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JUNE 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 6



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MICHAEL FERREIRA, of Marlboro, MA, is a contibuting writer for Renaissance Online Magazine.


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NOTE: The Bytes & Picas section now features news and reviews of the gadget culture, including video games, technology, the internet and marketing strategies.

Star Wars Merchandise Mania

MICHAEL FERREIRA

Jar Jar Binks

Not so long ago in a Toys R Us near, near me, a great disturbance in the Force sent a chill down my spine, making me shudder. Slowly I turned my head to the left and saw them, the steroids-enhanced Star Wars figures. Re-worked and re-issued as the sci-fi trilogy was re-released in the theaters, were these toys of my youth supposed to be an improvement upon the old, like the recreated movies?

They were silently sitting on the shelf in their little cardboard and plastic cases mocking me and every other young adult who grew up playing with the real thing. Luke and Han so juiced up you can actually see the track marks! You would think that it was Arnold and Sly instead of Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill who were the stars of some of the greatest movies of my lifetime.

Little did I know this was just the beginning. The Dark Side had just begun to rear its ugly head. A few years passed, the hype died down until... The Prequel. Everyone has been talking for months about The Hype. People in New York camped out for eons to be the first to get tickets and again to see the movie. Morons lined up hours beforehand just to be the first to get into the stores when they opened at midnight to get the newest Star Wars toys. Pushing, shoving and trampling each other like they were going to be this year's Cabbage Patch Kid or Furbee. Have you walked through a toy store lately? Star Wars paraphernalia is everywhere! Don't you think the people at Star Wars Central thought these toys might be popular? Did you think they only made a handful of these toys? That they'd actually be collectors' items? Come on people!

There are so many new Star Wars toys it's ridiculous (not that the first three didn't have their fair share of inane toys like the Ewok roller skates and Landspeeder soap dishes). From the expected: Star Wars figures and vehicles, boardgames and lightsabers; to the absurd: floating beach toys and backyard pools; things have gotten way out of control. Toys meant for kids to PLAY WITH are being bought up by parents who put them in the closet and tell their children they are "hands off."

Figure 1: candy tongue

George Lucas, it seems, will let just about anyone put the Star Wars name on virtually any product. Some of the more utterly ridiculous include: Jar Jar Binks inflatable chair, Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul rotating lollipops and, perhaps the most disturbing, the "Jar Jar Binks Monster Mouth," (figure 1) a lollipop whose mouth opens and you suck on a candy tongue. Whoever thought up that one should not be allowed within a hundred yards of a school zone. Not surprisingly, many of the more out there toys center around Jar Jar Binks, the character Lucas seems to have dreamed up purely as a marketing tool.

Not to be left out in the Star Wars "memorabilia" blitzkrieg, I have a few ideas of my own. The new "adult oriented" Star Wars items: The Queen Amidala blow-up doll (also comes in Princess Leia wearing a gold bikini) and the vibrating lightsaber (including the double ended Darth Maul version for those adventurous types). I'll make millions.

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