originally published August 14, 2012
On the surface, Hasbro brings joy and smiles to hundreds of billions of people every second by giving Shortcake to our Strawberry, Action to our Figures, Ladders to our Chutes, and Head to our Mr. Potato. But underneath lies something more insidious, more… well, I don’t want to say evil, because then they’ll come after me. But it’s entirely possible they are evil.
First off, look at their name. Founded by Henry and Helal Hassenfeld, the company was originally called Hassenfeld Brothers. Look at all those H’s – and we all know that ‘H’ is the most decidedly evil letter in the alphabet (I’m looking at you, Howard Hesseman).
But there’s more. Did they get the name ‘Hasbro’ as an abbreviation of Hassenfeld Brothers, or because the company was originally located in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey? More ‘H’s. I’m telling you, this is a conspiracy.
They transitioned from selling textiles to producing pencils and school supplies, then to toys. The Hassenfeld Brothers decided they wanted to own the spirit of every American child. They aimed to invade their young minds through the Fun Cortex, which is located right beside the tiny part of the brain that remembers the lyrics to old Doobie Brothers songs.
In 1952, the Hassenfeld Brothers bought the rights to Mr. Potato Head from its inventor, George Lerner. All George got in return was fifty cents and a half-empty fifth of cheap gin (probably). Lerner, despondent and depressed, later took the lives of more than a dozen civilians when he flew a hijacked blimp into a busy frozen yogurt store.
In 1964, Hassenfeld Brothers felt they were missing out on 50% of the doll market, as they were only catering to girls and strange boys who played with dolls and were probably communists. They introduced the G.I. Joe line of ‘Action Figures’ – a solid, patriotic, red-blooded American toy. Their advertising campaign, in which they enlisted the US Government to help out by sending thousands of troops into Vietnam, thus promoting war as a healthy and fun diversion worth rooting for, received mixed results.
It was time for Hasbro to begin in earnest their takeover of American childhood. They purchased Romper Room, Inc. and rebranded it as Claster Television, Inc. (‘Claster’ being the name of the ancient pagan god of exploding bunnies). In the early 80s, Claster began producing animated shows which were designed exclusively for their value as Hasbro-toy tie-ins. These are cartoons we all fell for as children of the Plastic Decade: Transformers, Care Bears, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Bucky O’Hare & The Toad Wars… wait, I haven’t actually heard of that last one.
(Fortunately, there’s a vast repository of information and Bucky fan-fiction online.)
Hasbro knew that getting to kids through television and the toys with which they invented stories was an effective means of infesting their brains with subliminal messages. But to truly drive home the Hasbro agenda, they’d need the help of parents. And that meant finding a way for parents to play with their kids while passing on the subtle lessons Hasbro wanted us to learn. I call this ‘Hasbrofication’.
To this end, Hasbro acquired the Milton Bradley company in 1984. Now they could teach us to be the minions they wanted: Candy Land seduced us with the promise of intoxicating sugar; Twister inflicted pain upon us to prevent us from rising up in revolution; Yahtzee acclimatized us to writing down numbers in small squares – perfect drone-work; Chutes & Ladders was a thinly-veiled attack on the playground slide industry (Hasbro has no reach there), and The Game Of Life reminded us that one day, we will die.
In 1991 Hasbro sought to own the board game market by purchasing Parker Brothers, manufacturers of the best-selling board game of all time, Monopoly. It was under the Hasbro label that we have been inflicted with some of the more insipid mutations of the Monopoly franchise.
If you doubt that Hasbro is hell-bent on controlling your kids, have a look at some of the other products whose distribution they now control:
- Kenner, the company that Lucas tapped to disperse his Star Wars empire into the toyboxes of North American youth.
- Nerf, low-grade weapons manufacturer.
- Tiger Electronics, makers of the Furby. You think the Furby isn’t evil? Then they’ve already gotten to you.
- Tonka, which is being turned into a film. No really, they are doing this.
- TSR, Inc., the company that makes the mind-control game Dungeons & Dragons.
Hasbro has infiltrated every facet of our children’s playtime. This may sound like good business to you – but that’s only because you foolishly don’t seek out evil conspiracies in absolutely anything. That’s why they’ll get you.
When Hasbro acquired Kenner, it seemed like a good lift in the smaller company’s future. But after the over-saturation of Star Wars toys in 1999 led to declining profits, Hasbro yanked the company from its Cincinnati home, leaving hundreds of people without work, and denting the local economy.
Like every American corporation who has openly snuggled into the body-pillow of unrelenting evil, Hasbro moved most of their manufacturing contracts to Asian sweatshops. One of these factories was known to have hired 1000 junior high kids to work on the assembly line. The number of labor violations found at plants that produce Hasbro merchandise during a 2007 investigation is stomach-turning. I wish I was making this part up.
From Tinkertoys to Spirograph to Cabbage Patch Kids, Hasbro owns a huge chunk of the shelf-space in your local Toys ‘R Us. If your kids have ever owned a Lite-Brite, an Easy-Bake Oven, Play-Doh, or anything with the Pokemon or Sesame Street label on it, then they too have fallen under Hasbro’s spell. If you have ever played Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Risk, Clue (that’s Cluedo to my European friends), Cranium, Battleship, or Magic: The Gathering, then you have also submitted to the Hasbrogenda.
Do we fight back? Raise our children on cheap dollar-store knockoffs? Avoid Hasbro-owned candy, Hasbro-related video games, and the Hasbro musical toothbrushes? Stay away from Hasbro-linked films, like the Transformers series, the G.I. Joe movies and Battleship? Actually, yes to that last one – I heard Battleship was excremental.
Or maybe we lay back and allow the blinding rays of the Hasbro gleam to warm our skin. Maybe we should simply accept that our childhood was forged by the will of a monolithic empire, and our children have even less chance to escape. I think our best bet is to lay low, remain alert and stockpile our resources. Hasbro may have unwittingly provided us with sufficient weaponry to someday take them down.