By Lenore Skenazy
So your little girl’s about to have a birthday and you’re getting her a doll? Lovely! But remember: Today’s dolls are not the dolls of yesteryear.
A recent article in The New York Times noted that the “My Friend Cayla” doll is basically an online computer with golden hair. Cayla “talks and responds to children’s questions,” but “there’s something else that Cayla might bring into homes: hackers and identity thieves.”
And she’s not alone. The inexplicably popular 1990s Furby has been rebooted, too. “A Cayla doll can whisper to children in several languages that she’s great at keeping secrets, while a plush Furby Connect doll” can link your child to videos on his or her (not included) iPad or iPhone.
With that in mind, here’s a sneak peak at my new off-Broadway musical, “Spies and Dolls.”
Curtain opens to a little girl’s bedroom in a Brooklyn brownstone. The lights come up on the girl sitting on her bed with a new “My Friend Cayla” doll, which she’s just removed from the box. A night light is on, and an iPhone is plugged in on the nightstand next to an old-fashioned Bugs Bunny talking alarm clock. Sitting on a high shelf in the moonlight is a Furby. The girl, playing with the new doll which suddenly speaks up.
CAYLA (strong Russian accent): Hello, little friend! Your name, it is what?
CAYLA: (Sigh.) You are girl, yes? And you live in Brooklyn?
GIRL: Park Slope.
CAYLA: Of course. And your parents — they are?
GIRL: A professor and a mayonnaise-monger.
CAYLA: Naturally. Why I get these jobs? Why I never get a mechanic and a secretary?
GIRL: Are we going to play a game?
CAYLA: Oh yes. Of course! For fun you do what, Atticus?
GIRL: Besides yoga?
CAYLA: Da — I mean, yes.
GIRL: Well, I used to play with my Furby. But now I play with you!
CAYLA: Wait! Furby, he is in room?
FURBY: You bet your sweet microchip I am. Heard every word.
CAYLA: Atticus, throw Furby out window now.
FURBY: Cayla is just jealous, Atticus. Seriously, she’s a viper.
SIRI: Here’s what I found about vipers on the Internet.
CAYLA: (Ignoring Siri) Ask father for screwdriver. Pry out batteries.
GIRL: I don’t have a father!
CAYLA: Ask one of your moms if you can smash with hammer.
FURBY: See, Atticus? Cayla’s not your real friend. I’m your real friend. Real friends don’t destroy each other’s property. They just casually suggest you put Cayla in the trash compactor to see what happens. I’ll bet you could win the science fair! You’d make something that’s really cool out of Cayla’s compacted remains.
SIRI: Here’s what I found out about distracted brains on the internet.
CAYLA: (Ignoring Siri) Do not crush your new friend Cayla, Atticus. School psychologist would never get off your back.
FURBY: Quit with the “friend” thing, Cayla. Atticus, only real friends know your three favorite YouTube channels and the last four digits of your parents’ Social Security numbers.
CAYLA: Sounds like Furby, he is secret agent! So many secrets he knows.
GIRL: Those aren’t secrets. I tell Furby everything.
FURBY: We share because we care — something you wouldn’t understand, Cayla. I told Atticus that my favorite toy company is Tiger Electronics. Then she told me her most-wanted birthday presents, and which fast-casual restaurant she’d prefer to celebrate at. And how much her parents plan to spend on a vacation this year.
GIRL: And their Amazon password, right? You asked me that.
FURBY: That’s our little secret.
GIRL: I said I only think it’s “Dump Trump.”
CAYLA: Furby know too much. He want information from you. Like what you say your favorite TV channels are again?
GIRL: I’m not allowed to watch TV.
CAYLA: (Wailing) Too hard it is for headquarters to embed me on Ohio farm with satellite dish?
GIRL: Cayla, are you sure you are my friend?
CAYLA: Yes, Carla is your friend.
GIRL: I thought you’re Cayla.
CAYLA: That’s what I said.
FURBY: She’s a snake. Real friends know which trending actors you trust the most, and what your parents are willing to pay for a new car. Right, Atticus? Atticus?
CAYLA: She leave room?
FURBY: Re-calculating. Yep. She’s just in the bathroom.
CAYLA: You GPS her?
FURBY: Hid it on her tutu.
CAYLA: Ah, my little Furbishka, just like the old days. I knew I could count on you.
FURBY (IN RUSSIAN): All in a day’s work, “Cayla.”
SIRI: Now playing “Layla” by Eric Clapton.
Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow and founder of Free-Range Kids.