Sunday, January 20, 2008

WTF - Homies

Picture from plezWorld Treo 680

As if today's "snow panic" (i.e. the obligatory run on the grocery stores for bread, eggs, and milk when there is even the hint of snow) wasn't enough (Saturday brought the second snowfall of the week - a new record for these parts), the SugarPlum and I decided to take a leisurely sojourn to our local Publix grocery store after her ballet class was cancelled (see "snow panic" above). We had an accumulation of less than one inch by noon... then it rained and washed everything away.

Not realizing the madhouse that awaited me as I pulled into the completely full parking lot, we strolled into the store to buy some coffee beans to make a fresh pot of coffee to go with our dozen glazed Krispy Kreme donuts! And a madhouse it was, buggies clogging each aisle, the bread guy just planted a rack of loaf bread in the center of the bread aisle and watched as the customers grabbed loaf after loaf like we were going to be snowed in for a week! I'll admit, I was so taken into the feeding frenzy, I left the bread aisle with a loaf of Honey Wheat bread and some hot dog buns. I elbowed my way past the dairy department and slipped the SugarPlum in an opening by the bacon packages to grab some Nathan's hot dogs. After making a plezWorld blend of assorted coffees, we made it to frozen foods for a couple of Marie Callender chicken pot pies... yummy!

Since there were no buggies or little green baskets to carry our booty, the hood on SugarPlum's coat served to hold the hot dogs, coffee beans, and chicken pot pies. I don't like my bread smashed, so we had to delicately hand carry the bread to the checkout lines. Each line was 15-20 people deep. Imagine the quandary of keeping a 6-year old's attention with all of that human activity around us! Twenty minutes and ten SugarPlum Death Threats later we were heading to sliding doors that would yield the winter wonderland before us... but not so fast!

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the usual line up of bubblegum vending machines that stand guard at the entrance of every grocery store in America. These days, they aren't limited to just bubblegum, they have bouncing balls, blowup balls, fake gold necklaces and rings, and other rubbery throw away trinkets. One in particular caught my eye, because it was top row, dead center, and had little figurines in the window... and the word "HOMIES" inscribed on the label as though written by some graffiti artist.

Upon closer inspection, one can see that the background was vaguely reminiscent of "the 'hood", with tenement buildings and old fashioned power lines (where I live, most utilities are underground). For 50 cents, you can get a random "Homie" figurine for Series 10: bandanna clad gangbanger, Kangol cap wearing homeboy, single mother, Mexican migrant worker, Black dude with backwards fitted cap wearing a Raiders jersey, a dude wearing a white wife beater, a butcher... and just about every other stereotypical 'hood rat imaginable!

I saw no humor. I saw no socially redeemable value. I saw nothing even remotely entertaining about the lineup of characters.

I don't live in the 'hood... far from it! I don't embrace it, I don't even claim to be from it! I'm not ghetto, never lived in a ghetto, and god willing, don't plan to. Call me elitist... call me bourgie (just don't call me late for dinner!)... but I find this particular enterprise to be offensive on a number of fronts. These vending machines are geared to and for children; I do not want my daughter playing in her doll house with a dude wearing a do-rag or worse yet, a pimp! I don't want her to think any of those characters displayed live the kind of life that plezWorld expects for her. And most importantly, I don't want her growing up looking at people as stereotypes.

When I was about 8- or 9-years old, Frito-Lay had a character associated with its Frito's Corn Chips: the Frito Bandito. He was a Mexican bandit complete with gold tooth, mustache, wide sombrero, two six-shooters, and criss-cross bullet belts across his chest. He spoke with a heavy Mexican accent and sang a song warning you to watch out for the Frito Bandito because he would steal your corn chips! I remember that I had a yellow Frito Bandito character eraser for one of my pencils. Well, pressure from various Mexican-American groups had the offensive character and commercials banned in 1971.

I googled "homies" and was SHOCKED at what popped up... there is a whole city of these urbanites: shirtless gangsta rapper dripping gold, a pimp, a nun, a homeless guy, a guy with a pit bull, and the Grim Reaper! You can even buy "HOMIES" figures from past series on eBay.

I'm sure this isn't a sign of the apocalypse, but it does make plezWorld say, "WTF?!?"


Lola Gets said...

You forgot toilet paper - thats another panic staple!

Hathor said...

HOMIES is something I didn't know about. Never saw that in the supermarkets where black folk shop or a corner store.
Perhaps it is popular in places where there are many wannabe hood rats.

Rabin - "Bold Voyager" said...

I can see how this would be offensive. But how is the overall message and imagery any different than what we see in the typical music video or movie these days? I wouldn't give them to any child I know, but I suspect they are still going to get exposed to this imagery through the media. These toys just reflect what they see on TV (and unfortunately what some see when they walk out the front door).

CapCity said...

I understand that Homiez is offensive - but, my dear Plez - do the stereotype-promoting names of many of the NFL's teams offend (My hometown's: Redskins is MOST offensive to me)? What do we do about that???

Anali said...

I had never heard of these Homies before. What a mess. But I guess it goes along with same mentality of BET and so many thug type movies that are out there. There are way too many people out there who think this stuff is cool and that they are just "keeping it real."

plez... said...

yeah... i found the offensive, but not so bad that i'll be picketing the grocery store!

David Sullivan said...

I collect 'em all! I especially love the crack head that looks just like Chris Rock in New Jack City.

I can't wait for their next line of figurines called "Crackers".

I am equal opportunity so I'll collect them all too! ;)

lotus07 said...

This is just another sign of the basic moral dilemma in this country. Marketing to the lowest common denominator. Little trinkets in vending machines of Jerome the Lawyer, or Abdul the Shuttle Astronaut aren't going to sell, because children can't identify with those types of characters anymore. They are trained by the media and absentee parents that drug dealer or basketball player are the only heights to which they can climb. When I was a child growing up, I was taught that the sky was the limit, but I was going to have to work for it. Today, youth expects to be given everything, and aspire to very little. I thank lawyers and Rupert Murdoch for most of this. Buck the trend....inspire the sugar-plumb to do great things.