It’s a tug-of-war over toys. And it’s not the kids who are spatting—it’s the adults.
In late October, a Florida mom successfully petitioned Toys R Us to remove from its stores a line of toys based on the Emmy-winning AMC television show Breaking Bad, which tells the story of a high-school chemistry teacher and his student sidekick, who become crystal meth dealers. Susan Schrivjer launched the Change.org petition criticizing the store—whose customer base is families with young children—for selling “a Breaking Bad doll, complete with a detachable sack of cash and a bag of meth, alongside children’s toys [as] a dangerous deviation from the [company’s] family friendly values.”
The petition garnered signatures from more than 9,000 supporters and gained momentum after Schrivjer appeared on The Today Show arguing that “anything to do with drugs” should not be made available in a toy store. Following Schrivjer’s petition, Toys R Us released a statement to clarify that the Breaking Bad doll packaging “clearly notes that the items are intended for ages 15 and up” and are only sold “in the adult action figure area of our store.” But Today Show staffers found the drug dealer figures within reach of Super Mario Brothers figures, G.I. Joe dolls, and other products of clear interest to children.
“Parents and grandparents around the world shop at Toys R Us, online and in [stores], with their children and should not be forced to explain why a certain toy comes with a bag of highly dangerous and illegal drugs or why someone who sells those drugs deserves to be made into an action figure,” wrote Schrivjer in her petition.
Toys R Us eventually gave in, pulling the toys from both its website and brick-and-mortor stores. Actor Aaron Paul—who played Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad—responded with a tweet. “Wait, so @ToysRUs pulled all of the Breaking Bad figures from their shelves and still sells Barbie? Hmmm … I wonder which is more damaging?”
He added in a follow-up tweet: “And what about all of the violent video games you sell @ToysRUs? Do you still sell those? Florida mom really messed it up for everyone.”
Paul also tweeted a link to a petition created by California resident Daniel Picket, calling for the store to keep the dolls and other adult-themed toys on its shelves. The petition currently has more than 62,000 signatures. Now the argument has become one highlighting the apparent hypocrisy of Toys R Us, which Paul and supporters claim is bending to the whims of one self-righteous mommy while failing to thoughtfully examine the other mature products it makes available to families. As of early Friday morning, the store still sold video games Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto V, and Halo, all of which are rated Mature, for gamers 17 and older.
The store responded to the controversy with quick wit. Toys R Us spokesperson Kathleen Waugh told NBC News the action figures had taken an “indefinite sabbatical”—a reference to a classic Breaking Bad line.
— by Caroline Leal