Aug 31, 2018

Dreamboat or Dud?: Heterosexism and "Mystery Date"

Mystery Date was a board game introduced by Milton Bradley in 1965.  The object was to assemble the proper cards to create a full girl's outfit for a formal dance, bowling, the beach, or skiing.  Then, if your outfit matched that of the dreamy boy at the door, you got to go on the date.  But you had to be careful of the wild card, a poorly dressed "dud."

The real object, of course, was to get girls used to the idea of being objects of desire, using fashion and accessories to draw the attention of dreamy boys.  The game was for "girls only." 

 I played on occasion, but only when my friend Beth insisted, and even then, I found it annoying to have to pretend to like wearing girls' clothes just to go bowling or to the beach with a cute boy.  Why couldn't boys go on "mystery dates" with boys?

The answer is that no one at Milton Bradley in 1965 ever considered for a moment that any girl  existed who might want to accessorize for girls, or that any boy existed who wanted a dreamy boy at his door.  

But nearly half a century has passed.  Now we have same-sex marriage, gay senators, gay-straight alliances in high schools, a gay teen in Paranorman, and a video of Woody, the cowboy toy from Toy Story, advising gay kids that "It gets better." Surely in new versions of the game, boys can participate, and there might be male or female dreamboats at the  door.

No, not at all.  In 1995 Hasbro released a new version of the game, with a real "mystery" component: you received clues about your date from boys talking to you on the telephone, and had to dress properly for 24 potential dates.  But it was still girls prepping.

Milton Bradley released several versions to tie-in with Disney's successful (and relatively gay-positive) High School Musical  franchise.  I checked the latest, High School Musical 3  Mystery Date (2008).  You have  to prep for a date with one of the four movie hunks, Troy, Ryan, Chad, or Zeke.  But you still have to be a girl.


  1. James Rolfe has done Dream Phone as part of his Board James series, but not Mystery Date.

    He does depict Dream Phone as the archetypal stalker gay villain. (Mr Bucket too. Because balls in his mouth. Yeah, 90s toys didn't even bother hiding innuendo. Isn't that right, Pull Along Cock?) But to be fair, the series' actual villain is James himself.

  2. On Simpsons, Milhouse is the dud. And Bart draws him. (Vacation episode where Lisa's cool and Gary's stick playing board games with the family. Milhouse is there too. He's still not a meme.)

  3. I have few memories from around age four or before, but one is being infatuated with this game that some neighborhood girls would play. I was so excited to see who would be behind the door. That might have been the first inkling I was on my way to gayhood.


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