TIME Body Image

Thousands of People Want Victoria’s Secret to Apologize for ‘Perfect Body’ Ad

But can it make a difference?

More than 16,000 people have signed a U.K. petition asking Victoria’s Secret to apologize for an “irresponsible,” “body-shaming” ad.

The lingerie company sparked outrage for a new campaign celebrating “The Perfect ‘Body.'” The ad copy is a riff on the brand’s “Body” lingerie line, but since the slogan hovers above the supermodels’ bodies, people say it sends the wrong message.

Dear Kate, an underwear company “made by women for women,” insists that the lingerie industry as a whole can and should do better. “As if women need a reminder of our society’s homogenous definition of beauty, the ad features ten models with almost identical body shapes,” its website reads. “The creators of the ad probably didn’t think twice about the message it is sending, and to us, it’s irresponsible marketing.”

Here is Dear Kate’s alternative:

But can the petition incite change? Petition writers Frances Black, Gabriella Kountourides and Laura Ferris note that “we have yet to hear a single word from Victoria’s Secret! It can’t be much longer until they listen up and realise that they have some apologising to do.”

Victoria’s Secret did not reply to TIME’s request for comment.

But the “Perfect Body” campaign is in line with past marketing efforts. Victoria Secret’s previous “Love Your Body” campaign (which also incited backlash) provides a stark contrast to companies like Dove’s take on promoting an ideal body image.

Some companies just prefer to promote “perfect bodies” rather than “real beauty.”

Read next: Why Teens Are Turning to Human Growth Hormones for the ‘Perfect’ Body

TIME society

How the Average American Man’s Body Compares to Others Around The World

"When you look at the images side-by-side, you can really see the differences"

Pittsburgh-based digital artist Nickolay Lamm was on vacation in Catalonia, Spain, last year when he noticed something. “I think I’m being objective when I say that a lot of the people were just very fit,” he says. At least more fit than what he saw back home. And so Lamm decided to dive into body measurement statistics collected by organizations like the CDC to create models that represent the physique of the average man from different countries.

“Basically, I wanted to represent how we as a country are a little overweight when it comes to other countries,” he says. “Obesity is a huge issue, it costs our health care industry so much money, so I just wanted to create a simple way to illustrate something people probably know in the back of their minds, they just haven’t seen it all laid out so clearly.”

Nickolay Lamm

While the images first went public last year, they are making their rounds online again — right in time for Halloween. (A time when body image is at the back of people’s minds.)

Nickolay Lamm

“When you look at the images side-by-side, you can really see the differences,” Lamm says.

Nickolay Lamm
Nickolay Lamm
Nickolay Lamm

Lamm doesn’t know why exactly these images resonate with an audience, but people always seem surprised. “We see all these numbers and statistics,” he says, “but sometimes we just want to see it laid out.”

Nickolay Lamm

The artist is perhaps best known for creating the anti-Barbie. The soon-be-released Lammily doll is based on the average American woman’s proportions, rather than unattainable measurements that would make it hard for a real woman to walk or even just exist. He also hopes to create a male version of the doll after the product goes to market.

Lamm does note that scrutiny regarding body image is often directed toward women rather than men. “It’s interesting, I remember I was at a bar once and guys were comparing all the other women, but they kind of look like the images I made,” he says. “Who are we to judge when we aren’t looking perfect either.”

TIME society

Every Infant Should Dress as Ruth Baby Ginsburg for Halloween

Stop trying. This is the best costume of 2014

Considering reproducing? We now submit Exhibit A for why having a baby could be the right choice for you: This infant dressed up as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Quick, someone give this kid a Notorious RBG shirt immediately. The Ruth Baby Ginsburg Halloween costume should be every infant’s Halloween costume.

(h/t: Elle)

TIME society

11 Ways to Trick People Into Thinking Your Regular Clothes Are a Halloween Costume

You'll be asked what you are so many times, you can test them all!

So you don’t like dressing up for Halloween. And while you’re completely comfortable with your decision to abstain — be it due to time, money or just general ennui — you probably aren’t excited for the inevitable person in a sexy Frida Kahlo costume stopping you in a bar, raising her one eyebrow and pointedly asking: “So what are you supposed to be?”

Rather than running across the room screaming, “Damn you, costume-sugar industrial complex!,” here are some retorts you can use to trick people into thinking your regular clothes are actually a Halloween costume. When someone asks what you’re dressed up as, you can say:

  1. I’m a conscientious objector
  2. I’m the bass player from [insert pretentious sounding, fake band name here]
  3. I’m an undercover cop
  4. I’m covering this for The Times [scribble notes furiously]
  5. I’m a fashion blogger [take picture of them with iPhone, glare]
  6. I’m hungover
  7. I’m a secular humanist
  8. [Shout] This is what a feminist looks like!
  9. I’m normcore
  10. I’m #blessed/#flawless
  11. I’m sexy [insert your full name here, un-do top button, raise your two eyebrows back at sexy Frida]

And there you have it. Considering how many times you’ll get asked what you are for Halloween, you’ll probably get the opportunity to test all of our comebacks. (Maybe multiple times).

See More:

The Definitive History of Sexy Halloween Costumes

Inside the Weird World of Sexy Halloween Costumes for Dogs

TIME society

Hello Kitty at 40: Sexist Throwback or Empowering Icon?

Hello Kitty fans pose for photos in a giant tea cup at the Hello Kitty Con, the first-ever Hello Kitty fan convention, held at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Oct. 30, 2014, in Los Angeles Jae C. Hong—AP

In honor of Hello Kitty's 40th birthday celebration, Hello Kitty Con, we talked to experts and fans about her influence on women

This week, about 25,000 of the world’s most devoted Hello Kitty fans are expected to assemble in LA’s Little Tokyo district for the first-ever Hello Kitty Con–a four-day celebration of the character’s 40th birthday, going on now. Created by the Japanese company Sanrio, the little white cartoon has become one of the best-selling licensed entertainment characters ever, generating an estimated $8 billion annually for Sanrio, according to a company spokesperson.

The event, which started October 30 and runs through November 2, has been a long time coming for her most fervent acolytes—adult women who played with her as children in the 70s and 80s and still incorporate her into their daily lives. The sold-out event has acres of adorableness–from Kitty costumed fans to crystal jewelry and even historic artifacts like the very first product to feature the character –a coin purse from 1974, which is on display behind velvet ropes.

Despite her seemingly benign and utterly adorable appearance, the character has become a polarizing cult figure around the world. Fans who collect everything Hello Kitty say she’s empowering, or at the very least a harmless hobby. Critics say she’s a sexist throwback to a time when girls, particularly Asian girls, were supposed to be cute and silent (the character has no mouth). Meanwhile, in some feminist circles, she’s also been embraced as a counterintuitive symbol of freedom to be feminine and strong. And to further muddy the picture, Sanrio recently clarified that the character is actually a third-grade girl and not a cat. A 40-year-old girl who looks just like a cat that is.

To get to the bottom of the Hello Kitty phenomenon, we asked experts and female fans to reflect on Hello Kitty “the girl” and the outsized influence she’s had on the culture over the last 40 years.

The first question is of course, why doesn’t she have a mouth. She’s all eyes. Sanrio has always said Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth so people can project their feelings onto her, imagine she’s happy or sad when they’re happy or sad. “She is so empowering because she can be anything you want her to be,” says Jill Koch, Senior Vice President of Brand Management & Marketing at Sanrio. “It’s a lot more powerful to not have to speak.” That way, “women feel like Hello Kitty listens,” says Yuko Yamaguchi, Tokyo-based head designer of Hello Kitty for more than 30 years. “She makes you feel understood.”

Jamie Rivadeneira, owner of Japan LA, a boutique that sells Japanese pop culture merchandise, explains why she has captured the imagination of so many little girls for so many years: “I was naturally quiet as a child, and I related to Kitty because she didn’t talk. She doesn’t have a mouth.”

Hello Kitty’s lack of mouth may also just reflect the Japanese way of showing emotion, which doesn’t always involve expressing feelings using words, according to Christine Yano, anthropology professor at the University of Hawaii, who curated the Hello Kitty exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in LA with Rivadeneira. In some ways, Hello Kitty has become the international representation of Japan’s culture of “kawaii,” which are items that are cute and meant to spread happiness and promote friendship. The little cat-like girl has become a touchstone for many Asian girls who’ve grown up in America. “She was made by an Asian company, so unlike Barbie, it was cool to have this Asian cartoon that’s ours,” says Kristina Wong, 36, a Chinese-American writer and comedian. “The first people to get Hello Kitty stuff were Asian girls.”

But not everyone’s a fan. “In the West, having a mouth is important because it gives you a voice, which is power, so some see her as anti-feminist, anti-assertive, anti-vocal,” explains Yano, author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek across the Pacific. And indeed, the quiet Kitty has gotten a lot of flack on some Western parenting blogs. One mother writes, “Parents raise their daughters to be confident, articulate and outspoken,” so Hello Kitty’s lack of mouth sends girls “mixed messages about self-esteem,” while another writes, “It’s hard to shout, ‘I am woman, hear me roar,’ sans mouth,” after her three-year-old daughter fell in love with the character.

Likewise, a 2004 editorial in The Japan Times, an English-language Japanese newspaper, argued UNICEF shouldn’t be using Hello Kitty to raise money for girls education programs noting that “someone needs to explain how a cat with no mouth can be a spokesperson for anything—especially girls’ education—and how an image that embodies female submissiveness is supposed to help banish gender-based stereotypes. Kitty is soft and pliable, doesn’t speak and sports a cute bow on her head: There’s your role model, girls!”

She has also gotten flack when she’s been seen as a symbol of the quiet, passive and submissive Asian woman stereotype. Take Avril Lavigne’s 2014 music video for “Hello Kitty,” which critics bashed because she used expressionless Japanese women as back-up dancers, who looked like “props,” as she screamed “Hello Kitty, you’re so pretty” over and over again.

“Avril does not relate to, look at, talk to, the Japanese women in the video,” says Sharon Kinsella, author of Schoolgirls, Money and Rebellion in Japan. “I find the presentation of the Japanese women as asexual and silent background dancers with mute inscrutable expressions embarrassingly passé and disturbingly colonial in undertone.”

Meanwhile feminist blogs railed against a 2012 ad for Sephora’s Hello Kitty “Head of the Class” makeup collection that shows a woman in business attire putting down her book, erasing math equations on a chalkboard and applying Hello Kitty makeup, arguing the brands are teaching girls that looking beautiful is more important than smarts. “The feminists’ argument is a perception that women might be infantilized by this cute product that doesn’t speak to their full powerful womanhood or their sexuality,” says Merry White, anthropology professor at Boston University and author of Coffee Life in Japan.

The Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s adopted Hello Kitty as a mascot to show punk girls and women that it’s OK to incorporate cute things into their edgy personas, says Yano. The idea was—and it still applies today—feminists believe in freedom of self-expression, so women can enjoy “cutesy” and “girly” things like Hello Kitty whenever and however they want to, as long as they aren’t doing it because they think they need to in order to be considered feminine or to please men, explains performance artist and writer Denise Uyehara, 48. “You can be cute, but you have to ask yourself, am I being cute because it’s the only way I can get through life, or can I speak my mind directly without using a high cute voice, which is often associated with Hello Kitty and being Asian?”

Kinsella has a theory about Hello Kitty’s popularity at a time when Japanese women were distancing themselves from those old stereotypes. Even as women in Tokyo in the 80s started shifting from primarily family roles to office jobs with higher wages during a “period of unprecedented credit boom wealth” in the city, they were still in an “awkward” position in which the social structure was “hostile” to young, working, independent women. “So liking Hello Kitty, being a bit childish, is a bit like acting like the kind of girl who is acceptable—a little school girl with nice, girly pastimes,” she argues. “They’re suger-coating their obtrusive new presence in the labor market by covering themselves in pink and candy and Hello Kitty, disguising themselves as harmless.”

And for American fans, she’s also an escape from the realities of adulthood. Jennifer Masaoy, 35, says she started making papercrafts of Hello Kitty as a hobby to cheer herself up at a “stifling, repetitive, boring, miserable” job: “Hello Kitty is a way for me to escape work stress, all of the stuff you have to do as an adult to take care of yourself.”

So will this 40-year-old school girl ever get to grow up? Writer and comedian Kristina Wong says she hopes so: “Let’s see Hello Kitty at her first job when she has to go on maternity leave. That’s when we’re going to find out whether she’s a feminist or not a feminist. Let’s put her in real situations because cuteness will only get you so far, and there are some moments in life when you actually have to kick some a**.”

TIME advice

How to Respond to a Fat Joke Made About You

Speech bubble
Getty Images

Not everyone can be as gracefully cunning as Andy Richter or Gabourey Sidibe, but you can try


This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I am rarely watching broadcast TV late at night — at 11 p.m. I’m usually reading a book (currently: America’s Founding Food) and debating whether it’s too late to eat a huge bowl of pickles while my spouse shoots at fake wizardy aliens on the videogamez.

So I usually hear about things that happen on late night TV, later. And thus, last week Marci sent me a clip from Conan. To sum up: Chelsea Handler is on Conan’s couch, talking to Conan about swimming in the ocean. She asks Conan if he likes to swim in the ocean, which Conan answers in the affirmative. Handler then turns to Conan’s sidekick (and, because it’s pertinent here, portly gentleman) Andy Richter, seated on her other side, and asks him the same question, which he also answers positively. But Handler lingers.

“Do you float… a lot… in the ocean?” she asks, nodding. Nervous laughter from the studio audience. It sounds like a thready segue into a fat joke, more than a fat joke itself, as though she’s — heh — testing the waters.

Richter, who like many members of the Double-Chin Division of the Corpulence Army can probably recognize even an uncertain effort at a joke about his size, takes an instant to process. Then, before Handler can move on, he replies, “Why, do you sink?” Waits a beat. “Might be that cast-iron heart.”

It is one of the more charming responses to a fat-related jibe in recent memory, partly because it’s delivered with such grace and humor. Richter manages to call out Handler on a cheap, unfunny non-joke about his weight with a witty left hook that both illuminates the casual hurtfulness of these sorts of punching-down quips, and also affirms his individual humanity and dignity — the first thing to get tossed in these moments, when a person’s appearance is itself the punchline. And not only does he out-joke her, he manages to point out the cruelty of her approach (“cast-iron heart” indeed), AND to make her laugh at herself.

Richter’s response is the ideal reaction in such public circumstances, chapter and verse. He spots the joke forming, and kills it with a better, funnier joke, and he does it while smiling and laughing himself. It’s so perfect that if not for Handler’s uncontrollable laughter, I would have thought it was planned. He survives the moment and comes out stronger than his would-be insulter in the end.

Sometimes, this happens, but it’s rare; sometimes a person in receipt of a fat joke in an incredibly public circumstance can manage to own that situation entirely. When the ever-magnificent Gabourey Sidibe was subject to vicious Twitter mockery for her Golden Globes dress back in January, she responded by tweeting, “To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK” And all of Twitter — NAY, THE WHOLE OF THE INTERNET — died over how hairflippingly cool this was, how perfectly and endearingly she managed to tell the losers making whale jokes to get over themselves.

Unfortunately, not everyone is Andy Richter or Gabourey Sidibe. And not everyone has the resources to bounce back from “playful” insults, whether they’re malicious or not.

I’m not opposed to fat jokes, when they’re funny; it’s just that so few of them are. They typically follow the punching-down model of humor that preys on people who are the easiest targets to hit and the least likely to have the practiced confidence necessary to defend themselves in the moment (although we’re all brilliant about it in the shower two days later). Jokes that punch down take people who are already battling against cultural assumptions and makes them victims. No one likes to be made to feel like a victim. It’s not funny.

And even when they do make you laugh, it’s important to remember that these jokes often rely on social inequities that position fat people as less human, and as less worthy of respect, consideration, or sympathy.

Chris Farley built a career out of making fat jokes about himself; today, critics are eager to ding Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson for allowing weight to be a central aspect of the characters they play. But I can’t blame either of them. Fat doesn’t disappear just because you refuse to acknowledge it. If you’re a fat performer, people will make fat jokes about you no matter how much you demand to be taken seriously.

And if you’re a fat comic actor, people will make your weight something to laugh at regardless of whether the script or your performance intends for them to do so. This happens because we live in a media culture that has historically only taught us to read fat bodies in two roles: as a punchline, or as a tragedy. (We can hope that this is changing, however.) It’s little wonder that fat performers should try to get in front of that wave, and try to ride it to a place they can feel good about, rather than letting it wash over them and take their agency away.

This is true for lots of us, in fact; without a ready rejoinder to fire back at every hilarious insult, we’re entirely prepared to laugh and play along because drawing attention to how cruel these jokes can feel seems like betraying a weakness; it would be saying, “These things are hurtful, and they hurt me, and it’s not okay.” Which means you necessarily have no sense of humor, right? Because failing to laugh at one thing means you can never ever laugh at anything else in the world ever for the rest of your life.

The first time I ever experienced a fat joke made publicly at my expense was in the 6th grade. I was at a special school breakfast for some patriotic holiday, and the mayor of my hometown was present. Somehow, as we all slid down the long benches attached to the lunchroom’s tables, I wound up sitting directly across from him.

The breakfast plates of scrambled eggs and sausage were disturbingly cold and hard, and no one ate much of that, but at the end of the meal trays of mini powdered donuts were put out on the table. I initially took two, since they were small — I was already keenly aware of my weight and how my peers thought of me — and began eating them. But after seeing my classmates unreservedly grabbing up handfuls, I took two more.

“That’s a lot of donuts you’ve got there!” The mayor bellowed, pointing at my plate and laughing. My classmates all looked at me and laughed as well. I stopped eating at once, and began wishing desperately for a sudden illness to render me unconscious.

This would have been bad enough, but then, when the mayor went up to the stage to address the whole school, he referenced it again: “I’ve never seen donuts disappear so fast!” He laughed again. “There was one chubby girl who went back twice!” And it was like MY WHOLE MIDDLE SCHOOL TURNED AROUND AND LOOKED AT ME. Like a scene in a movie. The mayor told the whole school I was fat and ate a bunch of donuts. I couldn’t make this up. The fact that the mayor himself was undeniably fat was little comfort; hell, part of me is still angry at him, and he’s been dead for like 20 years or something.

Twelve-year-old Lesley could do nothing but sit and turn red. Since then, I’ve rarely suffered such events in embarrassed silence. I’ve done almost every approach to jokes and insults lobbed at me in public. I’ve made vulgar quips right back (“Sorry, I got this fat because your mom bakes me pie,”), I’ve responded cheerfully and unflappably (“Thanks for noticing! All my hard work is paying off!”), and I’ve given people a stone-faced, “That’s actually not funny at all.” And for my trouble, sometimes I am doubly humiliated, but sometimes I come out the winner. It’s okay to laugh it off, but it’s equally okay to get mad. I just can’t bear not responding at all.

For the most part, people who make fat jokes are not vicious monsters. They just don’t always realize how they might be unwittingly having a lasting hurtful effect on the people around them. They need to be told.

That’s why watching the clip between Chelsea Handler and Andy Richter is so thrilling. It’s thrilling to see someone making a cheap shot about someone’s appearance get their comeuppance, and to have that comeuppance come in such a perfect form that even she has to laugh at it — and at herself.

Lesley Kinzel is Deputy Editor at xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Los Angeles Should Pay the NFL to Stay Away

Getty Images

Mayor Eric Garcetti says it’s “highly likely” that his city is going to get an NFL team for the first time in 20 years. Reaction: Time for D-Fence

Mayor Eric Garcetti says Los Angeles shouldn’t give taxpayer dollars to the National Football League. I disagree. L.A. would be wise to pay the NFL—to stay away.

Twenty years after the Raiders and Rams left, the very bad idea of luring the NFL back is gaining momentum. Los Angeles just extended a downtown stadium deal agreement. The NFL is surveying rich Angelenos to see if they’d buy season tickets. Garcetti says it’s “highly likely” a team will relocate here.

The arguments against bringing the NFL are so numerous that I can’t list them all in a short column, but here are a few:

1. An NFL team would only add to our deep bench of dubious celebrities.

The L.A. media already has enough celebrities to distract TV stations and newspapers from covering things that actually matter; we don’t need to introduce a team of rambunctious football players to our Kardashian culture.

2. An NFL team in L.A. would cannibalize existing businesses.

Studies show that adding a pro sports franchise doesn’t add to a city’s wealth. Instead, it takes existing dollars away from other entertainment options.

3. A new team would be wasteful.

The NFL requires cities to build a new football stadium in order to get a team, but the Rose Bowl just got a $181 million renovation, and USC is fixing up the Coliseum.

4. A new team would be bad for Los Angeles’ own football fans.

The absence of the NFL has allowed a delicate football ecology to flourish here. Our TV stations air the best pro games because there’s no local squad. On Sundays, Angelenos dress in their former hometown teams’ jerseys and gather together to watch games. And if you absolutely must see the NFL live, the Chargers are just a train ride away in San Diego.

Despite all this, many of our leaders insist that a city of our grandeur needs an NFL team and that a downtown stadium deal won’t cost us anything. Yet the current deal uses public land and requires the city to sell some $300 million in bonds to build new convention space. And, the NFL might draw big public subsidies by giving L.A. two teams instead of just one, or committing to hosting multiple Super Bowls here. Do you trust the L.A. leaders who just gave Hollywood a $1.6 billion tax break to hold the line against public support for a pro football team? Me neither.

Instead, L.A. should offer the NFL money to stay away. When you think of all the costs of having a team—potential stadium costs, additional traffic, the business that football would divert from other entertainment options, and time wasted on the NFL drama—paying off the NFL becomes a bargain.

So let’s offer the league $100 million in exchange for a guarantee never to put a team here. And if the league turns it down? That, at least, would make the reality undeniable: The NFL wants to take L.A. for all it’s worth.

Joe Mathews is California and Innovation editor for Zocalo Public Square, for which he writes the Connecting California column.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Appreciation

The 13 Most Influential Toys of All Time

As the holiday season approaches, we interviewed toy historians and experts (hello, dream job!) to rank the playthings that made the biggest impact on the toy industry—and the world at large.

  • 13. Cabbage Patch dolls

    Cabbage Patch dolls
    Vince Talotta—Getty Images

    These dolls were the first toys not tied to a popular TV, movie, or comic that “everybody had to have and nobody could find,” says Jim Silver, editor of TimetoPlayMag.com. A December 1983 TIME article described parents knocking over display tables, grabbing, and shoving each other just to get one for their kids. By billing each doll as unique (each one came with adoption papers and a birth certificate), the makers of Cabbage Patch dolls were able to create an urgent sense of demand—a strategy mimicked by Beanie Babies, ZhuZhu pets, and more.


  • 12. Leap Pad


    Introduced in 1999 to help kids master reading, this talking book was the first toy that aimed to make learning fun. “Kids thought they were playing,” says Silver. “And they could do it on their own without their parents.” It also paved the way for VTech’s orange and purple V.Smile, which debuted in 2004 to help preschoolers hone motor skills through a Winnie the Pooh game, as well as countless other educational gaming consoles (including a new launch of its own). But still, “if you go down the learning aisle, LeapFrog and VTech dominate it,” says Silver.

  • 11. Rubik’s Cube 

    Rubik's Cube
    Pat Greenhouse—The Boston Globe/Getty Images

    More than 350 million have been sold worldwide since it was invented 40 years ago in Budapest by architecture professor Erno Rubik, making the cube one of the best-selling puzzles of all time. (There are a maddening 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different ways to twist and turn it.) Today, there are annual tournaments held to reward the fastest solvers, and the Transformers toys have adopted a similar mechanism. “People love play that involves mastery,” says Richard Gottlieb, CEO of Global Toy Experts. “The harder you work at it, the better you get at it.”

  • 10. View-Master

    Steve Russell—Toronto Star/Getty Images

    Invented by Harold Graves, president of Sawyer’s Photographic Services, the stereoscope was unveiled at the 1939 New York World’s Fair as a way to view photos of tourist attractions in 3D and got its big break when it landed a licensing agreement with Disney. Think of it as a precursor to the Internet, says Tim Walsh: “People who couldn’t get to New York City to see the Statue of Liberty could feel like they were standing in front of it.” The old-school device still exists in some form—Mattel’s Fisher-Price makes a version—but its lasting impact is more visible in gadgets like the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

  • 9. Star Wars figurines

    Star Wars
    Darron R. Silva—AP

    Ever wonder why every summer blockbuster seems to come standard with a line of toys? Credit Star Wars‘ 1977 marketing campaign, which encouraged people to buy empty boxes with coupons redeemable for collectible Star Wars-themed toys. That “opened up the collectible category and made collecting cool,” says Silver. Likewise, the popularity of Marvel toys can be traced back to Mego, which helped license action figures for Marvel and Star Trek characters.

  • 8. Doc McStuffins

    Doc McStuffins

    The toy line based on the Disney Junior animated TV star who is doctor to her stuffed animals was the first black figure to become popular among kids of all races, boasting $500 million in sales last year. “This is a big statement about how the world is finally changing,” says Silver, “because it means kids are buying the doll not because of the color of its skin, but because of the character of the person.”

  • 7. Super Soaker

    Super Soaker
    John Blazemore—AP

    This pump-action water gun literally blew its competition out of the water, so to speak. Before NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson invented and licensed it to the Larami Corporation (later acquired by Hasbro) in 1989, “water pistols were cheap throwaway toys that you gave to somebody at a birthday party,” says Tim Walsh, author of Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them. “The Super Soaker changed the summer toy aisle, so now there’s an aisle of Super Soaker-esque water pistols that shoot 30-50 feet of water into the air.”

  • 6. Easy Bake Oven

    Easy Bake Oven

    Cooked up in 1963 by Kenner Products (now part of Hasbro), it was the first toy that allowed kids to make edible food, a brand new category of play. Now stores feature devices that make s’mores, sno cones, cotton candy, cupcakes, and most recently, cake pops.

  • 5. Chatty Cathy

    “The fact that dolls talk started with Chatty Cathy,” says Silver. She was the first portable, interactive doll that said things like “Let’s play house” or “I love you” when children pulled her drawstring. Mattel made it from 1959 to the mid-1960s, paving the way for the 1986 launch of Teddy Ruxpin, the first interactive stuffed animal or plush toy—kids inserted a cassette tape in its back, and it would talk—and mega-popular talking plushes like Furby, Tickle Me Elmo and Hasbro FurReal Friends.

  • 4. Nerf Bow and Arrow

    Nerf Bow and Arrow
    Mark Lennihan—AP

    The NERF “Bow ‘N’ Arrow” launched the toy blaster market when it was introduced in 1991. “Up until the 1980s, NERF had always been the hoop and basketball, so the bow and arrow changed NERF’s entire brand to where it is today, which is more of a blaster with foam darts,” says Silver. Today, the brand (owned by Kenner Products and now Hasbro) counts on the popularity of The Hunger Games’s bow-hunting heroine Katniss Everdeen to sell blasters, especially to girls, while its influence market-wide can be seen in the emergence of Zing Toys, a line of foam darts and slingshots, and the “secret” line of blasters Mattel revealed in April that are designed to fire more accurately than NERF ones.

  • 3. G.I. Joe

    G.I. Joe
    William A. Rice—MCT/Getty Images

    No one thought boys would play with a doll—until Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe in the middle of the Cold War as an “action figure” named after Government-Issued Joe, the World War II nickname for regular soldiers. “He’s an everyman, but he’s a hero—a singular individual who gets things done,” says Patricia Hogan, curator at the Strong Museum of Play. Joe paved the way for other action figures, specifically spies like the female private detective Honey West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as people were fixated on espionage during the Cold War. But his most enduring impact may be his bendable frame. “You couldn’t bend Barbie’s knees or her elbows—she just sort of stood there while you explained what she was doing,” Hogan says. “But a kid could pose G.I. Joe doing almost anything. There were a lot of action figures that came out after Joe that didn’t have that kind of articulation, and they did not sell nearly as well.”

  • 2. Barbie

    Stan Honda—AFP/Getty Images

    Sales may have dropped recently, but Mattel still claims a Barbie doll is sold every three seconds, which would make the billion-dollar brand the world’s most popular doll for girls. And she’s a pretty good role model, having held more than 150 careers—including doctor, scientist and lawyer—since her debut in 1959, and always keeping an active lifestyle. “Barbie was the first incarnation of the adult version of a doll that would allow girls to envision, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ besides a mom,” says Walsh. She also embraced cultural diversity before many Americans did. Barbie’s first African-American friend debuted in 1968, and the first African-American version of herself debuted in 1980. “She has staying power because she’s changed and grown with the times,” says Hogan. And she has even surged ahead of them: Barbie has, after all, become President of the United States.

  • 1. LEGO

    Kazuhiro Nogi—AFP/Getty Images

    Never mind that LEGO is the world’s biggest toy company—bringing in $2.3 billion in the first half of 2014 compared to Mattel’s $2 billion—and that it has spawned action-figures, TV shows, a fan conference and, most recently, a hit film. Since its debut in 1958, LEGO has also redefined the potential of playthings, allowing kids to build permanent structures from scratch, in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and “take them anywhere they want,” says Silver. That has had a massive impact on the toy and gaming industry—Minecraft was born from its creator’s experience playing with LEGO—and especially its younger players. As Walsh puts it: “I hear more stories about people who have become architects and engineers because they had a love for building with LEGOs” than I have heard people say, ‘I became a lawyer because I had a lawyer Barbie.'”

TIME society

‘Operation’ Inventor, 77, Can’t Afford Real Life Operation

John Spinello sold the game for only $500

In an ironic twist of fate, the inventor of the famous board game Operation is in need of money to pay for an operation.

In 1964, John Spinello invented the classic children’s game, in which players attempt to perform “surgery” without tripping a buzzer, and sold it to a toy invention firm for just $500. In spite of its great success, that’s the only money he ever received for the game. Now 77, Spinello can’t afford to pay $25,000 for an oral surgery.

“John has had a good life, but has admitted to us that he is struggling to pay his bills and is in need of a medical procedure without sufficient insurance coverage,” his friends Tim Walsh and Peggy Brown wrote in a crowd funding campaign.

Walsh told The Huffington Post that Spinello isn’t bitter about never receiving royalties for a game that has inspired everything from shower curtains to boxers to Simpsons editions of the game, and has generated what he estimates to be $40 million.

“John celebrates the game wherever he can, though his kids do give him a hard time in a good-natured way,” Walsh said.

On top of the crowd-funding campaign, Spinello plans to auction off the original prototype in December to pay the bills.


This Ridiculously Romantic Ad Aims to End Divorce

A Chinese shampoo commercial doubles as a pitch for couples to stay together

In today’s overly ambitious advertising era, a shampoo ad that merely touts its ability to combat split ends is severely lacking. Rather, haircare marketers must also aim to end sexism in the workplace and, according to a new Chinese spot, divorce.

Leo Burnett Hong Kong created a commercial for Procter & Gamble’s Rejoice shampoo that acts as a marriage counselor. The four-and-a-half minute long ad, which the ad agency claims has been viewed 40 million times in a month, follows a couple on the brink of divorce. But the wife (who, if we may, has some great hair going on) will only sign the papers under one condition: Her husband must agree to hug her every day for a month.

Thus begins a rom-com (minus the com) in which the wife makes her husband travel to different landmarks from their relationship — where he proposed, where they shared a first kiss, where they met — and asks for that hug. While there are no scenes of hair-washing prior to their encounters, things escalate on the husband’s end from wistful hair stroking to full-on hair smelling.

You can probably guess how things end. (Hint: The official hashtag for the campaign is #IBelieveInLoveAgain).

The spot is cinematographically beautiful and acts public service announcement of sorts. Rejoice claims that of 3 million Chinese couples who divorced last year, 100,000 reconciled.

We wonder if any of them had stringy hair.

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