In Slate, Lowen Liu laments the impending change in one of America’s most popular games:
The board game Monopoly will soon lose a classic token and gain a new one, by way of a public vote on Facebook. It may sound like harmless fun, but is in fact a travesty, though not for the sake of nostalgia or preservational instinct. Notice the four tokens currently winning the vote, and thus most likely to stay “safe” from elimination. They are, as of this writing, the Scottie dog, the race car, the battleship, and the top hat. What do they have in common? Accoutrements of the 1 percent. A Scottish terrier champion-line puppy may cost $1,500. A roadster, $50,000. A battleship, $100 million in mid-century dollars. The top hat is as much a sign of the filthy rich as the monocle.
And here are the four losers: the humble thimble, the laceless workboot, the iron (no electric model, this one you had to heat in a stovepipe oven), and the current bottom-feeder, the wheelbarrow. What do they have in common? Labor. Penury. The proposed replacement tokens? An anthropomorphic robot, a diamond ring, a guitar, a cat with sizeable bling on its collar, and a bleeping helicopter. Not a one of them symbolic of the laboring class.
What Liu fails to realize is that Monopoly is not, and never has been, a blue-collar game. It’s raison d’etre is the acquisition of large amounts of railroads and real estate, on which you build houses and hotels until you’re such a bastard of a landlord that you force your rent-paying opponent into bankruptcy and shame. Or until you’re both beyond bored with playing a game that takes hours to finish (even in its “short” version), in which case the winner is declared to be whoever has the most stuff.
If Monopoly were a game about the working class, there wouldn’t be a space called Luxury Tax. Or a way to get out of jail by paying a mere fifty dollars. Or a couple of hundred bucks in free income just for making it past the filthy-rich Park Place/Boardwalk neighborhood. Or where the cheapest land you can purchase is in the Mediterranean.
So go ahead, go crazy and be the top hat or the race car and live a rich-guy fantasy. And like any privileged person, be sure to bend the rules and collect $500 whenever you land on Free Parking.
Update 2/6/13: The cat wins, the iron is out.