The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 6, 2008

Valentine’s Day Kitsch Roundup

Filed under: Culture, shopping — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 3:05 am


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner now, and as the thoughts of (some) people turn to the subject of love, the seasonal sections of the stores have filled up with all manner of heart-encrusted merchandise.  Back in the old days, it used to be sufficient to put out a few boxes of chocolates and other heart-shaped candies, and a selection of the noncommittal “friend” cards featuring the current pop culture flavor of the week for kids to pass out in their grade school classes.  Nowdays, as is the case with pretty much any other holiday, they’ve overcommercialized the living daylights out of it, and the variety of Valentine’s Day merchandise available these days at your typical discount store is staggering, and continues to expand every year.

As a single guy who probably isn’t doing as much as I should to rectify that situation, I generally don’t have much reason to be shopping for anything related to Valentine’s Day, and even if I did, I’m pretty sure I’d have to come up with something a bit more romantic than the stuff that you are going to see here.  In fact, I’m certain that if I was involved in any sort of meaningful relationship with a living breathing human female, giving most of these items as a gift would probably result in the termination of said relationship.  After the jump, a selection of some of the finest Valentine’s Day kitsch to grace the shelves of whatever department store you happen to shop at, and a reminder of why you should probably just stick with the roses and expensive jewelry.


The selection of items available for Valentine’s Day now extends well beyond the standard cards, candy and flowers now, all the way into dishes, home decor items and… buckets?  Other than being red, I’m not sure what those have to do with Valentine’s Day, nor is there anything even remotely romantic about one of those, unless you happen to be dating a grammatically challenged walrus.

Moving on to the candy section, we find that the heart-shaped box full of chocolate is alive and well, although it seems to have taken some different forms these days.  Here we see two NASCAR themed examples, depicting two of the series most marketabletalented young race drivers, who seem to account for roughly 95% of all NASCAR merchandise that you’ll find outside of a racetrack.  Since Dale Earnhardt Jr. (the one on the left) is currently between teams, they are just sticking with a generic theme for now, which I suspect will disappear quickly once the season starts and he is in his new car.  The question is, who exactly are you going to give these to that will appreciate them?  And what’s the chance that they will find said drivers far more attractive than yourself?

Elsewhere in the candy aisle, we see these, perfect for the rebellious angst-riddled fashion victim in your life.  Of course they aren’t using actual leather (that would be ridiculous, and would probably cost a lot more than $9.99) but it does appear that the one on the right uses actual denim, presumably hand-distressed by some beleaguered factory worker.  This sure seems like a lot of effort to put into a box of candy.  And by the way, if that’s supposed to be a perfect fit, then why would you need a belt?

For those people who are sick of chocolate but can’t think of anything better to get, we’ve got this box of gummy eyes, guaranteed to send your intended Valentine fleeing screaming from the room or your money back.  Apparently someone went just a bit overboard with the Halloween candy production last year, and this was the only thing the could think of to get rid of the leftovers.  I do suppose it could be worse though; I’d hate to imagine what would happen if a little kid was to find these in their Easter basket.

Moving away from the hearts, we find some of the other cleverly shaped chocolate items, including this chocolate shaped bass (the box claims there is a trout-shaped model as well, but I could not find an example of this on the shelves.)  Although this might be just a bit more socially acceptable than some of the prior examples, I’d save this one for the hardcore fisherman.  And if they don’t like it, just stick it on a plaque and put it over the fireplace mantel.

As usual, the Hershey Corporation is well-represented among the candy displays here, bringing out a special edition Champagne Truffle flavor of Hershey’s Kisses, complete with a bottle to match, but be careful…

…or you could end up looking like this.  I’m pretty sure it was the intent of whoever designed this to evoke into the whole sentimentality-laced “XOXOXO” thing that you’re supposed to stick at the end of a love letter, but combined with the above item on the shelf, it makes it look like they managed to get themselves plastered off the Champagne Truffle Kisses and passed out in the corner. 

