Happy families? Apparently they don’t take kindly to that sort at Wal-Mart. According to the Associated Press, the national mega-chain department store recently announced it would pull Mattel’s “pregnant Midge” doll off of shelves nationwide. “Midge” is the first and oldest doll-friend of Mattel’s “Barbie.” The new Midge doll features a detachable stomach with a small plastic baby inside that children can pull out, should they decide to “deliver” at home. Midge came packaged with her husband of 12 years, Alan, and their three-year-old son, Ryan, indicating that this is not the first time Alan has knocked up his sweetheart. After customer complaints that the “Happy Family” set was seen as offensive, Wal-Mart decided to end its shelf life entirely.
“It’s just that customers had a concern about having a pregnant doll,” said Wal-Mart spokesperson Cynthia Illick. “What we try to do is listen to what our customers want.”
So far as can be determined, no other chains have followed Wal-Mart’s lead in removing the product.
No comment as yet from the Barbie Liberation Organization (BLO), an international group which, in 1993, swapped voice boxes on approximately 300 Barbie and GI Joe dolls at the pinnacle of the Christmas shopping season to make a statement against what BLO called “gender-based stereotyping in children’s toys.” The GI Joe figures were soon saying things in a feminine voice like Shopping is fun or Let’s bake something, while Barbie dolls ushered forth gruff John Wayne-style statements along the lines of Take no prisoners.
Perhaps Wal-Mart shoppers would have been more accepting of the “Happy Family” if it came closer to representing their own realities. For example, shoppers might have found the set less troubling if three year-old Ryan was installed with a voice box constantly whining “Mommy, I want that.” To which Midge could have replied “If I hear that one more time, we’re leaving Wal-Mart and you’re not getting nothing but a smack on the head.”
Department of fine lines...Last month, in the Indy’s “Wish List” (Dec. 5-Dec. 12, 2002), we gifted an open invite to any and every student party in the University neighborhood to the University Homeowners Association. Wacky juxtapositions being a consistent cornerstone of humor—see the films All of Me, Big, and even, gag, The Hot Chick, for examples—we thought it would be amusing if we let the university area homeowners walk around—hypothetically of course—in the students’ shoes for awhile. Instead of benign barbecuing and zealous landscaping, they’d be smoking, toking, and funneling watery, domestic brew.
One member of the association, Paul Sopko, admitted it was funny. But Sopko also felt that our bit of year-end mirth-making unfairly linked his group with support for the controversial occupancy standards. Stopping by the Indy office for a chat, Sopko made it very clear that the board of the University Homeowners Association has never officially taken a pro or con stance on the controversial standards.
So in the sprit of corrections, clarifications and illuminations, the Indy would like to offer an apology to readers who may have inferred an official link between the push for occupancy standards and the University Homeowners Association.
We would also to report that when the Tuesday, Dec. 24 Missoulian reported that “Sopko helped draft” those occupancy standards, they were, according to Sopko, wrong. Sopko says that he was a “proponent of the standards,” but didn’t help draft them. And furthering the cause of clarity, the University of Montana Kaimin has also reported on more than one occasion that Rick Baskett, at the time the vice president of the University Homeowners Association, was a co-author of the standards, though presumably he wasn’t acting as an official envoy.
We deeply regret our role, and that of all of Missoula’s other papers, in perpetuating the Horribly far-fetched implication of links between the association and support for the standards.