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Barbie Tells CPSC to Get The Lead Out In Viral Video

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another reason to avoid sleeping with an ex: fear of contracting lead poisoning.

Just ask Barbie, who got it from Ken.

That's according to "Toxic Toys: A Poisonous Affair," a YouTube attack on the Consumer Product Safety Commission produced by the nonprofit Campaign for America's Future.

The video's release last week came after Democratic lawmakers called for the ousting of CPSC acting Chairman Nancy Nord and after the California attorney general sued 20 companies -- including Barbie-maker Mattel -- for producing toys with unlawful quantities of lead.

But you want to hear how Barbie got that leaden STD, don't you?

"Toxic Toys" begins with the Barbster chilling in a nightclub.

"Hey, Barbie. I haven't seen you in ages." It's Ken, who, as everyone knows, went splitsville with Barb back in 2004.

Flash forward: the bedroom of Barbie's Dream House the next morning. Ken's shirt is open halfway down his chest.

"Thanks for last night, Ken," Barbie says sweetly.

But a week later, Barbie's phoning with an awkward question about his bill of health. Since their rendezvous, she's been having weird "symptoms," she says.

The revelation: "It's . . . it's lead poisoning."

Heh heh heh.

And then, a message lambasting the CPSC for employing "only one person" to test toys, plus a plea for Nord's resignation.

Lead as the new VD: It works, mostly because current toy recall hysteria is reminiscent of a sex-ed PSA in which a doctor diagnoses the football captain with chlamydia, warning him that you can't tell who has it.

Originally, the "Toxic Toys" message came in the form of a written report discussing "the fact that in a globalized economy we need to reinvent our government safeguards," says Roger Hickey, CAF co-director.

When releasing that report didn't bring the masses to its Web site, CAF decided to reach out to the YouTube generation with some Barbie bedroom action.

In real life, the recalled Mattel toys were not the dolls themselves, but the Barbie Dream Kitty Condo, the Barbie Dream Puppy House and the Barbie Bathtub and Toilet Playset. Perhaps that last one can be the setting for a video sequel -- who knows what Barbie could catch if she forgets to lay down toilet paper?

"Toxic Toys" has gained about 40,000 viewers, and the annoyance of the CPSC.

"I'm not going to dignify the video with any kind of response other than to say it's riddled with inaccuracies," says Julie Vallese, an agency spokeswoman.

The "only one toy tester" claim became popular after the press reported earlier this fall that the CPSC had only one full-time tester. Vallese has been responding to it ever since.

"No one person at the commission has the title of toy tester," she said. Instead, the CPSC employs about 80 toxicologists, chemists, engineers and other professionals whose primary duty is toy inspection.

Of course, researching facts is not nearly as fun as replaying Ken's dull "Oh, no!" response to Barbie's bad news, in which he uncannily channels Keanu Reeves.

FYI, Anne Thompson, the CAF media specialist who came up with the concept for "Toxic Toys," says the video that ended up on YouTube was not the full-length version.

In the original, she says, things got considerably more steamy. "There was some cradling," she says, as well as a kiss as passionate as one can get between two people who don't have tongues.

But apparently, there was no protection.

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