Monday, April 18, 2011


Pop Eye
By Scott Duhamel
Gender Games

   Ken and Barbie have long stood as among the ultimate consumable manifestations of baby boomer gender definers, yet the 50’s and 60’s were abundant with pink vs. blue masculine/feminine boundary settings, emanating from all corners, whether they be comic books, toys, TV shows, or plain old board games.  What shall I Be?, manufactured by the Selchow & Richter Company, fits right into those quaint and uninformed times,  with “The Exciting Game of Career Girls” arriving in 1966, followed by (note the change in verbiage) “The Exciting Career Game for Boys” in 1968.
   SelRight Co. was a fairly big board game player, founded in 1867 in Bay Shore, New York, initially purchasing the licensing rights for Parcheesi in 1874 and Scrabble in 1952, and also producing a wide variety of games, from the known (Anagrams, Jotto ), the little known (Go for Broke, Whodunit, Meet the Presidents), to the truly unknown (Assembly Line, Cabby, Huggin’ the Rail.)
   Both versions of What shall I be? are recommend for ages 8-13 and center around the pursuit of adult careers. The boys can aspire to be (yup), a Doctor, Athlete, Astronaut, Scientist, Engineer, and, ahem, Statesman, while the girls (lucky them) get to be a Teacher, Ballerina, Nurse, Model, Actress and Airline Stewardess.  As you move around the board cards with character traits are acquired, providing board game guidance to those wonderful careerist aspirations. You get too excited—that’s bad for Astronauts, Doctors, and Statesman and equally bad for Nurses and Airline Hostesses. You are unfriendly—that’s bad for Statesman and Doctors, implying that it’s good for the others and perhaps explaining all those unfriendly astronauts we’ve all run into. You are emotional-that’s good for models and actresses. You are a slow thinker-fuggetaboutit for Astronauts, Docs, and Athletes and equally bad for (once again) Airline Hostesses and Nurses.
    The cover graphics spell it out clearly—the boys version depicts a Paul Peterson-type  inside a picture frame (or mirror), hand resting firmly on cheek with blue eyes gazing firmly and hopefully forward as he envisions a Doc bathed in white light at the operating table surrounded by concerned hospital help toiling alongside in the shadows, a fullback applying a stiff arm while he thunders down the open field, and an astronaut tethered to a capsule as he floats above a crated dented surface, all of it boldly inked in a kinda of continuous splash across the oblong box cover. The girls version has within its small frame (or mirror) a young ribbon-attired lass with one finger tentatively inching towards her slightly parsed lips under eyes wide with uncertainty, as an Archie Comics-styled tableau of six costumed woman appears in her quivering imagination, four outfitted with skirts lined right to the knee, all (with the exception of the blond long-trussed actress garbed in what appears to be some kind of Elizabethan sheath) with short, tight, or pulled-back hairdo’s,  none of them looking prepared to turn and face the ch-ch-changes that the tumultuous decade that birthed them would eventually bring.