I feed my children McDonald’s Happy Meals on occasion. I hesitate to confess on the Internet because in England, this might be grounds for forcible removal of the children from the family. But there it is.
I also pride myself on being a knowledgeable sort of father, one who can answer most any question in a greater detail than a kindergartner or preschooler can actually retain. It’s important to do so to keep up the illusion of omniscience as long as possible.
Happy Meal toys, the little trinkets that come in with the chicken nuggets and apple dippers with white milk to drink (thereby mitigating, somewhat, the dietary destruction of McDonald’s), have been pretty good to me in this regard. Most of them recently have been rehashings of things from my own youth, so I can give great detail.
Transformers? I can explain some elements of the originals (except for why Megatron transformed into a gun and Soundwave transformed into a boombox with full-sized other transformers somehow shrunken to cassette size). I can even speak to the film series a bit, engaging in the modern controversies. (Bumblebee was a Volkswagen, dammit. What, do you think Greedo shot first, too?)
Marvel superheroes? I can speak at length about Captain America, Spiderman, Iron Man, and Avengers story lines. D.C. Superheroes? Go ask your mother.
Smurfs? Yeah, I can talk about the origins of the mythos from records to cartoons to the creation of Smurfette. I’ve known this stuff longer than I’ve had a college degree.
Some of the toys were pleasantly non-specific and non-mythos-centric. (Yes, when discussing varied story lines and toy universes, I do use the term mythos with my children. These are traditional stories passed down between generations now, ainna?)
Some of the toys are archetypal. If it’s a little animal, I know it’s from the latest environmental propopanda piece du juor, and the plucky animals are the heroes and the men or the animals in favor of civilization are the villains. They never make the toys out of villains for these sorts of films, as they want children to identify with the cute animals.
Oh, and Star Wars. Every couple of months, something new from Star Wars, trying to get the children hyped up on the new going concern, the Clone Wars, a series so ethically muddled that the storm troopers are the good guys, Anakin Skywalker is a hero, and at the end of the series, Anakin Skywalker is going to kill all his allies. Seriously, how can you not root for the freakin’ Hutts to rub him out at some point? Regardless, I know a lot about the overarching stories if not the specific Clone Wars adventures. I’m less clear why they built ships with the cockpit on the top, set way on the back. Because in space, too much visibility of the enemy might drive you mad or something. Or George Lucas is a tool.
But now, out of nowhere, we have a toy from some mythos of which I have no knowledge: Ben 10 Ultimate Alien.
I can’t suss it out. The name doesn’t tip anything of its story. The toy is some child embedded in a larger translucent monster or alien. Did the boy turn into that? Did the monster eat the child? Is this particular translucent alien/monster a good guy? I just don’t know.
Way to make me feel forty, McDonald’s. Now that you’ve reminded me I have to watch my diet, I’ll have to cut out the fast food for my children and me. How does that suit you?
And now, to distract my children, I will once again how them the introduction to Scooby Doo from 1970: