I wasss once a maaaaaan!

Previous Article - X-Entertainment - Next Article --- By Matt - 8.07/'02

I've gotten some requests for us to slide away from our usual fare towards the more girly fads of yesteryear, and who am I to deny? Actually, I'm glad I got those requests, because if I have to come up with one more way to describe how much Man-At-Arms sucks, I'm gonna have to lay down the five bucks and get a thesaurus. Girls had their toons and toylines too, and what they lack in apocalyptic storylines and giant guns, they make up for with hugs, kisses, and lots of rainbows. We've already taken a look at My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake, and the next natural link in the chain after horses and candy people are, of course, pastel-colored teddy bears that turn into basketballs. With that, I present to you...The Popples.

Now granted, trying to get a 2,000 word article about these simple little hellspawns is like trying to write your senior thesis on the dynamics of a folding chair, but I'm gonna give it the ol' college try. Mostly because I dropped out twice and always wanted to know what that feels like. Previously, I didn't know much about Popples aside from the fact that my girlfriend believes they look great on the window sill above our kitchen sink. I disagreed, and it's been a constant struggle with the Popple dolls there on some days, alternating with my choice: rocks! Now that I've done some more research, I fully understand why people would like these things. After seeing the cartoon, it's impossible to be in a bad mood. It's all too fluffy and colorful. You might get agitated and you'll probably want to blow your brains out, but you'll definitely do it with a smile. At least it's got that going for it.

Knowing full well that I'll never want to write about Popples again in this lifetime, I'm going to tell you about both the toys and the cartoon. I don't want to wake up in the middle of the night when I'm 55 and think...'Oh shit! Mary from Connecticut and Jack from East Orange! I never told them how tall Popples were supposed to be!' Getting all this crap out of the way now will help me sleep easier, and help you win on Jeopardy when Alex finally debuts the 'idiotic 80s fads' category.

So, it all starts with Peggy having a sleepover party with her only friend, Kristen. Peggy knows she's gotta do everything she can to keep her one and only compadre, so whenever they hang out, she's sure to bust out the big guns. Video games, NKOTB trading cards, lipstick, and especially Popples. Kirsten's never heard of these 'Popples' before, so obviously she's a little bit curious. What are they? What do they do? Where are they from? All the big questions.

As Peggy explains, Popples are cute creatures from a faraway land who sleep in little girls' dresser drawers at night. They're fun and friendly, but above all else, terrific when you need someone to tell you if your ass looks fat before going out because you're too embarrassed to ask a real person. Unlike the numerous other cute creatures roaming around during that decade, Popples could do something pretty unique: tuck their body parts into their stomach and roll into perfectly spherical balls. This increased their usefulness tenfold - girls could stuff their bras with the things, go bowling whenever they wanted, or even make jumbo-sized solar system mobiles for their science projects. Endless possibilities. Endless fun. And what's Kristen's reaction to all this?

I don't think people got that excited even when Jesus made wine outta water. Or was that vinegar? Something low-fat. Kristen's never been filled with so much delight. I told you Popples were fun. I dunno, maybe that reaction's meant for something else. They could be watching the scene in Big Momma's House when Martin does the Oh Happy Day dance. Wait, wait, no - that didn't come out for years after this. It's gotta be the Popples.

Peggy lets her hair down in the spirit of the moment and more or less turns into a Popple-crazed lunatic, bouncing off the walls shouting 'COLORS, SO MANY COLORS!' while ripping the tags off the dolls with her teeth. Kristen was getting a little jealous till Peggy presented her with her very own Popple doll. After that, it was all-night Popplemania, with Mr. Sandman not arriving till past 6 AM, and the stories, oh the stories, they're still being told to this day.

The dolls came in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. There were real big ones, tiny ones, ones that lit up, the works. And that's pretty much all there is to say about 'em. Now we move on to the short-lived cartoon, which provides a much better examination of what these creatures were like. Each episode consisted of two ten-minute stories; almost all of them had Popples helping children overcome their fears by rolling around the floor while singing in what could only be described as mass epileptic seizures meant to inspire hope and courage. I couldn't get past three episodes without calling the Mayo Health Clinic's front office to see if there was any way to painlessly make myself deaf and color blind.

To spite myself, I've constructed a short review of one of the episodes. On the surface, it's about a kid who fears dentists, but it quickly degenerates into a circus where multicolored bears ice-skate on pools of toothpaste.

Okay, so this little kid lives with a bunch of Popples, and he doesn't think it's strange at all. I'm not sure if the effects of having small monsters rummaging through my underwear drawer on a daily basis would ever wear off on me, but I guess I'm easily excitable. I completely forgot the kid's name, so we'll call him Texan Tommy The Destroyer. Tommy for short. As the Popples run through the gamut of ways to amuse him - mostly making strange noises and hopping - they notice that Tommy looks a little down. Turns out he's got a dentist appointment today, and he's absolutely terrified of dentists. Dude, you live with a horde of talking alien gremlins, you shouldn't be afraid of anything. My theory is that this whole thing is a bizarre ongoing hallucination Tommy dreamt up because he didn't have many friends to hang out with. I'm not saying there aren't real Popples out there, I just think they'd be more likely to live with a child who seems remotely interested in 'em.

The Popples follow Tommy to the dentist, worried that he'll get really scared and die. Who will feed them? One of the show's ongoing themes is that the kids have to keep the Popples a secret from everyone. It's more hush-hush than that Moblin who gives you thirty rupees in Zelda. I'm not sure I understand this train of thought. If I had a bunch of Popples, I'd be showing the things off to everyone. What's the point in having alien frogbears if you can't get a few 'ooohs' and 'ahhhs' out of them? And Tommy seems to have like ten of the things! I'd keep four or five and sell the rest to Michael Jackson. This kid's totally missing out on all the social and business opportunities offered by owning Popples. I hate him.

They go on this extended tirade about what being at a dentist's office is all about; really just a subversive way to teach kids at home the benefits of flossing regularly. And that's my subversive way to segue into a tip: if you string out an entire roll of cinnamon floss and chew it, it's like a really long-lasting piece of Big Red. Heaven on Earth. The Popples continue the insanity by ropewalking across floss, playing with all the utensils, spraying toothpaste, and a whole bunch of other stuff I can't be bothered to recap at three in the morning. If you're five, you might find it very interesting. If you're older, you probably stopped reading this article when you saw the headline anyway, so I could just sit here and transcribe my junior high report cards and nobody would be the wiser. I flunked gym like 85 times.

Anyway, the Popples put Tommy in a better mood, and he meets the dentist without fear and with a newfound appreciation. Eh, I liked My Little Pony a lot better. I even liked the Teddy Ruxpin tape we reviewed a few months ago better than this, and I burned other videos as a sort of effigy while watching that. I know Popples have their fans. Sadly I can't say I'm one of them. Hopefully there's a support group for twenty-three year-old males who don't like Popples.

So there's our review. There's not much to this story, but it needed to be told. I'm not sure why, but it did. And like most bittersweet tales about morphing alien colorballs from Mars, there's no decisive way to end this one. So I'll use a Popples haiku:

I wish they were meat
So I could kill and eat them
Popples make me sick

- Matt
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