Screen-Play: Walking a Mile in Magic Boots

Screen-Play: Walking a Mile in Magic Boots

In my last post, I examined television’s stereotypical un-cool Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) player who doesn’t conform to mainstream standards of attractiveness or sociability and fits more comfortably within the fantasy world of role-playing games (RPGs). But “dork” is not a four-letter word as far as these characters are concerned. In fact, television programs offer audiences…

Screen-Play: Too Cool for Ghouls? Dungeons & Dragons and Television Misfits

Screen-Play: Too Cool for Ghouls? Dungeons & Dragons and Television Misfits

Why does television portray Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) as un-cool by putting it in the hands of nerds? Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the iconic game grew out of the war-themed, strategy-heavy board games introduced in the 1950s by Avalon Hill, as well as from the miniature war games hobbyists enacted with figurines and battlefields…

Screen-Play: NBC’s Community and the National Toy Hall of Fame

Screen-Play: NBC’s Community and the National Toy Hall of Fame

Community is one of the most playful shows on television. The comedy about a study group at dysfunctional Greendale Community College not only features unconventional storytelling methods and an innovative visual style, but its characters actually play—all the time. And either its writers have been looking to The Strong for episode ideas, or the toys…

Creature Comforts: Toys that Soothe

Creature Comforts: Toys that Soothe

The National Toy Hall of Fame hasn’t embraced cuddly toys in a couple of years. Of course I was thrilled to see The Strong honor the rubber duck recently (have you seen my wedding cake?). But it’s the soft, snuggly playthings—the blanket, the teddy bear, Raggedy Ann and Andy—that give me warm fuzzies. These are…

War Gardens: Winning the Food Fight on Home Soil

War Gardens: Winning the Food Fight on Home Soil

Hello, autumn. As pumpkins, parsnips, and apples signal the harvest, I’m gathering artifacts from The Strong’s collections related to a time when farmers were called away to war and civilians rescued the food supply.

The Kids Are Alright

The Kids Are Alright

I met some naughty kids when I worked as a babysitter and camp counselor. But after five years with the National Museum of Play at The Strong, I’ve observed enough children to know the good ones far outnumber the brats and that misbehavior, when it occurs, isn’t limited to one gender. So why do little…

Dirty Dancing in the Borscht Belt

Dirty Dancing in the Borscht Belt

Nobody puts Bubbie in a corner. (Oy.) I think of the movie Dirty Dancing (1987) whenever I see this poolside photo of my grandparents at Grossinger’s resort in the Catskill Mountains in 1964. They look sophisticated, fun loving, and reminiscent of Baby’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Houseman, New Yorkers who visited the fictional Kellerman’s Mountain…

Young and Green: My Early Environmental Education

Young and Green: My Early Environmental Education

Every day should be Earth Day, of course, but once upon a time, a group of concerned citizens coordinated its very first occasion. Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, with schools across the United States hosting concurrent teach-ins to protest practices polluting natural resources. It’s apropos, then, that my lifelong respect for the environment…

West. Honey West: Female Spies in Television and Toys

West. Honey West: Female Spies in Television and Toys

Though Bond girls and seductive villainesses have been the most memorable women of the spy genre since Dr. No premiered to American audiences in 1963, not all ladies have found themselves relegated to supporting roles. Surely female characters engaged in espionage have James Bond to thank for sparking the 1960s spy trend and the fantastic…

Game for a Party

Game for a Party

Few things beat a good party game for putting people at ease—be they best friends or acquaintances at best. I attended a baby shower whose host displayed a platter of adorable infant-related items and instructed us to commit them to memory. After Jackie and her tray left the room, her mother-in-law distributed pencils and paper….