The Cultural Evolution of Candy Land

My son Graeme, who’s almost 4, is very into Candy Land lately. He’ll play it all by himself, or with his brother, or with me, and he cheats a lot, but whatever; he’s so cute.

Anyway, they were given this new set (dated 2010, Made in China) and I remembered I still had my old Candy Land put away somewhere (dated 1984, Made in USA) and so I pulled them out for a comparison, and was really surprised by what I found.

1984 on the left; 2010 on the right.

2010’s game is so much BUSIER and full of candy than 1984’s. In fact, I find 2010 a bit overwhelming visually, whereas 1984’s seems like a relaxed stroll through villages with distinct characteristics. But okay.

Here’s where things are notably different, right at the beginning–the kids:



Okay, so obviously we’ve had diversity training, but look what else! 1984’s kids are pleasantly rounded, 2010’s kids have clearly taken “Let’s Move!” to heart. Amazing, considering that both the fruits and the nuts of the 1984 game board are a thing of the past, and there’s like 250% more candy portrayed on the 2010 board.

Plumpy (PLUMS! FRUIT! 5-a-day!) has no 2010 counterpart.

Likewise, the Grandma of 1984 had a peanut plantation in her front yard (granted, she turned them into peanut brittle for her siding, but work with me here) whilst Grandma 2010 makes fudge (and she has lost weight):

Grandma 1984

Grandma 2010

Friendly Mr. Candy Cane is gone, replaced by a reminder that men, too, have an idealized muscular form to which they should aspire:


2010. Note how his ice-cream is twice the size of his not insubstantial head.

Even the King has had to slim down:

King, 1984

King, 2010

As have the game pieces:

any guesses which pieces are from 1984, and which from 2010?

The Lollipop Lady has gone from Shirley Temple-esque to otherworldly and waifish:


2010 (look how much longer and thinner she is!)

But the pièce de résistance has to be Frostine, who has been demoted from Queen (1984) to Princess (2010), and has been majorly slimmed down and sexed up in the meantime:



So let’s get this right: portions are doubled, there’s no more fruit or nuts, and yet everyone and everything–even the game pieces!–is/are much, much thinner, while the number of actual Americans who are obese has at least quadrupled since 1984?

Good thing I’m still working on my book revisions. I’m going to have to add a whole chapter on the cultural history of Candy Land.  

(or at least talk about it in my book.)

Is Everyone Losing Weight Without Me?

I’ve always loved books, but for a number of years–okay, for a lot of years–my reading choices have tended toward the serious. And yet few things are more enjoyable for me than curling up with some really funny reading material. And so I picked up this book at the library yesterday and finished it this morning, laughing loudly and inappropriately in the library (I started reading it before I even left the building), in the doctor’s waiting room, and while reading in bed.

I love laughing out loud while reading. It has a hint of hedonism mixed with a dab of Crazy Lady.

What surprised me about the book is how many times Mindy Kaling (perhaps better known as the actress/writer/director who plays Kelly Kapoor on The Office (which, I’m sorry, I don’t really like*) references her weight.

Really? This woman feels like she needs to explain her weight or her looks?

Yes, yes, she does, because Hollywood’s obsession with unearthly skinniness makes normal women unwelcome.

I thought this passage was particularly incisive (as my favorite kind of comedy writing is)–

“Since I am not model skinny, but also not super fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall in that nebulous “normal American woman” size that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size eight (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size, because I think, to them, it shows that I lack the discipline to be an ascetic or the confident sassy abandon to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like: pick a lane! Just be so enormous that you need to be buried in a piano, and dress accordingly.”

And this one, too–

“My mom’s a doctor but because she came from India and then Africa, where childhood obesity was not a problem, she put no premium on having skinny kids…Part of me wonders if it even made them feel a little prosperous, like Have you seen our overweight Indian child? Do you know how statistically rare this is?”

And then her chapter on ‘Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who are not Real’–


“I am speaking of the gorgeous and skinny heroine who is also a disgusting pig when it comes to food. And everyone [...] is constantly telling her to stop eating and being such a glutton. And this actress, this poor skinny actress who so clearly lost weight to play the likeable lead, has to say things like, ‘Shut up you guys! I love cheesecake!'”

It’s great how Mindy lampoons the ridiculous and double minded nature of weight and bodies and dieting in our culture while recognizing that she is enmeshed in that culture too. Because aren’t we all?

*it probably speaks to the quality of the book that I didn’t really have to know much about Mindy Kaling or The Office to find the book hilarious and enjoyable*

Oh. And Happy Groundhog Day!

{I really should tell you about the time Tim and I were stranded with a broken car in Punxsutawney (in Februrary, no less) eating popcorn at the car repair place where they told us it would take 2 days to fix the car, so why didn’t we find a place to stay? We jury-rigged the car ourselves and drove it back to Chicago and then to California, and it never did need to be properly fixed again.}