But those passed-out drunkard teddy bears aren’t even the most disturbing thing on the shelf.  These Animal Expressions cards take some cute pictures of various animals, and add a set of strategically placed chocolate lips on each one in just about the creepiest possible manner.  It doesn’t even look like they tried to position them properly (especially on the crocodile.)  These types of cards will probably be used mostly for the standard awkward elementary school Valentine’s Day card exchange. but if I saw one of these things heading toward me I’d be running for the hills.

If none of the previous items is adequate to express the feelings of your heart to that special friend of yours, why not write your own using these Candy Love Notes (you can eat, the package assures you.)  Also perfect for the dashing international super spy on a budget who is getting sick of eating paper.

Of course in today’s world, no holiday is complete without a slew of obnoxious animatronic robo-toys, and Valentine’s Day is no exception.  I don’t know who keeps buying all these things, but judging from the sheer number of the things that appear on the shelf for any given holiday it sounds like someone is.

Of course, no self-respecting holiday would be complete without dancing hamsters.  I’m sure if you looked (I would, but I’m not sure if I’m too lazy to do so or too scared of what I might find,) you would find that there’s a dancing hamster for any occasion you could possibly think of.  All they need to do is come up with a different set of clothing, program the things with yet another badly butchered cover song that was popular when your Grandpa was a kid, and call the factory in China to churn out another three million of the things.

If Lo-fi singing and robotic dancing aren’t your thing, you can always go for the classic gigantic teddy bear.  Cute as a button, and sure to be a hit with the ladies, at least until February 16th when the holiday is over, and they have this gigantic teddy bear taking up half the bed and nowhere else to put it.  Be sure to tell her that you spent $600 at the carnival midway to get it, that way she’ll know how dedicated you are.

Of course, every so often things aren’t going to go quite as you planned, and you’re going to need something with which to fix a broken heart.  For that, they conveniently provide these boxes of chocolate bandages for a quick yet ultimately ineffectual fix, and a handy set of Malice, Spite and Wrath chocolate bars (at least one of which contains chili pepper in the ingredients) for revenge-seeking purposes. 


But if you’re going to go to the dark side, why not just go all the way?  Apparently all it takes to turn a murderous Sith lord into a great Valentine’s Day gift is a single sticker with a pair of lips on it.  I’m pretty sure that most people would get themselves force-choked to death for even thinking about such a thing.  Then again, apparently even Darth Vader some good in him after about the fifth or sixth time that George Lucas decided to go back and reedit the films.

Good luck with your Valentine’s Day shopping, and remember that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, as you might find out from painful experience if you give any of these items as a gift…



  1. This post makes me grateful for the facts that: (a)my children were homeschooled, and didn’t have to deal with the whole “a Valentine for every classmate” thing; (b)we don’t buy cheap chocolate that tastes like brown waxy plastic; and (c)my husband, son-in-law and my daughter’s suitor have MUCH more class than the men that would buy that junk!

    Comment by Susan in Elk Grove CA — February 6, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  2. Ha, that’s hilarious. True… any guy who buys that deserves to be dumped. Anyway, I really like this blog! Keep it up!

    Comment by Marissa — February 6, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

  3. I have also wondered what’s up with the bukkits!

    I have to say, though, that nothing looks scarier than the gay biker pig that’s next to the ‘rapping robot’.

    -insert Sideshow Bob rake noise from the Simpsons-

    Comment by superjen — February 6, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  4. Oh, good old-fashioned American kitsch. What makes me sad though is that I went into the store in JANUARY and not only was Valentines’ stuff up in force…..they had the friggin’ EASTER CANDY there too! What good could POSSIBLY come of buying Easter candy 2 1/2 months early?!?!

    Comment by reccaphoenix — March 2, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  5. […] these days.  I’d say that the quantity is probably similar to what’s available for Valentine’s Day, and that one’s starting to look way too overcommercialized already.  I had previously […]

    Pingback by A Cavalcade of Somewhat Delightful Easter Merchandise « The Sledgehammer - Version 2.0 — March 22, 2008 @ 2:08 am

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