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All I Want for Christmas is a Bombed-Out Dollhouse
Published on Saturday, November 23, 2002 in the Globe & Mail/Canada
All I Want for Christmas is a Bombed-Out Dollhouse
by Krista Foss
 

It looks like Barbie went ballistic. The bombed-out dollhouse has a busted balustrade, crumbling bricks, bullet holes pockmarking its pretty pastel walls and, what's worse, it has been commandeered by fatigue-clad soldiers toting assault rifles.


Forward Command Post
$44.99
Take command of your soldiers from this fully outfitted battlezone. 75-piece set includes one 111/2"H figurine in military combat gear, toy weapons, American flag, chairs and more. Assembled dimensions; 32x16x32"H. Plastic. 10 lbs. Ages 5 and up.

(From page 486 of JC Penney's 2002 Christmas catalog)

No, it's not a joke. It's a toy called Forward Command Post manufactured by the ironically named Ever Sparkle Industrial Co. Ltd. And for $45 (U.S.), it could be waiting for a flush-cheeked, pajama-clad child to unwrap this Christmas morning.

Welcome to the new millennium of war toys. Gone are cartoonishly idealistic action figures, soft plastic guns and the model jet fighters of yore. They have been replaced by bazookas with explosive noises, exacting copies of long-range sniper rifles, a "peacekeeper" battle station complete with tripod-mounted cannon and counterterrorism advisers as action figures.

High-tech and perhaps a bit too highly realistic, this toy fare is creating ripples among concerned parents and peaceniks alike.

"War toys have been around forever, but the problem here is the change in focus. Before such toys were more in line with the ideas of self-defence," said Eric Garris, who is webmaster of the California-based antiwar.com, which has started a campaign about against the Forward Command Post toy.

"This is not just another war toy -- it's a total paradigm shift in the war toy industry. It's setting up the young people for this new kind of war, where soldiers come into your house and take it over when they need to."

Antiwar.com has been pushing the U.S. department store chain JC Penney to remove Forward Command Post from its on-line catalogue and stores. (Calls to the head office - 972-431-1000 - were not returned.)

Meanwhile, the same is toy is available on-line through eToys, which also offers a choice of Caucasian or a dark-skinned "ethnic" military action figures with weapon-stuffed footlockers. A similar toy, Elite Operations Forward Command Post, is sold on the Toys 'R' Us Web site (but not in Canadian stores).

Depending on which source is selling it, Forward Command Post is recommended for children five years and up, as is the G.I. Joe Long Range Army Sniper.

"It is something to be concerned about," says Steven Feldgaier, a University of Manitoba child psychologist who specializes in anxiety and stress among children. "These toys glorify violence and war . . . and send the confusing message that peace is linked with the need to arm yourself."

But while there is no doubt war toys are enjoying a rebirth, Leigh Poirier, executive director of the Canadian Toy Testing Council, which evaluates 400 to 600 toys yearly, is not reading anything ominous into it.

"We don't feel from our observations that war toys enhance or encourage aggression. We haven't seen that," she said. "And these toys are definitely more popular in the U.S."

Certainly, some of the new action figures and toys this year are aimed squarely at the U.S. market, including Tora Bora Ted, a Delta Force commando, the M-16-packing Homeland Security Amy and what every five-year-old craves, Clay Ramsey, U.S. Counter-Terrorism Adviser.

Krista Foss writes for The Globe and Mail out of Winnipeg.

© 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc.

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