By the late ‘80s, Freddy Krueger had become so popular and so accepted that it was hard to continue looking at him through a “horror” lens.
As I mentioned on the Elm Street edition of the Purple Stuff Podcast, Freddy started to seem like an edgier version of Pee-wee Herman — not because their acts were similar, but because both were so weird yet so completely embraced by virtually everyone.
It wasn’t surprising that Freddy was a hit with adults, nor was it really surprising that he was a hit with teens. The shock was that Freddy was even popular among children, leading to more kid-targeted merchandise based on an R-rated serial killer than was arguably tasteful.
…and here’s the best proof ever:
Freddy’s Bubble Gum, released by Topps in 1989, was a product of its time in 50 different ways.
You only could’ve gotten away with something like this during the late ‘80s. It wouldn’t have flown before then, and any company that tried to make it fly after then would’ve at least hedged its bets by pretending the gum was some adult-targeted novelty item.
Tl;dr: 1989 was the best year to make bubble gum out of Freddy Krueger.
It was hardly out of place. Freddy’s Bubble Gum was just the latest in a long line of kid-targeted Elm Street merch, running the gamut from talking dolls to door posters. Freddy was half pin-up model, half ALF.
Though advertised as bubble gum, it was more accurately chewing gum. Generous handfuls came trapped inside of Freddy-themed tubes, which themselves were stylistic midpoints between lipstick tubes and Push Pop containers. Which was just so freakin’ great.
Since the gum looked like something a dentist might provide to wean you off real gum, kids were only in this for those swank containers. (I mean hell, Topps didn’t even bother to give the gum Freddy-appropriate colors. Imagine if the pieces were just black and red? I would’ve had to write this whole article in caps.)
Topps released no less than twelve different bubble gum tubes, each with a unique Freddy sticker and goofy quote. Twelve was incredibly excessive by every measure, so let me take this opportunity to thank Topps for being so completely out of their minds.
The semi-rare promo shots of Freddy are fun, but nothing beats those ridiculous quotes. Pick your favorite:
1) Who Stole My Nail Clippers?
2) Pleasant Dreams!
3) Say Your Prayers!
4) Finger Lickin’ Good!
5) My Name is Freddy… Your Name is Mud!
6) Home Sweet Homicide!
7) Kiss Me!
8) Quiet — I’m Killing Someone!
9) Can I Take Your Order?
10) Freddy the Sex Symbol!
11) Freddy Rules!
12) The Freddy Nobody Knows
You’ll note that one of the quotes identifies Freddy as a sex symbol, and another actually uses the word “homicide.” I love how Topps always seemed like they were trying to court good buzz via bad press. Even in the baseball card and candy industries, I guess there are rebels.
PS: “The Freddy Nobody Knows” will forever be my favorite of the bunch. Freddy is just misunderstood, like Cool Hand Luke or that one asshole Smurf.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Freddy’s Bubble Gum. By now you may be wondering if it’s really that good for clicks. Actually, no, from experience I can tell you that it sure isn’t, but I gotta be me, and being me involves publicly obsessing over Freddy’s Bubble Gum at least twice a year.
It reminds me of the awesome sleaziness of candy counters at late ‘80s corner stores, dotted with gruesome trading card packs and surrounded by adult magazines. Those counters were like virtual Pleasure Islands, where we’d eat and look at all of the worst shit. There, Freddy’s Bubble Gum felt like the patron saint.
I now leave you in the capable hands of The Fat Boys. Thanks for reading.