Three weeks ago the New York Times reported that Mattel is producing Ken and Barbie dolls based on four characters from the hit TV series Mad Men to promote the show’s fourth season, which starts on the AMC cable network in July. And at the American International Toy Fair in February, Mattel introduced Barbie’s 125th and 126th job titles to date, as voted on by consumers: computer engineer and TV anchor.

The latter career was chosen by girls, while it’s safe to assume that the winner of the “popular vote” was due in no small part to all those thirtysomething male toy collectors who dream that a gal like Barbie is just one interview away from joining their company’s IT department. That is, if those men still have jobs — the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January that one in five American men is unemployed. So even though Barbie won’t be turning heads at the unemployment office anytime soon, what’s the job market like for some of America’s other favorite toys?

Dora the Explorer. She may be able to speak two languages, but Dora is still exploring Craigslist postings, job listings, and the want ads every day. Can you say “complete waste of time”? Very good!

Legos. Because of the downturn in the real estate market, construction jobs are scarce. Thousands of Legos “hard hats” have been sitting around the past year and a half as they wait for construction projects to resume, passing the time by trying on other kinds of hats, like baseball caps and astronaut helmets. Despite the stress caused by their financial uncertainty, not to mention their fingerless hands, the Legos boys never stop smiling.

Slinky. The toy that’s “fun for a girl and a boy” is enjoying a steady side career now that the Mafia has endorsed it as an acceptable substitute for piano wire.

The Six Million Dollar Man. To save on maintenance, Colonel Steve Austin’s bionic arms and legs have been permanently removed. Good thing he can still make that cool electronic jumping noise with his mouth.

Weebles. It used to be that these egg-shaped Americans wobbled but didn’t fall down. But once widespread alcoholism entered the picture in 2008, equilibrium was no longer guaranteed.

Sorry! This board game has had a career resurgence after being given to numerous laid-off employees in lieu of a verbal explanation. (It’s often preceded by a gifting of the game Clue.)

Ken. Although Mattel’s Mad Men dolls are set to debut in July, Barbie’s significant other has fallen on hard times, losing his doll house, his doll car, and even his doll clothes in quick succession. Ken was recently arrested in Malibu after soliciting an undercover cop for anatomically incorrect sexual favors.

Smurfs. Reporter Smurf is now known as Depressed Smurf.

Transformers. As long as Americans continue to not buy American-made cars, teenage boys who look like Shia LaBeouf will continue to not have poorly written adventures with extraterrestrial robots disguised as Ford Camaros.

Magic 8 Ball. Still making a healthy living getting people’s hopes up for no good reason.

Tickle Me Elmo. Psychological damage caused by a severe tickling at the hands of a Catholic altar boy in 2004 left Elmo a shell of his former self. The soft ‘n’ cuddly resident of Sesame Street has been unable to hold down a steady job ever since.

Play-Doh. With food prices continuing to squeeze the budgets of average American families, Play-Doh has aggressively made its case as an acceptable meat substitute, earning millions in the process.

My Little Pony. Went krazy, became Krazy Glue.

Monopoly’s Mr. Moneybags. Aw, boo-hoo! The jolly old zillionaire lost a few hundred million last year. I guess he’ll have to wait until next year to buy Canada. Waaaaah!!!

Little Green Army Men. With wars still raging in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reports of an unprecedented military buildup just across the border in your little brother’s room, these brave warriors won’t be coming home for at least a few more years.

Mr. Potato Head. Donated himself to a food pantry for the greater good; last seen as undercooked French fries. (R.I.P. John Patrick Seamus Potato Head, 1952-2009)

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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