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Clarke's Law for Girls' Toys

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Little do they know, Baby Alive runs on two C batteries (not included).

Toys for girls which are marketed as using magic/transformations rather than technology. These ads or brands are aired in countries with truth-in-advertising laws. Therefore, these toys must use actual magic!

Okay, seriously, computers, electronics, mechanics, and alkaline batteries allow toys to do amazing things. Toy companies are well aware of this. But how they handle it depends on whether the toy is meant for boys or girls.

  • If it's for boys, then the technology in the toy will be prominent in the advertising. The design of the toy and its description in commercials will suggest bleeding-edge technology. "*batteries not included" will be displayed relatively prominently.
  • If it's for girls, then it's time to break out the fairy dust. Even the need for batteries is hidden in fine print. Everything the toy does is attributed to magic, transformation, "really being alive", or other mysterious powers. The girls in the commercials will act overawed and amazed as dolls move, dance, eat, change clothes, transform, and talk in response to voice commands.

Not every advertising campaign uses the trope. For example, the 1980s Jem toy line which had Synergy, a hologram-making super-computer. Another was the 2000s line of GirlTech products, which made up for their open high-techness by being very, very pink.

This is by no means a hard and fast rule, however. In fact, the pure and simple reason for this trope seems to be that most toys for girls are supposed to mimic something living, such as babies or animals. Meanwhile, most boys' toys have historically been based on machinery such as vehicles or weapons, and—barring certain noteworthy exceptions—there's no need to convince boys that their new RC car or toy blaster gun is a sentient creature. When a product aimed at boys does imitate something living, it's also treated as "alive." For example, Mattel's "D-rex" is an interactive robotic dinosaur, aimed mostly at boys, whose advertisements made it out to be a living creature.

This trope has been around for decades, going as far back as the creation of plastic baby bottles that "magically" have the doll drink the juice or milk inside and then "refill"—when the actual mechanism is that the hollow bottle has liquid channels and the liquid flows to hide behind the bottle nipple when the bottle is inverted.

Compare Mother Nature, Father Science, Women Are Wiser, Pink Product Ploy, Doing in the Scientist.


  • A non-toy example is found in the ballet dancing video Bella Dancerella, where Bella uses magic to make the ballet equipment appear and change costumes.
  • The Baby Alive doll brand often claims that the doll "magically" eats its food and in some products the doll "really" goes to the bathroom, complete with diapers to change (and buy new ones when they're used up.) In actuality, the liquid food is flushed through the doll's body. Less messy version have plastic food or liquid that "mysteriously" fills a spoon and is "really" eaten; the food is connected on a plastic spoon, snaps out of sight into the handle when put to the doll's mouth, and is released again when the spoon is pushed into the food bowl.
  • The infamous "Snack Time Kids" dolls from Cabbage Patch Kids were advertised as "really" chewing the snack food they came with. The dolls ate their plastic food sticks by pulling them in through the mechanical mouth with a motor that activated when the food was pushed in, and deposited into the attached backpack through a hole (or, in the ads, the snacks came back "like magic"). The mechanism didn't differentiate between snacks and anything else put near the mouth such as children's hair or other toys and was designed to keep "chewing" until the item was pulled through—leading to a recall soon after release when multiple kids got their hair caught in the motor and had to have it removed.
  • Frequently in the Barbie line, often when it comes to clothes changes or actions. Clothes "magically" transform from one look to another, Barbie "really" talks, etc. For example, the quickly discontinued Growing Up Skipper from the 1970s could rotate her arm to "instantly" grow up from a child to an teenager—the arm rotation stretched the torso up and out over hidden breast molds underneath the flexible plastic.
  • The toy brand Magic Mixies is built on this premise. The Magic Mixies Magical Cauldron has the user "mix" a potion on the lid with specific steps that add glitter, water, scrap paper "charms", and powders to the top, and have the user wave a wand around in between steps; eventually the lid will flip over and "reveal" the electronic toy animal inside, which can interact with the wand. The same is true for the Magic Mixies Magical Crystal Ball, which instead has a ball fill with "mist" before revealing the toy inside. The Blind Bag Collectables, Mixlings, do the same but with less mechanics and lights; instead, "magic" bubbling powder is poured on the paper of a cauldron and followed with water, which then dissolves the paper seal and reveals the figurine and a plastic bottle accessory. These figures can then "magically" do things such as change color with cold water, flip fortunes with the wand (via magnets), and glow in the dark. A doll line, Pixlings, has the doll encased in a tall bottle that liquids are poured into, then twisted and pressed until the mixed dark blue potion is magically "cleared" to show the doll inside. The line often has users say magic words to "activate" the magic, but it's all chemical or physical reactions. With the Pixlings, users can even just open the bottle to pull the doll out with no need for all the ceremony.
  • Poopsie Surprise Unicorns are large unicorn dolls that "magically poop" slime after being fed their unicorn food—which is made up of various slime-making ingredients—and mixed by rocking the doll, then pooped out by pushing their belly buttons. The smaller Sparkly Critters also mix and poop slime, but this is done with the powder already inside and water in a syringe is put inside to activate it.
  • Averted with the Project MC2 toy line, which had an emphasis on science and technology with small science projects included with the fashion dolls.