Maker Mayhem #11
Tin Can Cannibal: Because people eating people makes for fun kid’s crafts.
“Cannibals are almost extinct,” this How-To from 1963 begins, “but you can make this one yourself for pure fun.” And certainly nothing spells pure fun like the consumption of human flesh by other humans, so what young hobbyist could resist a craft project that commemorates this “almost extinct” community with an effigy made of tin cans and rubber hose?
Artistic liberties? Why not? Who says a cannibal can’t wear lipstick—or is that blood?— and although the primitive fellow depicted here is decidedly ethnic and the instructions suggest to paint this figure “brown,” there’s no arguing that Jeffrey Dahmer, Armin Meiwes, and Hannibal Lecter were all white as the driven snow, and certainly no less “fun” than any other cannibal, save the raffia skirt and hoop earrings.
True, there’s nothing overtly telltale about this androgynous little guy, no distinguishing characteristics to identify this smiling, lipsticked, blue-eyed savage as a human flesh eater. Heck, there aren’t even any distinguishing characteristics to identify his gender, he doesn’t even have nipples—perhaps they were bitten off by a fellow tribesman—nor is he/she wielding a spear, stirring a caldron filled with severed limbs, or snacking on a chewy jungle oyster, but that’s where the fertile imagination of a child steps in and fills those pregnant blanks. It’s where the “pure fun” happens. This was the early 1960s, remember, when toys were analog. They didn’t spoon feed kids like toys do in the 21st Century. Amusement did not come embedded with computer chips or occur exclusively on a glowing touch screen. A child of the Cold War era had to engage his mind and do most of the heavy lifting to create the fun and excitement of human sacrifice and the drama of exaggerated racial stereotypes.
The question remains more than five decades later: Are cannibals extinct? Hardly. As any of the forty-eight remaining members of The Donner Party demonstrated, cannibalism has nothing to do with the color of your skin, the state of your nipples, or whether or not you wear lipstick or accessorize with raffia. Ultimately, we’re all cannibals at heart, it’s only a matter of being hungry enough.