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Get Real, Doll Makers: Judy Is a Bad Teacher

“Judy is having a baby!”

So says the ad, which is a full magazine page, glossy, in color. Because of the exclamation point, I assume that this is supposed to be good news. Judy is a doll, literally. She and Barbie look as if they could have been sculpted by the same plastic surgeon’s knife.

“Judy is more than a toy, she’s a natural way for your child to learn while playing,” the ad goes on.

“Judy looks like a real mommy-to-be. Take off her tummy, and there’s her baby. Lift out the newborn with movable arms and legs, and now she has a flat tummy. . . . In her denim jumpsuit with its Velcro front closure, Judy looks stylish before and after her baby arrives.”

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I assume that this pitch is directed at me, since I am a mother of real children, both of them girls who loves dolls--especially if they are advertised on TV.

Except I am not buying, not the pitch, not the doll. The ad leaves it to my imagination as to just what it is, exactly, that Judy might teach in her “natural way.”

Is it that having a baby is as easy as popping in a spare part? Or that, thank goodness, childbearing needn’t slow a glamour girl down? And I can think of worse. Regardless, Judy makes my stomach turn.

Hey, now there’s an idea. Why not have Judy showing signs of morning sickness too? Nah. Much too negative. Pregnancy is fun!

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Listed under the “accessories,” which the ad says the Judith Corp. will be glad to sell you separately: Judy’s husband, Charlie.

I wish that this were merely a joke.

And Judy isn’t the only wanna-be pregnant toy. Look for Mattel’s My Bundle Baby in a store near you this June. The idea here is to allow your child--or who knows, maybe an especially empathetic husband?--to actually feel pregnant herself.

The Bundle Baby carrier straps to the front of the child. Touch one spot and Baby kicks, touch another and the mommy-to-be feels Baby’s heartbeat.

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If the child can’t stand it another minute and opens the bundle up--a pretend C-section?--she can determine whether she is carrying a boy, a girl, or--just like real life!--twins.

As far as I know, the Bundle babies are not anatomically correct. It’s a banner that breaks the news, assuming, of course, that your little mama can read.

But don’t get the wrong idea. Our nation’s toy manufacturers don’t want you to think that literacy is a requirement for motherhood today. Any girl-woman can get pregnant, of course. This is what makes America great.

The people who dream up these toys say they are just improving on fantasies that children have. It’s no secret that little girls like babies. And reality toys are big. Surely everybody knows a girl’s reality is, well, different than a boy’s.

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For example, for the boy in your life, Tyco is offering Test Crash Dummies, which are based on those eerily placid Department of Transportation dummies that are always getting dismembered in various car commercials on TV.

This, too, is the very real world. Test Crash Dummies are especially appropriate for parents wishing to encourage automotive safety, while not wishing to dis courage any special sadistic talent that their child might have. If the little dummies don’t wear their seat belts, their heads and limbs fly off!

(The test crash tractor, however, does not come equipped with any seat belts at all. So the joke here must be on the dummies who have chosen to stay on the farm.)

I offer these judgments aware that nobody is forcing me to buy any of these toys for the children I love. And I will most certainly not.

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I’ll just add them to the rather long rejection list, where the reasons for dismissal are diverse. (Too expensive, too fragile, may be eaten by especially small children, requires parent to take the day off from work to assemble . . . )

“Senseless realism” is the grounds this time around, with the contributing factor that these toys tend to make their mother ill.

And this comes from someone who wishes that her own toy acquisition instincts were indeed far more sharp. A friend actually asked my permission before buying a makeup set--with real blue eye shadow!--as a gift for my 5 year-old daughter. I still rue the day that I said yes.

Yet here, even I must draw the line. My 5-year-old is the target audience for these would-be pregnant toys, and she is far too young. She cannot conceptualize what if feels like to be pregnant, and that is just fine. She is growing up fast enough.

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When her baby sister was making my own belly bloom, she would lay her hands on top of me to feel for little kicks. Sometimes, she stuck a pillow under her clothing to make her own belly big. This, Judy, is the “natural way.”

Still, these new questionable reality toys can be fun, of this I don’t have a doubt. But fun, regardless of age, can have strings attached.


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