Fight Censorship: The Banning Of America’s Toys
Though Bookmans talks a lot about censorship, the truth is that censorship can rear its head in many facets of life. Although this month we celebrate the right to read and encourage getting caught reading with a banned book, we want to open up the conversation to include all censored media. The goal is to help spread the word about just how far-reaching censorship is. It’s time to talk about toy censorship during our Fight Censorship Month!
Over the years, many things from Barbies to chemistry sets, games to candy, have been banned and pulled from the shelves due to public outcry. Here is a look at five of the most challenged (and strangest) toys ever made. Truth be told, some of these might be for good reason.
1. Clackers – No surprise here – just look at them! There’s nothing safe about these. The design idea is a simple toy to entertain kids. The heavy acrylic balls were attached to a string and “clacked” together as fast as possible, which lead to reports of numerous injuries after the balls shattered from heavy use, sending shards of shrapnel in many directions, and causing injuries. Dramatic? We’re sorry. These seemingly playful toys were banned in 1985.
2. U-238 Atomic Energy Lab – Six years after the first atom bomb killed 80,000 Japanese people instantly, the U-238 Atomic Energy Lab was released. This “children’s toy” set included “Uranium-bearing ore samples and other real radioactive materials.” Unsurprisingly, parents didn’t want their children playing with a radioactive toy. Kids tend to swallow things, so a year after its release the Atomic Energy Lab was discontinued. We’re going to say good call on this one.
3. Candy cigarettes – I remember these from my own childhood. They were everywhere. You can still find candy cigarettes at novelty and gift shops across the country today. However, they still raise plenty of concern over encouraging children to take up smoking. North Dakota opted to ban them from 1953 to 1967. Canadian law still prohibits any candy cigarette branding that resembles cigarette company branding. Again, we understand the emphasis on these being “toys,” which should encourage pretending. But we simply can’t encourage gateway toys. (Not funny?)
4. Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid – Cabbage Patch Kids were the most popular thing outside of Michael Jackson in the 1980s. Then Mattel decided what was missing with their line of dolls was “real chewing action.” Perhaps their thinking was that it would make the dolls a bit more realistic. *Red flag*
Mattel didn’t foresee, however, that the doll, which lacked an “off” button, tended to have cannibalistic tendencies. The doll’s nonstop chewing often nibbled on little fingers and hair. Numerous parental complaints won and the toy left store shelves in 1997. One word: creepy.
5. Steve The Tramp (From Dick Tracy) – This character was an “ ignorant bum... you’ll smell him before you see him.” His packaging also mentions that he was “stinking up the city sewers.” This would spur advocates for the homeless to protest the depiction of homeless people in the cartoon. Although much of the offensive content is gone, it is solid reading and listening material. This might be one of those exceptions where playtime encourages discrimination. We think #naw.
Censorship is a constant concern for a brand like Bookmans. Across the years, we’ve stood up and stood out for your right to read. We love encouraging our customers, friends, and family to consume the content they most love but we just had to highlight a few instances that might make you giggle. It’s important to lighten the mood on censorship and the never-ending banned battle.
Do you know of some other banned or challenged toys? Do you think they were fairly or unfairly the target of censorship? Tell us below!