The L.O.L. Surprise! has to be the worst holiday gift ever

LOL Surprise unboxing
via YouTube

This toy, with its 50 layers of plastic, is designed to replicate the YouTube unboxing video experience -- because that's just what every young kid needs, right?

If you thought Hatchimals were a waste of money last Christmas, wait till you hear about this holiday season's top-selling toy. The "L.O.L. Surprise! Big Surprise" (yes, it has two 'surprises' in its name because we're talking about the 'mega limited edition' version) is a ball that measures 32 cm (12.5 in) across and contains 50 smaller balls inside, full of tiny plastic dolls and their clothes, shoes, and accessories. Some of the balls are plastic, while others are bath bombs that release their toys in the tub.

So, basically, as Scary Mommy wrote in her humorously scathing review of the toy:

"Once all is said and done, it's like a bunch of Polly Pockets communes exploded in your living room... [and] in addition to your living room being covered with enough plastic to clog a landfill your bathtub will be trashed too. Merry f***ing Christmas."

Apparently the $70 L.O.L. Surprise! (I'm just going to call it that) is on many a child's Christmas wishlist, and its manufacturer, MGA, says it's currently the top-selling toy in the United Kingdom. There may be some disappointed kids, though, since Walmart, Target, Kmart, and Toys R Us are all sold out everywhere, but Scary Mommy says you can nab one for $700 on Amazon (phew!).

MGA, however, may have run into a snag with a recent UK mom's Facebook post, shared more than 7,000 times. Ciara Umar bought a L.O.L. Surprise! for her daughter and was unimpressed: "I would definately [sic] not recommend it if you don't want to waste your money the pic on the right is all you get just pre warning yas." Umar went into further detail with the Manchester Evening News:

"I was mortified when I saw the contents. Don't get me wrong, she was over the moon opening them and had five baths with the bath bombs, but then just went back to her iPad. The novelty wore off within 15 minutes...It's not even a full ball either, it's only half a ball as the back is flat."

Some parents are criticizing Umar, saying they'd spend the money anyways just to put a smile on their child's face. Comments like that make me groan inside. A smile is a wonderful thing, yes, but should it come at any cost? At the the cost of wasted dollars on a crappy toy that generates absurd amounts of non-recyclable plastic? No. There comes a point at which parents are fully entitled to draw the line and say, "Sorry, kid, but your desire for instant gratification must be overridden by environmental considerations."

Then there's the disturbing inspiration for the L.O.L. Surprise! MGA made it because of the growing popularity of YouTube unboxing videos and wanted to recreate that addictive experience for kids. What a triumph for consumer culture! Except that some kids are watching unboxing videos of the L.O.L. Surprise! and finding their own experience significantly less exciting since they already know what's inside. Who would've guessed?

Issac Larian, founder and chief executive of MGA, told Mercury News, "Frankly, we were seeing these videos everywhere and thought, why not just bring an unboxing toy to these kids?"

So, the entire purpose of this toy is to recreate the thrill of the chase, the excitement that comes with opening something new. The toy itself is not the end goal here; in fact, the plastic dolls and balls sound impressively awful. This 'toy' is all about training our children to be model consumers from a young age, to shop for the sake of shopping, to get them addicted to the thrill of new stuff.

I can think of a few things I'd prefer for my children this Christmas -- you know, meaningful gifts, gifts with value and lasting appeal, gifts that don't spell environmental destruction with every layer that comes off. And I do not believe I'm a bad parent for having those standards.

There is nothing wrong or unloving about using gift-giving as an opportunity to talk with kids about what's acceptable and what is not from a consumption perspective. The more parents who leave the L.O.L. Surprise! on the shelf this holiday season, the more likely we -- the people who do not wish to be defined as consumers -- will have the last laugh.

The L.O.L. Surprise! has to be the worst holiday gift ever
This toy, with its 50 layers of plastic, is designed to replicate the YouTube unboxing video experience -- because that's just what every young kid needs, right?

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