Author Conflicted by “The Terrifying Awesomeness of Nerf Guns”

Anyone with kids knows they love Nerf guns. Even liberal feature writers are forced to recognize that, not only are they cool and fun to play with, but that no matter what you may think about gun play, kids love ‘em. In Farhad Manjoo’s recent Slate piece, he alternates between marveling at how fun and inventive the guns are and fretting about what it may mean that his kids will actually, you know, have a blast playing with them…

Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing with some of the new Nerf guns, and I’ve tied myself in knots thinking about whether ultrarealistic weapons are just harmless fun or whether they reveal something terribly wrong with modern American boyhood. I’ll admit it: As a father of a 1-year-old son, Nerf’s weaponry worries me. And it worries me mainly because these guns seem irresistible. Before I played with them, I’d suspected I’d be the sort of blue-state parent who’d try to subtly, high-mindedly discourage my kid from playing with guns. After getting my hands on today’s Nerf, I see that’ll never work. If they’re so appealing to me, what hope would a 7-year-old have against these insanely awesome toys?

None at all, Farhad. None at all. Oh, the confounding dilemmas faced by the modern progressive parent.

Ultimately Manjoo boils the whole Nerf blaster (even Nerf doesn’t use the word ‘gun’ to describe their toys) predicament down to two questions; are they safe and are they “good” for your spawn. He determined their safety by gamely acting as a human target  – sans body armor – while his wife shot him with a variety of Nerf weaponry. He seemed to come through the ordeal relatively unscathed, pronouncing them safe.

As for the whole developmental question, though, where would a modern, concerned parent turn for toy gun advice? Why, to a liberal academic of course. Majoo consults Diane Levin, education professor and author of The War Play Dilemma. Perhaps resigning herself to the inevitability of kids playing with toy guns, she (shockingly) doesn’t suggest banning them, instead recommending that parents set limits and “(teach) your kids lessons while they’re playing.” That should make for a fun time, no?

Finally, though, Manjoo knows when he’s beaten. Though clearly unsure of the propriety of this whole toy gun thing, he ultimately throws up his hands in the face of all that irresistible plastic firepower:

Look at the bright side: If your kids play with Nerf, at least they’re running around outside.

21 Responses to Author Conflicted by “The Terrifying Awesomeness of Nerf Guns”

  1. avatarJStading says:

    To avoid problems with kids getting the wrong message, we should ban Nerf guns that hold more than 10 darts, that are black, and that have shoulder things that go up.

    • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

      That isn’t going far enough. We must ban any Nerf “blaster” that even remotely resembles any weapon used by any military force of the last 150 years. If it saves just one child…

  2. avatarCarlosT says:

    Perhaps resigning herself to the inevitability of kids playing with toy guns, she (shockingly) doesn’t suggest banning them, instead recommending that parents set limits and “(teach) your kids lessons while they’re playing.” That should make for a fun time, no?

    Could be okay.

    “All right Junior, first off, finger off the trigger until your sights are on target. Now let’s work on your grip…”

  3. avatarScott says:

    I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry…

    My son has a veritable nerf armory. He understands clearly the difference between these and ‘real’ guns. When will some of these lib’bers let their balls descend and quit trying to chickify boys. And that may be sexist, but watch a little boy play if left totally to their own devices. They make guns out of sticks. They throw rocks on completely non-military figures and say boom. They roll hot wheels over death defying jumps and cheer for glorious crashes. You can’t reeducate that out of a boy.

  4. avatarChris Dumm says:

    Mr. Manjoo has it (partly) right. I’ve been giving my kids Nerf guns for years, in the hope that their interest will eventually move on to the real thing. And it’s starting to work: my 8 year-old is an ace with my .22 AR. She needs a shooting bench and a bipod, and I hover over her like a helicopter to make sure she does it right, but she loves it.

  5. avatarRalph says:

    Manjoo, you poor tortured soul. May I say from the bottom of my heart that you are a major gaping @$$h0le?

    It must be tough for his kids, growing up without a male to guide them.

  6. avatarJoe Grine says:

    Lets face it, “liberal” men are pussies.

    • avatarMitch says:

      Hate to break it to you, but there are many gun loving liberals. It’s a complete shame that we live in a political climate of all or nothing. Just because I support social change in many areas doesn’t mean that I don’t love to blow to blow holes in things with quality firearms. The two party system is a joke, and people need to start realizing that its virtually impossible to side completely with one side or the other. Wake up people, because we are all getting played.

    • avatarcolin says:

      Yeeeah. Nice one. Im a liberal in most things, I love my guns, and my hunting time. Fun for me is either at the range, backpacking, or working on my hog. Im pretty dang sure that if you saw me down at the neighborhood watering hole, there is no way in hades that you would call me a pussy to my face. C’mon, man, crass generalizations are so 1900s.

  7. avatarGS650G says:

    We had wars with BB guns, now that’s child warfare. And threw rocks , M-80s, bottle rockets, and bottles. Twp teams would enter the woods with no particular goals except to plug each other. No mercy given either.
    We wore safety goggles so it was OK. And usually three pair of pants and a heavy coat.
    We survived.

  8. avatarTTACer says:

    “I’ve tied myself in knots thinking about whether ultrarealistic weapons are just harmless fun or whether they reveal something terribly wrong with modern American boyhood.”

    Hey, worldly liberal, your limitless provincialism is showing.

  9. avatarcaffeinated says:

    Nerf guns are obviously a way for those evil conservatives to indoctrinate and brainwash kids to join the military or A MILITIA!?!?! The next step is employment of child soldiers by the military-industrial machine. The children! Think of the children!

    …On a more serious note, someone could get a nasty smudged window or something from a stray dart. If Manjoo can’t discern a Nerf gun and a real one, I feel really sorry for his 1 year old son.

  10. avatarBrandon says:

    sounds like Manjoo is lacking Man goo…putz…

  11. avatarSilver says:

    This is a toughie. On the one hand, one must commend the guy for being an active parent and caring about what his kid does. On the other hand, we can draw a parallel in too much wrong-headed parenting to too much wrong-headed government, and the effects it can have when the overlord’s “values” are shoved onto the underlings. Funny that he seems proud of being a blue statist…never knew people could be proud of mental disorders.

    Still, give him credit for at least accepting the inevitable truth; way too many seething lefties cling to impossible fantasy worlds despite evidence and truth.

  12. avatarLand says:

    I like to remember the TV shows I watched as a kid…GI Joe, Voltron, He-Man, Transformers and X-men they all seemed to involve fighting. I’ve heard some people say the old bugs bunny and roadrunner cartoons were too violent. What a sad sad world

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