Breaking bad dichotomies

So apparently Toys R Us sells “Breaking Bad” action figures, who knew, right? Or, more accurately, they used to. Ever since a Florida mom garnered over 9,000 supporters on her petition.

On her petition she wrote:

“Parents and grandparents around the world shop at Toys R Us, online and in [stores], with their children and should not be forced to explain why a certain toy comes with a bag of highly dangerous and illegal drugs or why someone who sells those drugs deserves to be made into an action figure.

“Please sign to join me in asking Toys R Us to stop selling the Breaking Bad dolls and return to the family focused atmosphere for which they are known.”

A point that made “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul cry foul. Paul took to Twitter to condemn the move on Toys R Us’s part, citing the fact that “Grand Theft Auto” and Barbie stayed on the shelves. Which, as Internet comments are wont to do, incited a media cycle of its own. Some supported Paul’s rage against the toy machine, while critics like Mary Elizabeth Williams, took issue with.

Namely the inclusion of Barbie. She concedes that Barbie carries a whole big train of baggage, but what she believes is that young children aren’t (or at least don’t have to be) aware of that.

The whole point of Barbie, unlike the characters on “Breaking Bad,” is that she has a multitude of options in her life. Barbie can be a princess – or a computer engineer. She can be conservative or tattooed.  Pretty sure she’s never been a homicidal drug dealer, though. She doesn’t have to be “damaging,” as generations of women who’ve grown up with her would attest. And she’s sure as hell nobody’s bitch – not even Jesse Pinkman’s.
-Williams for Salon

And I think to a certain degree she’s right. When most kids pick up a doll they are lost in the wonderful freedom of imagination they have. It’s fabulous, what they can bring to a blank slate or even a doll with decades of baggage.

But saying that just because they’re not aware of the messages they’re taking in doesn’t mean they’re processing them is akin to saying that a sponge won’t soak up water if it uses the water for good. (That analogy got away from me a bit, but the feeling is still there).

The reason that we still have racism, sexism, and (more specific to Barbie) plenty of hangups about how women should look is because before people are even talking they are taking in information from their world, and that stays ingrained in their core. It’s not the fact that we can’t identify the problems, it’s that they’re so deep in us sometimes we don’t even realize where they come from or where they’ll lead us.

By saying that Barbie has to be all good or all bad is a false dichotomy, and one that erases a lot of the legitimacy of both sides of the aisle (pardon the pun). Williams is right, that Paul could stand to be a little more aware of the context surrounding dolls, but Paul is right that by removing “Breaking Bad” dolls from stores we’re eliminating all bad from Toys R Us.

For myself, I am a big “Breaking Bad” fan. But when it comes to teaching my baby sister loose morals I think I’ll turn to Jake and Finn rather than Jesse and Walt. Bryan Cranston remains in the running though:

Stay cool Mr. C
Stay cool Mr. C



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