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Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2003 / 22 Kislev, 5764

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Hey, Elmo, you've sold your soul | Elmo? Ha! They should call you Sell-Mo. Sell Mo-and-Mo Mo. That's your job, isn't it, you plush toy patsy? Saturate the stores, hound the kiddies, wrap those furry paws around America's wallets till parents shell out for another season's Sellout Elmo. When the guys in marketing say, "Giggle!" you say, "How high?"

There is nothing you wouldn't do to make another $24.95, is there? I mean, this year they've got you doing the hokey-pokey. Humiliating. Last year, it was the chicken dance. Before that, the limbo. How low can you go? How long before we see Elmo grinding Miss Piggy?

Or Bert?

Or both?

But perhaps I'm being too harsh. After all, no one's denying you've been through the mill. The highs, the markdowns. The Top Toy lists, the Odd Lot shelves. Ever since that crazy Christmas of 1996.

Out of the blue, your world turned upside down, like an M turning into a W. One day, you're teaching kids their letters, next thing you know you're the toast of the toys - G.I. Joe and Malibu Barbie wrapped into one.

"Tickle me?" you're thinking. "No, pinch me! Kids are throwing tantrums for me. Parents are beating each other up for me! The talk shows are talking about - you guessed it - me, me, me. I'M THE TOY OF THE WORLD!"

But nothing lasts forever, not even something as solid as celebrity toy status. And just one season later, the brass at Mattel are sizing you up.

Oh, they don't say anything to your face, of course. But those ping-pong-ball eyes of yours don't blink. They can't, actually. So you watch them as they murmur: Is he a one-trick monster? Can we wring another season out of him? Is he - Heaven forbid - a red-furred Teddy Ruxpin?

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And then some suit sighs, "Well, we've already got the factory geared up. Let's just make him do something new and see if kids are sick of him yet."

And so you worry: Will I have to do something I hate, like ice skating? Or long division?

Will they make me wet myself?

No, sweets. They just make you sell your soul. From now on, your job is to act adorable even as rage more corrosive than battery acid eats away at your bowels. You were going places! You were something special! You were a contender!

Now you are Ricky Martin, post-"La Vida Loca."

And yet you dance. Oh yes, you just dance your little stuffing out and titter like a two-yen geisha and keep that mile-wide grin on your face, like a jack-o'-lantern that doesn't know it's rotting.

Face it, Elmo, you need more than tickling. More than another hug. More than one more marketing push.

You need a break.

It's time to yank out those batteries and take a season off. Think about who you really are. Then - and only then - will you be able to giggle again.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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