Friday, May 21, 2004

Gumball Machine Stereotypes

There is a vinyl collectable phenom sweeping the gumball machines of American that goes by the name of “Homies”. For those of you not familiar, Homies are an assortment of small (approx. 1”) toy figures modeled after members of the Hispanic race. Mind you, Homies are not the usual iconic Hispanic images such as let’s say, a man wearing a traditional sombrero with an acoustic guitar, or a woman in colorful, flowing dresses. But instead by inserting a mere .50 cents (two shiny quarters) into the now electronic automated gumball machines (yes it even accepts dollar bills and gives you change now) we are dispensed our very own, (one of ten in the series) plastic, mildly demeaning, clichéd “west coast/South Compton” type Hispanic thugs. In true ésse fashion some of them are wearing button down shirts (with only the top button fastened) and white t-shirts underneath. Others have on long khaki shorts with white tube socks on pulled up to their knees. It’s all there, tattoos, Hispanic Chica’s in TIGHT blue jeans, even a guy in a wheelchair (reminiscent of the good ‘ol drive-by days). If you’re really lucky you can get one of the older Hispanic Homie gentlemen wearing a purple pimp overcoat and carrying a newspaper and cane under one arm.

Now I must agree Homies are kinda cool and I find it hard to pass by the machines without buying one, but I’m an adult prone to collecting ridiculous things just because they make me laugh. My point is, I simply wonder if it’s a bad idea to be vending these stereotypical toys to kids, and are the Latino and Hispanic populations ok with this? I’m not Hispanic, so who am I to say… it just strikes me as strange. Maybe they do like the idea… Maybe they’d feel it’s nice to finally see toys reflect real life (not to say the whole Latino race is full of thugs and kids in baggy clothes, but a portion of people do look like those portrayed by the Homies).

Can you imagine if someone came out with a line of Bros? Little black guys drinking 40’s of Olde E and bottles of Wild Irish Rose. Maybe one of them could look real shifty and have crack pipe burns around his mouth. Then of course there’d have to be a pregnant woman walking a rotweiller with ten snot nosed kids in tow. Don’t like Bros? How about the Tards then? Small figures modeled after people who are mentally retarded. Maybe a guy with encephalitis, or a kid in a motorized wheelchair with a helmet on…. Both of these ideas are horrible and of course the public (not to mention also the NAACP and Special Olympics) would be probably be outraged. But, again, do you think poor black people who actually sit around all day drinking or a kid with Down’s syndrome would really mind? Or, could they relate and think it was novel to see “action figures” modeled after the real lives they live? I’m really not sure, but I can guarantee that if either of these types of toys were made, SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE (probably me) would buy them.

I can only conclude that since Homies are in the gumball machines that no one really cares and I’m the only fool devoting this much thought to it. So, hey holmes here’s an idea, everyone turn your hat to the left side outta respect for the west coast next time you pass the super dooper gumball machine alter which you can find shorties praying to daily in your local supermarket.

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