When the Mattel brain trust was designing a boyfriend for Barbie, one of the most important decisions they had to make was what would be in between his legs. Ultimately driven by a desire to play it safe and some manufacturing complications, they went with a small crotch bump, the same bump Ken has had since his 1961 debut.
But times have changed, and while Ken dolls remain dickless, the boy versions of L.O.L. Surprise! dolls — one of, if not the most popular toy of the past two holiday seasons — are anatomically correct. That’s right, they’re packing a tiny plastic dick and balls, what manufacturer MGA Entertainment calls “a feature suggestive of boy parts.” (It’s a tiny dick and balls.)
Last year was the first in which boy L.O.L. Surprise! dolls were available, prompting a spate of online complaints from and at least one local news story about parents who had unsuspectingly exposed their kids to plastic genitals where they assumed a Ken-like bump would be.
But even if they had known the boy dolls had dicks, it’s not like parents could have only opted for girl versions. As their name suggests, L.O.L. Surprise! dolls are surprise toys. They come sealed in spheres so kids don’t know which character they’re going to get when they unwrap them. It might be Jelly Jam a.k.a. “The Sweetest Thing” or “Queen Bee” from the Glitterati club.
It might be a girl. It might be a boy.
MGA Entertainment, the company that manufactures and sells L.O.L. Surprise! dolls caught a lot of flack for not providing any kind of warning, and while the Amazon listing for this year’s L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Disco Chalet does have such a warning the actual box that it comes in does not.
There is now a distinct Boys series of L.O.L. Surprise! dolls that remove the mystery of the gender reveal, but its packaging similarly doesn’t warn parents about what’s inside anatomically.
Now will seeing a plastic penis between the legs of their new doll lead be a traumatic experience that leads to a lifetime of therapy? Of course not. Would it be nice for parents to have more of a heads up that a difficult conversation with their kids is coming? Definitely, so consider this your warning. Just be cool about it. After all, nearly half of the people your kid will ever meet will have a penis, and that should not come as a surprise.