A Webkinz Primer

Bob Mackey

Even if you’re a normal, functioning member of society, there’s no escaping that beast called the fad monster. And even when you defeat it, the evidence left behind in photographs is enough to turn that boring old “cry for attention” gimmick of yours into a no-nonsense incident involving you, 50 pounds of dynamite, and the front of a train.

But there’s no need to kill yourself just because your mom unearthed a shoebox of photos featuring you modeling Pokemon apparel. With the coming and going of fads, most are forgotten a few years after their horrible stillbirths. Everything from those color-change sweatshirts to presidential voting trends is quickly abandoned for the next empty, mass-produced concept.

So why all of this fervor over fads? In case you don’t know how to read newspaper articles and skip right to the text without reading the headlines, it’s my duty to inform you that today’s lesson is about a little product called Webkinz.

To best introduce Webkinz, I will tell the story of a similar product, the fate of which will no doubt be shared by Webkinz: Beanie Babies. If those last two words gave you a shiver, you know all too well the tragic tale about to unfold. In those dusty, sepia-toned years of the late 1990s, there existed a mythical land known as eBay, where the value of pieces of felt and stuffing (i.e. Beanie Babies) was elevated from mere pennies to some crazy number that only existed on the Internet. When scientists discovered this number to be fictional, Beanie Babies all over the world were locked away in storage chests, where they continue the same decaying process that makes the toys at Goodwill so damned creepy.

I realize I haven’t fully described Webkinz yet. The thing is, I really don’t need to. All you need is a vague familiarity of Beanie Babies to know what Webkinz are. There is an added component to Webkinz, though: the Internet. You don’t just own a Webkinz – in a Cabbage Patchian move, the creators have made it so you become the legal guardian of your stuffed animal via a binding contract on the Internet.

To me, this makes the whole collectability aspect of Webkinz a bit twisted. You may want to sell and trade your little stuffed pets, but this capitalistic aspect of the toy means cute little animal families are being broken up for monetary gain. (Though I guess this is a good tool to teach small children moral relativity.)

As a college student, you may think you’re beyond stuffed animal fads, making my information useless. But I’m sure there’s some small, na’ve person in your family who is afflicted by Webkinz-mania. Wake these little tykes from their racecar or princess beds, gather up their Webkinz, and give the pets a Viking funeral. If you don’t have access to a fjord, a gravel pit or the bed of an old pickup truck will make fine substitutions. It may seem cruel, but you’ll be saving these children from a lifetime of mistakes. And the horrible childhood memories you inflict will help them sustain successful performance arts careers in their angry, young adult lives.

Bob Mackey is a graduate student in English and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].