Chicago attorney Marc Cooperman, who has represented a toy company in lawsuits involving Beanie Babies’ names, hit the nail on the head when he said he believes Ty Inc. got what it wanted in its release of the Sasha and Malia dolls that “were not intended to bear the likeness of President Barack Obama’s daughters”: PUBLICITY.

I would suspect that the company knew when it introduced the two dolls, they would cause some commotion and the company would get some press out of it.

All proceeds from the sales of the Sasha and Malia dolls, which have been renamed “Marvelous Mariah” and “Sweet Sydney,” will apparently be donated to charity.

Maybe now we can all move on to the next Obama saga, saving our economy from economic collapse.

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I’ve mentioned before that as a marketer, I have no general opposition to sales and entrepreneurship. Making things and selling things – it’s a large part of what makes the world go around. Michelle Obama’s anger irritation with the Ty toy company, though, is understandable – even warranted – in my opinion. I went back and reread the story, and Michelle’s own word for Ty’s actions was “inappropriate.”

Those who claim that Michelle and Barack used their daughters as part of their political campaign are misguided. How soon they forget Barack’s anger when the cameras followed him and Sasha through their Chicago neighborhood on Halloween. The girls are smart and beautiful – and a cherished part of what makes the Obama family so special. The two times we’ve seen them boldly and publicly were Election Night and at the Inauguration, as we should have.

If you want to talk about displaying kids for political gain, you need look back no further than Sarah Palin dragging her infant son around till all hours, only to have her youngest daughter care for him. And the pregnant daughter and fiance-by-force. And the son in the military. Give me a break, you folks who can’t/don’t/won’t see reality for what it is.

One question in the midst of the commentary was how the Obama girls are being harmed by these dolls. The mere fact that their father is now the most scrutinized man on the planet will affect these girls’ lives in ways unimagined, and in ways far more sustained than having toy likenesses made of them. But that doesn’t make Ty’s position right. It’s hard to argue that this is anything other than profiteering by Ty.

Not sure whether it warrants a full-fledged boycott, but I know I won’t knowingly be buying or recommending Ty toys as stocking stuffers anytime soon.

Just my two cents, for what their worth.

UPDATE, 25 Jan. 3:06 p.m.

Not being the denizen of the Internet (or the blogging world) that I am, my sister hadn’t heard or seen any of the bruhaha surrounding the Obama girls dolls. Her opinion, succinct and common-sense as ever: Michelle and the Obama family have much bigger/more important things to worry about. These dolls are the least of their concerns, and she would have been much better off just letting this go without any public comment. My sister may have a point…

Jamal is questioned by fraud detective in "Slumdog Millionaire"

Jamal is questioned by fraud detective in "Slumdog Millionaire"

I went to the movies at a local Phoenix multiplex last night. Saw Slumdog Millionaire. Had heard fantastic things about it. Actually, it’s not bad … but not nearly as great as the reviewers would have you believe. The biggest problem is that it feels schizophrenic; can’t decide if it wants to be an action thriller or a fairytale love story. As a result, it does an awkward job of trying to be both. And speaking of undecided, there’s even a Bollywood-style dance sequence at the end. Nevertheless, it’s more feel good and uplifting than not. One reviewer called it “visually stunning,” and I’ll definitely give it that.

So as I’m walking to my car, I’m pondering all of the above … did I like it more or dislike it more? Would I recommend it? What would my Indian friend, Sunil, think of it? But I was not so wrapped in thought that I failed to notice a license plate frame on the car parked next to mine: Keep Capitalism in Christmas. Hmmmmm … my visceral reaction was somewhat startling, in that I bristled. Keep Capitalism in Christmas. Really? Do we want that? Do we need MORE of that? And who was this guy, anyway? By whom does he feel so threatened that he needs to promote such a strange and specific belief in such an odd place? That’s what it felt like, a defense of keeping Christmas commercial.

So here’s where I make my disclaimer. I am a capitalist. I work as an editorial / marketing consultant. One of the things I do is help small businesses improve their marketing messages so that they can sell more stuff. In fact, that’s one of the reasons this blog exists. To put my own hand-crafted wares out into the world, so that people have the chance to buy them. So please don’t mistake me for an anti-capitalism zealot. I am not.

I’m still working through this – so please pardon if you’re getting some stream-of-consciousness here. The thing is, maybe it’s just the word capitalism. I don’t think I’ve ever self-referred in that way before. Usually, I refer to myself – and my colleagues in small business – as an entrepreneur. Having grown up Catholic, though, for my entire life the emphasis has always lain elsewhere for Christmas. Even though I don’t really practice anymore, I still love the spectacle of Midnight Mass. I believe Christmas is a season of joy, hope, new beginnings, love, family, home and hearth, community, service, and the like. The last thing that would come to mind when I hear the word “Christmas,” if I were playing the the word association game, would be “capitalism.”

There’s a movement right now to reclaim Christmas. More service, less shopping. Certainly some of it is church-sponsored, as is the case with Advent Conspiracy. Their theme: worship fully; spend less; give more; love all. Even for the less churchy among us, who can really argue that point?

But there’s also the more socially conscious Rethinking Christmas, a blog dedicated to imagining Christmas traditions that prioritize relationships, justice, and creativity.

And the Canadians have been on the less-commercial-Christmas bandwagon for some time now, with Buy Nothing Christmas, a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites, but open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action.

Yesterday, at the final meeting for the year of my Toastmasters club, our theme was reflection, and one of the Table Topics questions was whether people are generally happier and friendlier during the holidays. The unequivocal answer from the respondent was NO. People are crankier, more stressed, less happy, and generally more irritable during the holidays. While I’m not necessarily saying I agree with this speaker, IF his perception is true, hasn’t something gone terribly awry? If the whole point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of a savior … to cherish family and friends, celebrate goodwill, and champion love … why do we let ourselves be stressed to death at this time of year?

A couple of college students deconstructed Dr. Seuss’s Grinchy tale in a slightly less than tongue-in-cheek fashion that sheds a little perspective on Amercains’ effort at balance in this regard.

Box of Love

I stand by my initial reaction to the “Keep Capitalism in Christmas” statement. I begrudge no retailer his or her right to earn a living. I hold it against no parent who wants to make their kiddos happy by buying the latest toy or gadget. I love wrapping and giving brightly covered packages as much as the next person. But I think, if we really stop to ponder, ruminate, and consider, we may remember that there is more to Christmas than the commercials would have us believe.

NONCOMMERCIAL STOCKING STUFFER IDEAS

  • Gift certificate to shovel snow (or rake the leaves, mow the lawn, or clean the pool – depending where in the country you live)
  • Poem you write from scratch
  • Lyrics to a cherished song – or a favorite poem – handwritten or computer-designed
  • Invitation to church or a club you know the person would appreciate
  • Invitation to coffee and conversation
  • Promise to walk the dog or some other small favor to help out in a pinch
  • Recipe to a favorite dish
  • Photos from a cherished vacation or event
  • Handmade greeting cards
  • Handmade scarf, hat, or slippers
  • Book on tape that you record yourself
  • CD of affirmations that you record yourself
  • Calendar created from favorite photos
  • Promise to regularly walk, bike, or exercise with the recipient

The sky’s the limit … even as the dollar amount is zero.