Monday, February 11, 2013

There's no iron in irony

And now there's no iron in the Monopoly set. The little metal token has been removed by a forum on that most faceless of juries, Facebook.

What has been lost seems more than just a piece of metal (or, as is likely in some of the newer sets, plastic). It's the loss of a piece that was in the illustrations for the game's official patent in 1935. Of course, as so often seems to be the case, a version of the game had already been around for several decades -- one that had been invented by a woman. Still, the game most of us know goes back to that one invented in the depths of the Great Depression and served as a pastime for dreamers, with visions of getting rich.

Although there are websites refuting the idea that the Monopoly tokens might have had any particular significance, I can't help but think they probably did. The thimble? Dressmakers and tailors. The cannon/artillery, the military. The hat? Since it's the same as the one on the head of Mr Monopoly, the character associated with the game, let's say that personifies the entrepreneur. The ship? Transportation. The shoe? This one's probably the trickiest. Athletes didn't yet get anything like today's big bucks, so that was hardly one of the main streams of employment. My guess is it might have been a good stand-in for those in sales. During the Depression, they must have gone through many a pair of shoes.

But back to the humble handiron. Surely, it stands for the realm of the domestic. The world of steady work that goes on in the home -- work for mostly no pay. Could that be why it's undervalued enough to now be voted out of the mix?

Yes, other tokens have changed over the years. There've been race cars, with and without driver inside. Rocking horse, rising horse (a la Roy Rogers' Trigger), lantern and purse. Oh yes, the little Scotty dog. Again, another connection to Mr Monopoly -- supposedly his dog.

And now, we get a cat. Hmm. I am stumped as to what significance this might bring. Don't get me wrong, I love kitties as much as anyone. I just don't see them as representative of any occupation. Hunters? Sleepers? Royalty? Perhaps. Or maybe the all-too-many who are under- or un-employed.

Maybe this is more than just a loss of trinket that served as token in a board game. Maybe it says something -- not about losing a sense of irony (that's supposedly been dead for years now) -- but about losing a sense of the meanings behind things, about losing a sense of symbol. And considering that symbol is the basis of art and even language, that's not a loss to take lightly.

PS The delightful fence of antiques in the photo has since been replaced by a boringly white picket one. And as far as I know, they didn't even take a poll on Facebook.

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