In TV commercials that run every year around the holidays, a clean-cut go-getter surprises his or her loved one with the gift of a new Lexus, which is lovingly decked out in a magnificent bow. Providing Exhibit A in the case for why many countries hate America–right up there with competitive-eating exhibitions–one ad has Dad telling his teenage daughter, "We got you a new CD player," before revealing that the CD player is but one component of what is surely a richly deserved $40,000 car. It's enough to incite class warfare, but a more constructive and nonviolent approach would be to wage a silent battle against shallow, wasteful consumerism by buying your own children the shoddiest, lowest-priced toys on the market. Here, then, is The Onion A.V. Club's annual Cheap Toy Roundup.
Paralympic Champion Becky, Friend Of Barbie
$11.98, from $19.99
Rosie O'Donnell, Friend Of Barbie
$4.98, from $9.97
There are only so many Barbie permutations, but completists can't stop there: Like most freakishly proportioned blonde women, the doll has many diverse friends, including pal Rosie O'Donnell and wheelchair-bound yearbook editor Becky. The O'Donnell doll comes with the promise that "Mattel and this store will donate $5.00 of the purchase price of this toy to The For All Kids Foundation, Inc.," which is a pretty generous program given Rosie's $4.98 price tag. Even more inspiring is Becky, the plucky, busty, and well-coifed athlete who "is racing her way to an Olympic gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games!" (She's already equipped with a tiny plastic medal, so Mattel must really like her chances.) With her stick-thin legs, Becky has the closest thing to an anatomically correct figure on the Barbie market, and she's a fine precursor to Mattel's Special Olympics-themed doll, a plucky, good-natured "friend of Barbie" who will come outfitted with a gold medal, a grin, and a Popsicle.
$8.99, from $12.99
When the package includes the enthusiastic instruction "Extrude the tongue!" the toy has to be great, right? But there's more than tongue extrusion to this Play-Doh playset. Kids can also make two different sizes of teeth, insert them, extract them, fill them with "gold-colored Play-Doh compound," and fix cavities with an electronic drill that "makes realistic drill sounds." Play-Doh Slice 'N Transplant playset sold separately.
Breyer Companion Animals: Alpine Goat
$5.99, from $7.99
From time untold, humanity has turned to the animal kingdom for companionship. The Companion Animals series has them all: the Black Labrador, the Welsh Corgi, the Silver Tabby, and, of course, the Alpine Goat. Why the Alpine Goat? One look at his soulful eyes puts such questions to rest.
Johnny One American Hero Head Band And Wrist Band
$1, from $2
Now tiny soldiers of fortune can head into battle secure in the knowledge that their foreheads and at least one of their wrists will be protected from sweat. The Sylvester Stallone lookalike on the packaging and the copyright date of 1986 says it all about this toy's inspiration, but subversive types can take advantage of the removable "Johnny One" cards to insert their own antiwar message.
Austin Powers Shark With Frickin' Laser Beams
$9.96, from $19.99
As if the dozens of Austin Powers products already on the market weren't enough—shot glasses, backgammon, bobbleheads, Pictionary, penis enlargers, garbage cans, Mad Libs, fake teeth, toilet paper, and so on—someone molded Dr. Evil's ultimate death-dispenser, a laser-equipped shark, in cheap plastic. Does the fact that it's clearly an old bathtub toy-design with a little red light on top make it more like the real thing, or less? The laser beam attached to the shark's head, it should be noted, has its own "on/off" switch, separate from the one that makes the shark swim.
Christina Aguilera Fashion Doll
$8.98, from $12.99
Christina Aguilera is still a popular and ubiquitous performing artist, so why are several of her action-figure incarnations on the discount rack? The answer begins with these dolls' failure to keep up with her recent transformation from "bare-midriffed girl next door" to "Frederick's Of Hollywood model on Halloween."
$4.98, from $14.99
The OOglies are reportedly "on a mission to find the funniest planet in the universe." While Earth could use some pleasant, heartwarming laughter, its streets already have their share of beings that laugh, shake uncontrollably when touched, and speak in semi-gibberish, rendering OOglies redundant. This particular model, Bump-Along, has assimilated to Earth by incorporating a Western motif, complete with bushy mustache, lasso tail, and a cowboy hat with a Steve Martin-esque arrow through it. "I love to rope and ride... and make strange noises, that's fun too!"
Bobby Banker Bear
$14.98, from $29.99
It's never too early for children to learn the power of the ATM, and with cute little Bobby Banker Bear as their first teller, America's kids can start their spending lives with joy. Not only is this teddy ideal for nighttime snuggling, but he's also a talking bank capable of identifying American coins and calculating their total worth–right in his tummy! A tiny plastic card and secret code (psst... it's 1-2-3-4) allow for withdrawals, so money can be transferred to future playmates Sammy Stockbroker Snake or Mikey Money-Market Moose. Sadly, Bobby Banker Bear is missing one key component of real automated tellers: infuriating transaction fees.
Planet Of The Apes Action Figures: Ari
$2.98, from $9.99
As she lay memorizing her lines for A Room With A View and Where Angels Fear To Tread, actress Helena Bonham Carter often daydreamed about really juicy roles, the kind that would lead to her own action figure. Damn dirty fate in the form of monkey-makeup rendered her first toy–Ari, from Tim Burton's awful Planet Of The Apes remake–unrecognizable.
