The latest McDonalds Happy Meal toy is not making me happy. At all.
By JENEÉ OSTERHELDT
The Kansas City Star
Its always bothered me that the fast food chain feels the need to offer toys for boys Hot Wheels, Ninja Turtles and for girls Barbies, Hello Kitty as if no toy could ever appeal to both.
But now comes the Happy Meal tie-in for Adventure Time, the Cartoon Network hit that has boys and girls young and old tuning in to the tales of Finn the human and his best friend Jake the magical dog. McDonalds is marketing it as a toy for boys. Worse, it cut all of the female characters from the six-piece collection: No Princess Bubblegum, the millionaire genius with a passion for science. No fearless Marceline the Vampire Queen.
When LaKeisha Brown, a Kansas City mom, shared the wacky decision with her 6-year-old, the little girl had one question: Adventure Time is for boys?
No. Its not. Cartoon Network has long championed girl power. Were talking about the channel thats bringing back Powerpuff Girls on Monday.
Adventure Time boldly did an episode where all of the male characters were female. Finn became Fionna, who has her own game at Cartoonnetwork.com.
In fact, the webosphere offers Adventure Time leggings, dresses and full-on costumes for girls and women alike.
Its 2014 and Happy Meals need to get with the times, said Aimee Slates, 26, a Kansas City photographer who loves Adventure Time so much that her mom made costumes for her and her boyfriend (no, she didnt opt for one of the princesses she chose Jake).
The show has villains and princesses and two best friends that use their imaginations to experience new things every day. These characters are not at all for boys only, Aimee says. I know of several kids (myself included) that would buy all of the Adventure Time toys if they hadnt said it was just for boys. Its tacky, especially with how far weve come trying to rid ourselves of gender roles.
So why does McDonalds insist on giving the girls something different? Jeremy Madl, an Overland Park artist ( madtoydesign.com), has worked with fast food chains like Wendys and Taco Bell on toys as well as with Cartoon Network on Adventure Time special projects. His own two boys and two girls all love the cartoon, but he says a lot of these business decisions are based on tried-and-true play patterns and test groups.
Its unfortunate that this is the position that has been taken with Happy Meals, but McDonalds does a ton of testing and there are still moms and dads out there that believe their daughters should play with a pink Hello Kitty rather than a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
(McDonalds didnt respond to my requests for a comment.)
Look, Im not bashing Paul Franks cute monkey notepads and purses, which McDonalds has decided to put in the girl Happy Meals. I understand the fast food giant is a business out to make money. But what kind of message are we sending when we tell kids a certain toy is for boys?
Brown wonders if she ever should have told her daughter about the McDonalds mishap.
Its almost as if McDonalds is saying, Here, boys, go out and make adventurous choices and have a blast doing so! And, Oh you girls well heres a pink journal with a monkey on it write a poem.
For McDonalds to be the most wonderful place to eat for a child, youd think theyd know simple things like children just want to have fun, if it includes sword fighting or playing house theyre children. The next time I purchase a Happy Meal from McDonalds and they ask boy or girl, Im going to suggest that they ask Adventure Time or Paul Frank. You should, too.
Making Happy Meals universal makes sense. As they might say on Adventure Time, its mathematical!