IN CASE you were too busy monitoring the worldwide economic crisis this past week to keep up on the really important news, let me be the first to apprise you that retailers across America started whipping a talking doll off their shelves in recent days after customers complained it was "spouting hate" -- at least that's the way it was couched in an overwrought story on Fox News Kansas City yesterday.
The doll in question, Fisher-Price's "Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Cuddle & Coo Doll," allegedly repeats the phrases "Satan is king" and "Islam is the light" in addition to all of the standard babbling and cooing one would expect to hear from a talking baby doll.
"There's no markings on the box to indicate there's anything Islamic about this doll," Oklahoman Gary Rofkahr told Fox News in a report headlined "Parents Outraged Over Baby Doll They Say Mumbles Pro-Islam Message."
All of which begs so many questions, I hardly know where to begin.
In the ear of the beholder
First, does the doll really say those things? You can judge for yourself by viewing one of the many YouTube videos online, or, if you prefer to go directly to the source, listening to the actual playback supplied by Fisher-Price's parent company, Mattel [update: the file has been deleted but can still be accessed via Snopes.com] .
Having listened to these recordings myself (over and over again), I can confidently say I don't hear anything in them that sounds remotely like "Satan is king." One part of the playback does sound vaguely like "Islam is the light," though to be honest it sounds a lot more like "As long as the light" to me. An audio expert consulted by KJRH-TV News in Tulsa, Oklahoma reviewed the recording and concluded the snippet in question sounds closest to "It's not near the light."
Which all goes to show we mustn't discount the power of suggestion. People tend to hear what they expect to hear -- or what they've been primed to hear. In the case of the Cuddle & Coo Doll, when told in advance that it says "Islam is the light," most folks say that is indeed what they hear. But when KOTV Tulsa reporter Chris Wright put the question to random folks without suggesting in advance what they would hear, none of them could make out any intelligible phrases at all.
Logic and plausibility
Another question that needs asking is why on earth a major toy company with brand loyalty to protect would knowingly insert any kind of religious message into a mass-market talking doll made for sale in the United States, much less a message as controversial as an affirmation of Islam. It simply isn't plausible. And according to Mattel spokesperson Sara Rosales, it simply isn't true. The Baby Cuddle & Coo Doll only has one scripted word, "Mama," Rosales told Newsday earlier today. The rest of the recording is gibberish, including the final syllable which, as heard over the doll's cheap speaker, "may resemble something close to the word 'night,' 'right' or 'light,'" Rosales said.
Another good question is why a doll allegedly promoting Islam would say "Satan is king." Answer: it wouldn't.
And lastly, by what stretch of the imagination would uttering the phrase "Islam is the light" constitute "spouting hate"? Answer: it wouldn't.
An epidemic of evil, trash-talking dolls???
Folks, this is getting out of hand. And you know what? We've been here before.
- Remember in 1998 when parents all across the United States had hissy-fits because they really, truly believed their children's Teletubby dolls were saying "Faggot, faggot, bite my butt"?
- And how about the California woman who threatened a lawsuit in 2000 after convincing herself that a Teletubby doll was telling her child, "I got a gun, I got a gun! Run away, run away!"
- Or the woman who complained in 2006 that a Little Mermaid doll called her daughter "a slut."
- Or the parent who claimed in early 2008 that a Tickle Me Elmo doll had made death threats against her son [sorry, link no longer exists]?
Something needs to be done to keep these toys out of the wrong hands -- adults' hands, I mean, not kids'. Clearly they are not safe!