Mattel goes ‘Mad’

Move over regular Barbie, Skipper and Ken dolls; make room on the toy store shelves for the new guys and dolls in town. It’s a new line of collectable Barbies right from the lineup of the adult television drama series “Mad Men.”  

That’s right, the same series that contains plenty of graphic sexual content — enough to have the Parents Television Council place it on its Worst Cable Content of the Week list last August because its network rated the show OK for teens — is the basis for the new products. So, meet adman Don Draper, his wife, Betty, Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway.  

The dolls are based on the main characters of the series, which focuses on the troubled and often sullied lives of the folks who work for a New York ad agency in the 1960s. I guess Mattel figures plenty of collectors admire the excessive drinking, adulterous relationships and dirty backroom deals so prevalent in the show’s story line enough that they will fork over $75 a piece for these items in tough economic times. Why else would a toy company even go through the trouble of offering the dolls in the first place, unless they thought they would sell?  

This isn’t the first time Mattel has launched dolls based on a popular TV series. Dolls based on Samantha Stephens of “Bewitched” and Lucy Ricardo of “I Love Lucy” fame are still popular for serious collectors. Like “Bewitched” and “I Love Lucy,” “Mad Men” is an extremely popular show.  

It’s unfortunate and sad to see such a stark contrast between “Mad Men’s” content and the heartwarming and humorous themes presented in the good old days of TV programming, when you could actually sit down and comfortably watch a program without having your loved ones leave the room.  

As the PTC explains, Don, Betty, Roger and Joan won’t be directly marketed to children. The dolls are directed at an adult market. But PTC media expert Rod Gustafson does have a point when he says moms and dads have cause for concern here. Numerous TV shows have marketed their own line of products, or as Gustafson says in a recent PTC online article, “Mad Men” could have easily partnered with another toy maker.  

“Yet they chose to license Barbie — and Mattel chose to let them. To parents and young girls who have heavily invested (both emotionally and financially) in the Barbie brand and have purchased dozens of dolls, clothing sets, cars, horses, and playhouses, it is deeply troubling that Mattel has so deliberately chosen to allow the Barbie image and name — both of which have stood for innocent fun for children for decades — to be used,” Gustafson writes.  

Kudos to the PTC for making us aware of Mattel’s latest offering. After all, do we really need something else out there that continues to market oversexualized images of women and sends a message that counters the ideals of personal commitment, common decency and self-control?  

As for me, I have been collecting dolls since I was 10 years old, but I can guarantee you won’t find this cast of characters in my curio cabinet. Call me crazy, but I will stick with adding to my collection by purchasing adorable dolls based on characters from “The Sound of Music,” “Little Women” or “The Wizard of Oz.”  

As a concerned Catholic woman, as well as someone who makes her living in the media, I have had it with TV programs, music videos, magazine covers and toys, such as the scary looking and overly made-up Bratz dolls and now this new line, that continue to insult my intelligence, my dignity and my faith. Thanks, but no thanks.  

Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connection, produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.