Wednesday, January 8, 1997

Swearing Dolls Talk Back

Dolls o' Destruction

copyright 1999 Mark Bellis

HAMILTON JAN 8, 1997 - A Toronto toy company denies it's making swearing Smurfs or kinky Clever Cutie dolls.

"They're working perfectly - they're not swearing or cursing." says Irwin Toy public relations vice-president Scott Irwin, after the company received more complaints of their dolls using indecent language.

It started last week when a Brantford mother complained that a Baby Smurf doll she got for her daughter would say things like "Who gives a f---?".

Irwin says they have received three more complaints, one from Sarnia and the others from the Brantford area, about the smurf doll, and now Karin Guyatt, a Hamilton women says that a Clever Cutie doll, also made by Irwin, her daughter Kimberly Desjardins, 10, got for Christmas is saying bizarre things "It's definitely saying "I want to cut you" and "I like it when you cut me". Guyatt says.

The petite blonde doll, which comes with a hair dryer, brush and cell phone accessories which fit into an electronic socket on its hand, is capable of recognizing them and asking for them in a sing-song voice recorded by an American actress in New York, according to Irwin, and then making the sound effects of a running dryer and a ringing phone when the appropriate object is placed in its hand. It also clearly says, in the same chirpy voice, "I want to cut you".

"If some people are hearing that, it's coincidence" says Irwin, who says the dolls really are saying innocuous messsages like "I want to hug you" and "I like it when you hug me". "All of the dolls are alike" Irwin says, who says no one at Irwin has found a doll which actually says anything else than what it has been programmed to say, and likens the problem to people who hear offensive lyrics on pop songs, and phone into radio stations to complain, and once disk jockeys tell the audience that there may be offensive lyrics, more people believe that they hear them. "It sounds like they're saying such and such, but in fact, the recording artists never said that." Irwin says.

"She really loves that doll" said Guyatt, who says her daughter is hearing impaired and did not notice the doll's odd speech. Guyatt only found out what the doll was saying after her nephew was playing with her daughter and heard it a few days ago.

Irwin says the Clever Cutie and Baby Smurf doll have a variety of messages recorded onto electronic chips that are all the same for either doll. Debbie Brown, a company spokesperson,says " We only use nonalterable RAM chips" that cannot be changed after they leave the factory.

"I'd like a new doll" said Kimberly. Irwin has said it will replace the toy.

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