Mafalda Fans & Toys

Toy store in Guatemala City, Guatemala (photo credit: Nitzia Thomas)

One of the odd things about the comic series Mafalda is the apparent absence of toys among the children.  More often, Mafalda is found reading newspapers, listening to radio or watching television, and posing her innocent-seeming but probing questions about the grown-up world.  If we accept Mafalda as an influential role model for her fans, one wonders about her negative impact on the toy industry and her positive impact on the media industry.

From the 1998 edition of the Pan Latin American Kids Study conducted by Audits & Surveys Worldwide,  we now show some data on toy ownership.  In this table, a Mafalda fan is defined as a Latin American kid between the ages of 7 and 11 inclusive who declared either that 'Mafalda is one of his/her favorites' or 'he/she likes Mafalda a lot.'

                  Type of toys & games owned by Mafalda fans & total kids age 7-11

Type of toy owned

Mafalda fans Total Kids 7-11
Balls 62% 62%
Plush doll / animal 51% 44%
Puzzles 49% 32%
Large baby doll 37% 27%
Domino 39% 29%
Fashion doll 30% 22%
Cars / trucks 30% 30%
Damas 29% 21%
Chess 29% 19%
Infant toys 27% 21%
Builder sets 23% 11%
Auto racing games 21% 11%
Palillos Chinos 20% 11%
Radio-controlled toys 18% 15%
Barbie toys 17% 11%
Robots 17% 15%
Electronic games 16% 11%
Play make-up 13%   9%
Laser action toys 10%   3%
Toys based on movies/cartoons   9%   9%
Monopoly   8%   8%
Toy appliances   7%   8%
Sewing / jewelry craft   7%   4%
Lego toys   6%   7%
Trading cards   6% 17%

                          (Source: Pan Latin American Kids Study 1998, Audits & Surveys Worldwide)

There are two ways to look at the above table: in the absolute sense and in the relative sense.  In the absolute sense, we find that balls are the most popular toys for Latin American kids, whether or not they are Mafalda fans or not.  We have identified just one instance of ball-playing in the entire Mafalda collection: 

In the relative sense, what is for certain that Mafalda fans are more likely to own games that require a high degree of thinking and strategy --- puzzles, domino, checkers, chess and so on.  The Mafalda series contains many strips about playing chess.  Mafalda fans are also more likely to own expensive dolls and action toys, which are not seen in the comic series..

In fact, with just one exception, Mafalda fans are either more likely or just as likely to own the listed types of toys.  The only thing that Mafalda fans are less likely to have is trading cards, which is an example of a fetishist commodity whose bubble-economic value is artificially stimulated by a consumerist society.

The interest in the toys and games that children play is a recognition that they convey and transmit cultural values and opinions, whether intentionally or unwittingly.  The most common group game for the Mafalda children is 'cowboys and indians', which was popular at one time thanks to comic books, television shows and Hollywood movies but is now considered to be quite politically incorrect.  The reception in Latin America is doubly sensitive when we consider the history between the colonizer and the colonized as well as the infiltration of Americanisms into the local cultures.

Of course, each age has its own fascinations.  So today, it is no longer 'cowboys and indians.'  But we do wonder what Mafalda would think about Dragon Ball Z and/or Sailor Moon ...



(posted by Roland Soong on 11/4/99)

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