CULTURE SCHLOCK – By Darren Garnick
“Coming to a gumball machine near you: Classism”
The Telegraph — June 15, 2006
It’s not often you have the opportunity to purchase a gumball
and make fun of poor people at the same time.
This one-stop shopping for elitist snots is now at your local
supermarket, right next to the bottle recycling machines and brochures
about how to get your kid to stop wetting the bed.
For 50 cents, you have a 1 in 12 chance of scoring your favorite
buck-toothed “Trailer Park” figurine – ready for display right next to
your Franklin Mint dolls of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.
To insulate themselves from charges of insensitivity, the coin-op
vendors who service my favorite market also include a machine that
dispenses charity rubber band bracelets that say “Faith” and “Hope”
and “Love” and “Dream.” But back to the poor suckers who live in a
The toy tribute to mobile home residents includes characters like
Betty Lou, a scantily clad gas station attendant who can “pump you up
real good,” and Kegger Ken, the guy in charge of “gittin the kegs
ready for the weekely (sic) barbeques they have at the Trailer Park.”
Ha, Ha! Aside from not having any money, those stupid poor people
can’t spell either.
Trailer park culture – or the more commonly used impolite synonym
“white trash” – is white hot at the moment. NBC’s hit “My Name is
Earl” feeds off the stereotypes, as does MTV’s “Trailer Fabulous,” a
mobile home makeover show.
The gumball machine’s marketing card boasts that “Trailer Park”
figurines are “from the creator of the Homies,” a wildly popular
figurine set that celebrates the personalities of urban gang members.
Fantastic selling point. I almost expected to hear these words come
out of the machine in a baritone movie trailer voice.
Toy designer Dave Gonzales insists on his Homies Web site, which also
includes biographies for all his Trailer Park characters, that he is
not glorifying street thugs. Rather, “in an inner-city world plagued
by poverty, oppression, violence and drugs, the Homies have formed a
strong and binding cultural support system that enables them to
overcome the surrounding negativity and allows for laughter and good
times as an antidote for reality.”
Being gullible, I clicked on a random Homie bio to get a sense of this
“cultural support system.” I met “Mad Bomber,” a “famous tagger” who
has been chased by pit bulls and police during his noble quest to
display spraypainted art on previously blank city canvases.
Gonzales has already made a career out of exploiting low-income black
and Hispanic people. He certainly has a right to equally exploit
low-income white people. Especially the fat and sedentary ones like
“Flea Market Fred” and “Lazy Roy,” a guy glued to his recliner faking
injuries to collect welfare.
Then there’s “Doo-Doo-Dan,” a surly figurine wearing soiled overalls.
Dan operates the “Honey Truck,” which suctions all the sewage out of
the trailer bathrooms.
Ha, Ha! A guy who cleans up after other people. What a
The Washington Post, which recently analyzed the trend of “trailer
park chic,” quoted a marketing consultant claiming that rural poverty
is now cool because it represents a “simpler life and more comforting
“Terrorists,” the Post notes, “don’t attack trailer parks.”
Maybe not, but natural disasters do. Imagine how well these figures
would sell if they came with their own trailers to flood and submerge
Darren Garnick’s “Culture Schlock” column runs every Thursday in The Telegraph’s Encore entertainment magazine. Dive into a recent Schlock archive here.