Andru McCracken headshot
Andru McCracken, Editor

By Andru McCracken

I was interviewing a new resident last week when he hit me across the head with a rich new phrase: the valley of the broken toys.

I was so struck by it, I stopped listening to whatever he was going on about. This phrase, this line, so familiar, but from where? It was vaguely literary.

It conjured up images of the workshop in Blade Runner (Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep for the library types)… you know, the 80s sci-fi film about a bounty hunter who exterminates androids for a living and who ultimately escapes with his beloved – da da dah – who is an android. And whoops, he himself is an android! If you haven’t seen the film you ought to. Ultimately the hero and heroine end up here in the valley (though this is positively unaccounted for in the sequel).

Intrigued enough to reveal my ignorance, I asked him what he meant.

The valley of broken toys is the place where broken toys go. People that don’t fit in. At this point I am imagining draft dodgers, outlaws, hippies, preppers, hermits, nerds, back to the landers, artists, antisocial types.

There’s something to chew on.

But I’ve been thinking about this idea for a few days now and it has rather grown on me.

If you think society at large, beyond the valley, is a fine and wonderful thing, it could well be a cutting insult.

But if you see society at large, beyond the valley, as a sort of psychotic people juicer, it could be a very good thing.

It’s an interesting lens for the valley and a challenging one. To suppose that what makes the valley intriguing and different is not the wholesome wholeness of the people here, their perfection and oneness with society, but their flaws, their inability to get along elsewhere.

It kind of turns the whole paradigm of our beautiful mountain life on its head.

My family and I are planning a trip abroad this summer, and it feels like there is something in the wind just now, an urge among many to travel. Hopefully a little time outside the toybox will provide some new reflections and appreciation on this wonderful clutter of toys.

After writing this piece I tried again to find some meaningful pop culture references to the valley of broken toys, scanning through a plethora of indie music albums and disturbing pop-psychology references, I came across the obvious: Disney’s Silly Symphony of 1935 called Broken Toys. The Internet Movie Database said it all: A sailor doll, thrown into a toy dump, rallies the demoralized dolls that were already there.