Movie Mom

Movie Mom

More Happy Meal Toys for Kids Promoting PG-13 Movies

posted by Nell Minow

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is asking McDonald’s to stop giving children Marvel comics toys that promote violent PG-13 movies.

The fast food giant’s latest giveaway for preschool boys features eight Marvel comic action figures, including The Human Torch, a man engulfed in flames, and The Thing, which menacingly roars “IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!” at the press of a button.

It’s bad enough to use junk toys to sell children on junk food. But now, for preschool boys, a so-called happy meal at McDonald’s features the horrifying spectacle of a man on fire and a menacing figure that explicitly spurs them to violence.


To sign their letter to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner, visit the CCFC website. You can also read the report issued by CCFC last month about food company expenditures of well over $1.6 billion to market their products to children and teenagers.

  • jestrfyl

    I am a genuine liberal, concerned for the well being of all humans and especially protective of children. But for Cryin’ Out Loud – someone get these people a comic book! Have they never revelled in the power of the Fantastic Four? Were they totally deprived of flying with Superman? Is there a chance they escaped the clutches of super-villains by the score? These people are Very Confused! They cannot believe they could help these kids if they do not understand the culture and context of kids! Children are not idiots, they know the difference between comic book superheroes and real life. It is adults that do not seem to make the distinction.
    I get the meal in the Happy Meals would not win any nutritional championships. But why excise the happy in the Happy Meal too?

  • Nell Minow

    I love comics, too, jestrfyl and would love to see kids read comics featuring these characters. But I believe this promotion is about the movies, which are not appropriate for kids, and that bugs me.

  • jestrfyl

    We may sit on opposite sides of the table on this one. Parents are quite likely to allow their kids to go to the movie (though it would be far better if they went with them). It is skewed in their direction and you KNOW the merchandising for this will be on lunch boxes, t-shirts, notebooks, stickers, and everywhere else from underwear to bicycles. I think singling out McDonalds is a not worth the effort or energy.
    Sadly our culture does not limit exposure to violence. Kids have an easy sense of separating this over the top kind of stuff from real violence. I think it is one more example of helocopter parenting. If anything it is an opportunity to talk with kids about what is in the movie versus what is real. I prefer promotions that emphasize talking with kids rather than simply slapping the toy from their hands with a stern “no”.

  • Umpire

    This is what we concern ourselves with. Toys that promote PG-13 rated movies? First off these are comic based characters. There are some adult themes in the books, but at the same time there are segments of the comics that are specifically meant for the younger set. As for the movies, unless things have changed since I was a kid, and later a father, the parent was the person in charge of what the child views.
    These are works of fiction and the toys are 3D representations of these mythical characters. They allow for imaginative play for kids, and they will play with them at their own level. I doubt that there is a seven year old playing with s Iron Man figure that portrays Tony Stark as a drunk womanizer. He or she will probably imagine Iron Man defeating an imaginary foe, alien, or natural disaster.
    As for violence, most kids know that the characters have super powers, or specific technology to fight crime and/or help citizens. Most of them live by a moral code. As a parent I think you can focus your child’s attention on the “good” things the character represents, and the values that your family cherishes.
    In the end, if you don’t want your child to possess these toys, then you can tell them “no” when they ask for them.
    One other point as to violent play. You can take toy guns and such out of the hands of kids, but if they want to play cops and robbers they’ll grab a stick and pretend it’s a rifle, and if you take that away he’ll point his index finger forward and make a pistol. It’s not the toys that lead to violence, it’s how your kid is raised, and in the end the type of human being he or she is inside.

  • Nell Minow

    I appreciate your points, Umpire and jestrfyl, and don’t want to make it appear that I feel more strongly about this issue than I do. But happy meals are directed at preschoolers and very small children who are too young to read comics or see the movies. Of course parents are responsible for what kids see, but I’d like to see them get some support with fewer mixed signals about the content of the films that are being promoted. I don’t like to see the studios and McDonald’s exploiting a loophole in the rules governing the marketing of PG-13 movies by calling these items “toys” instead of ads.

  • Vince

    Nell, I respect you, but come on! Banning superhero toys? What next? Banning simple adventure cartoons (like Avatar or Iron Man Armored Adventures) because they’re “too violent”? When I was a kid, my favorite show was X-Men (the 90s cartoon show). The show was dark at times and had adult themes (well, as much as a kid’s show could, anyway), but the most important thing is that it didn’t talk down to its audience and I adored it for that. These “moral guardian” types get more and more absurd by the year. Example (and I swear I’m not making this up): A few years ago, there were some dvds released of classic Sesame Street episodes from the 70s. On the back of the package was a disclaimer stating that those episodes “may not be appropriate for today’s child”. Sesame Street! For the love of god! Where will it end? What can possibly satisfy these people? I feel sorry for any children they have, I’ll say that much.

  • Toby Clark

    I think I’d be more inclined to agree if the example given wasn’t from the friendlier end of the PG-13 spectrum. I mean, comapred to, say, Hungry Jacks meals that Ive seen promoting the Dark Knight or Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the two Fantastic Four movies seem fairly safe, albeit not for preschoolers. And in any case, I think the promotion is more likely about The Superhero Squad Show, the most recent Marvel animated series, which, from what I’ve seen, makes its characters kid-friendly to a ridiculous degree.

  • Nell Minow

    Good point, Vince, and I saw that disclaimer on the original “Sesame Street” DVD. And good point, Toby, as well.

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