to patrons of 15 years of age and up, and displayed in the “adult” section of the store. Yes, the store does have an adult section, as many collectors shop at there for figures depicting some of their favorite pop culture icons. The fact is, Toys R Us has long since expanded the kinds of product it offers to take advantage of this burgeoning market of geek fanatics.
A cursory glance at the shelves of Toys R Us will find figures depicting everything from violent TV shows like “The Walking Dead” (also on AMC), horror films like “Nightmare on Elm Street,” adult-oriented comedies like “Family Guy,” bleak action films like “Sin City,” “Terminator” and more, not to mention violent video games like “Halo” and “Bioshock.”
Oh, yeah, video games. Just a few aisles over there is the requisite collection of gaming goodness that every toy store has featured since the days of the Atari 2600. Nowadays, though, it isn’t just Mario, Pac-Man and their innocent ilk that populate the shelves. “God of War.” “Diablo.” “Grand Theft Auto.” “Sleeping Dogs.” So, so many M-rated titles which feature gratuitous amounts of violence, nudity and depravity. Again, not exactly living up to the “family-friendly” moniker Ms. Schrivjer bestowed upon the chain.
Then again, maybe that very veneer of wholesomeness is a hurtful mirage. As Aaron Paul himself pointed out in a tweet on the controversy, “Wait, so @ToysRUs pulled all of the Breaking Bad figures from their shelves and still sells Barbie? Hmmmm…I wonder what is more damaging?”
He has a point. For years — decades — there has been discussion about whether it is damaging to children’s’ development to implicitly endorse a toy line which enforces a virtually unattainable standard of beauty in young minds. But if anyone would actually petition to remove those toys from store shelves, it would be rejected outright and seen as political correctness gone mad. (Ms. Schrivjer’s petition actually holds up Barbie as an example of the wholesome brands that supposedly define Toys R Us — apart from all the violent movie tie-ins and video games, that is.)
Of course, “Breaking Bad” isn’t appropriate for children. No one is saying it is. But the fact of the matter is that stores like Toys R Us have long since expanded their scope to include products that are not aimed at such a young audience. And unless protestors are ready to demand that every one of these items are removed to shape the retailer’s inventory into exactly what they think it should be, there is inherent hypocrisy in spotlighting one line you find problematic and letting the rest go without a peep.
And come on — a GUS FRING action figure! I’m thinking of camping out to get one.