20th Nov2006

Where The Bratz At?!

by Will

“Welcome to the layer cake, son.”

So, it’s been awhile. Not gonna talk about the main job yet, but I will say that I’ve gone back to Toys R Us for the holidays. Not sure if I’m going to stay on, but it’s certainly as surprising to me as it is to you. The other day, I was telling someone that I feel like an old, grizzled cop when I put on that uniform. The whole sense of, “You don’t know how many times I’ve looked in the mirror and said ‘Never Again!’.” But, as with any retail job, the crappiest part is the customers.

Back at my old TRU, it was pretty ghetto, and that sucked. But this TRU is in Columbia, known for is affluence. For those of you who read “Gatsby”, it’s very “new money”. But I’ll go a step further than that. It’s essentially White trash who have somehow come into money. You know, contractors who charge too much for work, or the final season of Roseanne where they won the lottery. Butterface trophy wives of Redskins and the lot. Yeah, by switching stores, I went from hair weaves to Nascar quicker than I thought humanly possible.

Well, every Christmas, regardless of store or location, I have the same archnemesis: the Black mother. And why is she my nemesis? Well, she’s upset because she can’t find the Black version of the hottest toy of the season. Be it Amazing Amanda, Cabbage Patch, or even Holiday Barbie, she wants the Black doll. Now, what Mrs. Black Mother doesn’t seem to understand is that she is chasing the niche of a niche. Not only does she want the hot toy, but she wants a variant of the hot toy. I’m sorry, sweetie, but they don’t allocate them equally.

Now, I can see her position, but I really just don’t care. Yes, I know that’s callous. And maybe my views will change if I have daughters. Sure, these women want their children to have toys that represent them. A toy to help solidify their sense of identity. Something to instill racial pride. And this is all admirable. This is also all bullshit.

Toys only have that effect if you reinforce it. If you point out to a child that this doll is different, and make that your sole focus, then they will manifest that and you have achieved your goal of racializing “play”. But if you just give them a toy, and let them sort it out, it ain’t that deep. IF the child asks, “Mommy, why doesn’t this doll have hair like me?” then you might even have the chance to establish a dialogue as to people’s differences. But just because you get Tashiba a white Barbie, it doesn’t mean that she’s gonna go out and join the Republican party and buy a Volvo.

I always hate these mothers because they take it out on ME. Like I was the one who ordered all of the White dolls. The other day, I told a chick to write a letter if she was so mad. What I’d love to see, though, is a White parent ask for a White doll of a predominantly Black line. I’d love for some soccer mom to come in and ask, “Do you have any…White Bratz?”(editor’s note: these DO exist, but people never really ask for them)

The funny thing to me, though, is the way that these encounters always play out. First of all, I will watch these mothers walk past several White employees just to get to me. And even after they’ve gone out of their way to find “a black guy”, a “brotha” a safe harbor of sorts, they still can’t be forthcoming with me. So, that’s when I have some fun.

They’ll approach me and ask, “Where are the Barbie’s?” And of course, this is while we’re IN the freakin’ Barbie aisle!

“Umm..they’re all around you, ma’am.”

And that’s when she’ll reply, “No, the other Barbies. You ain’t got no other dolls?”

Loving where this is going, I’ll ask, “Well, what kind of other dolls are you talking about?”

And this is the kicker, and they ALL do this, she’ll ask, “You ain’t got no ***** dolls?” Now, let me explain here. This is when she says “Black”, but she doesn’t actually say it. She mouths it. It’s kinda like those Cingular commercials about the dropped calls. As if to say that we can’t let The Man hear about our plaything plotting.

And at this point, I have a myriad of responses, ranging from the polite: “No, ma’am. Those are always the first to go.” to the obnoxious: “No ma’am, it seems that the toy companies just don’t really like Black people.” Yes, I HAVE said that. And I lived to tell about it.

At this point, regardless of what I say or how I say it, she erupts with, “I don’t want no White doll! Why they think I want a white doll?” And if I’m lucky, this tirade ends with a “Where the Bratz at?”

Now, don’t get me started on Bratz. Sure, these women are upset that there aren’t enough Black Barbie’s, but I feel it is a FAR worse crime to fill that hole with a Bratz doll. Sure, that shit is popular, but it’s the minstrel show of toys. If you’re afraid of toys giving your child a poor self image, then you sure as Hell shouldn’t be bying them Bratz. I mean, the name alone. It’s like they’re trying to reclaim the term or something. A “brat” is a BAD thing. Not something endearing. And there’s a reason there are no Black people in anime. You know why? Because they’d look like fucking Bratz! God, those dolls are HIDEOUS! And ignorant.

The other night, I saw a talking Bratz doll on the shelf, and just to test a theory, I pressed the button. Do you know what that plastic bitch said to me?

“Like, have you ever had a bad hair day?”

Huh? I HATE those trifling things, but they’re just as popular as ever. But the only people who buy them are ghetto Black people and ashamed White people. It’s true. I actually enjoy watching the disparity. As I said before, A Black family will come in, all, “Where the Bratz at?” And Woo! You get them to that aisle, and they can’t spend that welfare check quickly enough. But the White families approach me just like the Black mom looking for Barbie. I’ll get a White women who kinda looks down, or can’t really make eye contact. She’ll sheepishly ask to be pointed in the direction of the Bratz stuff. Yesterday, I had a dad who just looked exhausted. He said that their daughter was crazy about the stuff and she made them redo her bedroom in Bratz decor. First off, only a White guy would say “Our daughter made us do so-and-so.” And he looked so forlon and ashamed. All I could muster was a “I’m so sorry for you. Hopefully, she’ll grow out of that phase soon.”

So, in closing, if you want a Black doll, do the talking with your wallet. Don’t buy White Barbie, but don’t buy Bratz either. Hold out until something comes along to your liking, but don’t just jump on the first ethnic thing to come along. Buying your kid a Bratz doll is far more degrading than having to watch her as she combs Barbie’s long, blonde hair. And if you’re THAT mad about it, write a letter. Hell, start your own toy company. Maybe Michael Richards will even donate some of his Seinfeld money to help you get started (Man, that reference is gonna be SO dated when I re-read this in a year!). But don’t shoot the messenger because I actually know where the Black doll bodies are buried.

I don’t even know what that means, but I felt the need to go out on a strong note. And I think this exposition just killed any attempt at that. Seacrest, out!