Mini Wooden Furniture: Table
$1, from $2.99
Few accomplishments rank with ownership of a plain, unadorned wooden table. Adults have known the bliss of table ownership for years, and now kids can possess their very own (albeit miniaturized) wooden table. What better place to set their miniature paper or miniature cup of coffee? But for God's sake, use a miniature coaster: You want your miniature table to have some resale value, right?
Harry Potter Snake Bites Candy Maker
$14.99, from $34.99
Why waste time with the season's many Harry Potter knockoffs–though "Horry Petter" figures are only 99 cents!–when you can enjoy an ill-conceived officially licensed product at a discounted price? The Harry Potter Snake Bites Candy Maker understands that central to every wizard's progress is the ability to manufacture candy with the help of a terrifying beastie. Accordingly, The Harry Potter Snake Bites Candy Maker contains one 1.4 oz. packet of artificially flavored tangerine powdered candy mix, one 1.4 oz. packet of artificially flavored sour apple candy mix, and a big plastic candy-making snake, a surefire recipe for old-fashioned family fun.
Yahoo Web Speak Board Game
$8.99, from $11.99
Party like it's 1999 all over again with the Yahoo Web Speak game! Revisit an era of venture-capital riches and lofty stock prices as you attempt to decode emoticons and wacky abbreviations with your cyber-lingo-savvy pals. Unemployment checks and NASDAQ de-listing notices not included.
$3.99, from $4.99
Everybody loves Slinky, the springy coil that long ago slunk its way into America's heart, so everyone is sure to love Slinky Pets, which combine the coil-like fun of Slinky with the furry plushness of stuffed animals. Best of all, since the fuzz-covered Slinky is topped with a furry dog's head, you needn't worry about any of that horrible "slinking." Instead, the Slinky Pet tumbles clumsily down stairs, to the delight of kids and adults alike.
Matchbox's Great Beers Of The World Series–1927 Talbot South Pacific
$3.99, from $6.99
What better way to introduce your child to the joys of alcoholic beverages and driving than with Matchbox's Great Beers Of The World Series? The 1927 Talbot South Pacific commemorates just one of the vehicles that have been used to provide America's alcoholics with the sweet nectar they crave.
Scooby Doo: The Movie Game
$8.99, from $10.99
Every year, terrible movies spawn a cottage industry of licensed cheap toys. This year is no exception, with the Scooby Doo movie inspiring an equally unpromising-looking board game. The box features the smiling visages of Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, and company, but don't worry: Scooby Doo: The Movie Game's titular Scooby Snacks enthusiast is static and flat, a vast improvement over the film's computer-animated monstrosity.
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Bobbleheads
$7.99, from $9.99
Nothing says "holiday cheer" like your own precious childhood memories, converted into grotesquely deformed plastic characters whose oversized, spring-loaded heads jerk spasmodically when touched. Collect the entire set, and your family can spend the holidays reenacting scenes from the 1964 TV classic Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer–particularly the ones in which Rudolph gripes about his freakish glowing nose, and all his friends nod rapidly in sycophantic agreement. Or possibly in convulsions.
'N Sync Marionettes (On Tour 2000 Collector's Edition)
$4.99, from $12.99
'N Sync fans: At last, your favorite band can be under your complete control. 'N Sync haters: At last, your least favorite band can sit on your desk, dangling awkwardly from flimsy plastic display stands that look like gibbets. With the untruthfully named "No Strings Attached" 'N Sync Marionettes, Lou Pearlman wannabes of all ages can revel in their power over their badly dressed, strangely malleable playthings.
Sailor Moon Adventure Doll: Sailor Mercury
$2.99, from $9.99
As America's fascination with Japanese animation grows, more and more spin-off toys are appearing on the market, ready to introduce kids to the wonders of anime. The Sailor Mercury "adventure doll," with her thick chest, shapeless face, cheap-looking costume, unkempt mane of blue plastic hair, and curious lump in the groin, is also ready to introduce kids to the wonder of the fortysomething male Sailor Moon fans who prance around anime conventions in lycra miniskirts. Sailor Mercury comes with a "Cosmic Crescent Wand," which looks like a Cosmic Crescent Wrench, or possibly a Cosmic Can Opener.
The Crocodile Hunter Jigsaw Puzzle
$3.99, from $6.99
Steve Irwin's bug-eyed, gap-mouthed face appears in several places on this poster-sized puzzle, along with such Irwin catchphrases as "Crocs rule!" and "Wooo, he's getting cranky!" These phrases are represented only in print: The Crocodile Hunter Jigsaw Puzzle has no audio component, making it one of the most sought-after Crocodile Hunter tie-ins ever. Get yours quickly, before they run out and you're stuck with the Crocodile Hunter "Why Won't He Shut Up?" Talking Doll™.
Playmobil Nativity Manger
$13.99, from $18.99
Playmobil people have served as firemen, knights, bus drivers, and countless other professionals over the years, so who says they can't stand in for the Holy Family? This set includes a stable, a manger, various animals, Joseph, an extremely pleased-looking Mary, a shepherd carrying a hobo sack, and Jesus. Not intended for children under 4 because the Son Of God and other components may pose choking hazards.
$16.99, from $22.99
Beloved advertising icon BuzzBee hosts this educational game in which players learn a little about spelling, a little about subjects like science and geography, and a little about the pleasures of honey-and-nut-flavored Cheerios. Can you spell "edulicious"?
Spice Girls Costume Dress Up
$5, from $14.99
Spice Girls Hair Play Dress Up Set
$5, from $17.99
$9.98, from $14.99
Spice Girls Super Stage
$5, from $14.
Can you believe we got all this awesome Spice Girls gear for only $24.98?