Friday, February 13, 2009

Playmobil tyranny toys

The kids and I are big fans of Playmobil toys. We have bins and bins of Playmobil: people, furnishings, clothing and accessories, plants, animals, and a variety of dwellings and vehicles. We have the Victorian doll house set up on the fireplace hearth, where it has been for more than a decade and still draws the attention of at least one child every day. Even the teenagers manage to make imaginative use of the toys in high school class projects. Their odd Playmobil videos are eagerly anticipated by their classmates; the most recent was the nearly unbearable "Great Expectations meets Nanny 911."

Whenever Playmobil comes out with new toys, the kids empty their piggy banks and hurry to Little Richard's Toy Store. Not this time. Our beloved Playmobil has decided to exploit the global war on terror for profit with Playmobil Security Checkpoint and Playmobil Police Checkpoint.

Playmobil may never have deserved my high esteem. I'd noticed over the years there were no people of color in any of the toy sets. The figures were always European-looking whites, excepting the dark-skinned crooks found within the Police Station set. When the company finally, probably at the urging of many, came out with some black figures, they came isolated in a box, never as part of a set, like the company was being made to do something distasteful. "Good GOD, okay, HERE! Now shut up!"

I'm not sure how children will interpret the new Playmobil toys. The police checkpoint -- two small plastic characters and accessories with a total shipping weight of 8 ounces -- costs $99. The intended market is quite obviously rich white kids who are likely unfamiliar with police intimidation. I'd like to imagine my children would hunt through our bins until they found a dark-skinned family who would be stopped at the police checkpoint. Shortly, a sports car full of white guys carrying tiny handcrafted Constitutions would pull up and accuse the cops of racial profiling. Across the imaginary street some long-haired hippie sorts would be carrying toothpick flags calling for social justice.

I read some customer reviews on Amazon and it looks like I'm not the only parent disturbed by Playmobil's new tyranny toys.


This playset is one of the best purchases I have made for my three-year-old. In the past, when we have been stopped at roadblocks, or when during one of Daddy's arrests, he would start crying uncontrollably. Now, after playing with this for the past several months, he is perfectly docile.


I was pretty pumped to get this model. After my Leviathan teddy-bear burst at the seams and my Guantanamo slip and slide tore into several pieces, I was looking for a petty distraction as durable as state tyranny itself.

Finally, I found the Playmobil Police Checkpoint. It's everything a colorful plastic method of indoctrination should be: mobile, plastic, and filled with red warning signs. I love setting it up outside my house. That way I feel like I have to show papers to get in. I know I own it, but it's cooler if the state lets me in. They know best.


This toy lacks the realism for my children to play.
It has no Brown or Black figures to stop at the Check Point
My son is unable to "randomly search" no one (he knows white kids don't carry dope).
It lacks both (simulated of course) crack cocaine and/or heroin that my Little Police figures can "find" on the little Brown or Black figurines
In addition, it lacks a Breathalyzer my son can use to set up "Random" road blocks at 3 a.m. down the street from the local Pub.

I'll wait on the expansion pack that includes Leroy the Guilty until proved Innocent Lamont and Rodriquez--I'm here legally but left my Green card at home--Lopez.

My favorite:

Finally a toy that gets our kids used to living in a police state. Benjamin Franklin said that those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. But then again, he lived in France for awhile, so what did he know about anything.

Before this toy came out I was afraid my son would not know how to cope with the new reality of American life; how to prepare him to the future, I was wondering. Boy am I relieved; so many lessons learned! Now he knows that:

1) Some people can make a decent living treating others like cattle, and the best part: the cattle is paying their salaries.
2) You only have the rights that the government gives you; you can move around the country only if you comply with government regulations, no matter how frivolous they might be. No liquid you say? except if in a ziplock bag? Check. Lighter ok because the cigarette lobby fought the no-lighter rule? Swell. All passengers searched but cargo mostly un-scrutinized? No problem.
3) You should always bow to people in uniforms, even though they might be in this job because they could not qualify for police work (because of the rap sheet or the drug abuse).

Unfortunately, this toy comes short in a few areas:
1) It does not show that if you're rich, you don't have to wait in line for hours. If you can travel first class, you get your own fast-track screening. Too bad the terr'ists have plenty of Saudi and Pakistani cash and can easily travel first class should they want to. They should have included another screening set in the box.
2) It does not come with the 300 tired-looking playmobils you would need to show the passengers waiting in line behind the screening area.

However, it does some things very well: for instance, the screening apparatus is not actually functional. This represents faithfully the actual TSA system, which, every time it is tested or audited, fails to catch anything (weapons, even bombs).

So, thank you Playmobil. I hope they will expand their product offering and give us more toys that can help our children prepare for the new reality of a much safer America; specifically, I am eagerly waiting for the Staline-style Guantanamo American gulag set, the North-Korean-style CIA water-boarding set, the KGB-style NSA phone-tapping set. Some people will whine about the loss of their civil liberties, but my son knows that the North-Korean are some of the safest people in the world. They had virtually no fear of terrorists.

Alas, Little Richard's isn't carrying either Playmobil set. I checked.

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