Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On a Slow News Day, "Django Unchained" Action Figures are a really big deal

I haven't seen Django Unchained, but I'd like to.  It seems interesting.

Sometimes I weep that the only conversation really happening around comics and the underground subculture of collectors and the like seems to be around "Fake Nerd Girls" - an argument that really reflects any time a sort-of-underground scene starts to get co-opted as the public realizes the scene exists and ham handedly starts playing with it like a spastic two-year old who likes shiny things.  I sort of see "Fake Nerd Girls" as the 2012-era equivalent of when Nirvana, etc... became more sellable than LA hair-metal-bands and "alternative" was launched as a major marketing concept in music.  This, of course, meant that a segment of the population actually suddenly started paying attention to "alternative" charts and somehow this culminated in tribal tattoos on suburban dads in Phoenix in 2003.

With The Big Bang Theory netting 19 million viewers recently (that's, like, 6% of the US population or some crazy nonsense - and people generally don't watch TV that way anymore), I kind of assume that the show, as reviled as its become in nerd world, has at least demonstrated some of the behavior and habits of the comics/ toy collecting/ geek community to the populace at large.  I mean, comic collecting may not be a mainstream activity, but since the early 00's, the stigma has lessened to a degree enough that folks like myself don't hide their shame anymore and will answer questions if asked instead of denying that they collect comics.*  We can thank TBBT for at least semi-humanizing the mutants from the comic shop into characters with taglines.

But, apparently, a lot of people aren't watching The Big Bang Theory, and to a lot of folks the notion that grown-assed adults collect action figures (or "dolls" as the press will derisively insist) is complete news or totally unbelievable.  Even more surprising, that a person would buy a movie action figure and then not role-play with the figures like Dark Helmet in Spaceballs seems mind-bogglingly impossible.

It seems that NECA has released a line of officially licensed Django Unchained action figures (or "dolls", if you want to put a certain spin on the story and, therefore, anyone who would dare buy a doll of Jamie Foxx). After years of far, far more questionable product tie-ins, I would not dare question the judgment of NECA, the Weinstein Company or purchasers of this product.  I don't know why you'd want these, but I doubt many folks know why I have literally hundreds of little Superman eyes peering at me from action figures all over my office.

Here's an article that was picked up and redistributed from Reuters all over the place.

here's the ABC story that seems to have first reported on all this mess

I notice neither source seems particularly interested in reporting that these are not toys intended for kids or standard toy box fun.

I did notice The Guardian had the decency to point out:

The Django figurines, which are intended as collectibles for adults and are the latest in a series of Tarantino memorabilia pieces created for fans of his films, are on sale online via sites such as Amazon

Look, I'm not sure what's right and wrong here.  I don't own a Nat Turner action figure or anything.  And I don't know what it would mean if one existed or what it would mean if I owned it.

But with the movie as a fulcrum, the purpose and point of the toys raises an interesting question, as it feels like two different parties who could completely misunderstand each other and has the media there to sort of blow it up into something else, yet again.

With collectors, there's both an intention that's about movie fandom that clearly has nothing to do with enthusiasm for owning "slave action figures" and a naivete if you can't maybe see some of the point the protesters are making in your rush to own every toy ever based on the movies of Quentin Tarantino.**

For the protestors - I can't believe an explanation of the purity of the movie memorabilia collector's interest in the figure would matter much, even if it could be explained to them that these are not toys aimed at children for playing with in the tub (that's my 1978 Walrus Man action figure from Star Wars, a constant tub-buddy with his flipper feet).  But, again, I'm a little surprised that in 2013, they weren't a little better clued in to the intended purpose of the object as the protest seems to stem from their understanding of the intended purpose.  Keep in mind, the protesters actually like the movie.  And it seems like there were maybe 8 people at the protest, so...

The media - well, good lord, they have a story to tell that seems sexily incendiary if they leave out the complications of "intended audience and use of this product" and can villify media darling QT, memorabilia collectors or any adult who would want a "doll", for goodness sake.

I was recently in a specialty shop in San Antonio that was selling tiny metal soldiers for anywhere between $25- 75 a pop, and these were 2 inch figurines.  The place was littered with Nazis and all sorts of unsavory real-life historical folks - some in scenes of battle, some of Nazis hanging out around their barracks and airplanes.  That's a lot of money to spend on tiny Nazis, and is, frankly, a hobby I completely do not understand.  But not once did I think "hey, this shopkeep really loves Nazis and hates all the people the Nazis treated inhumanely and murdered."

I'm trying to imagine this same journalist learning about two-inch metal Nazi figurines and surprising people in the street and asking them if THEY would buy Nazi toys...

Again, I haven't yet seen Django Unchained, but I will.  I can understand hating the whole product, lock, stock and barrel, but I find singling out the licensed merchandise a bit odd.  The reporter's insistence on making this a thing, his editor and producer's insistence on running the story with no seeming attempt to understand who was buying these toys or why except for comments on an Amazon website (which is a whole story unto itself) - all seems like something even the yellowest of journalists wouldn't bother with, but a lazy one would hand in on a slow news day.

I want to be sensitive to the arguments of the protesters, because maybe there IS something weird about collecting a "House Slave" doll to have in your back office, even if it is a Samuel L. Jackson character from a hit movie about revenging the slave experience via film (as I understand it).  But to blow past what the characters represent like it's just a Neo from The Matrix action figure is a bit...  well, it sort of smacks of the thin view of geek culture's interest in the media product over all else, I think.

Look, I'm not a smart guy.  I just get tired of the fact that the few things I do understand always seem impossibly mangled when someone tries to talk about them from the press.  I don't want to mistrust the press, but...  if you can't get some basic facts about TOYS correct, what CAN you be trusted with?


*seriously, those of you talking about WHO gets to claim nerdhood, shut the @$%# up and go back to deciding who isn't cool enough to like your lousy favorite band.
**if you think I wouldn't buy a Pam Grier Jackie Brown action figure, you are mistaken


horus kemwer said...

That first full paragraph is really great.

The League said...

I've kind of been avoiding talking about 20-something geek culture, but sometimes it's unavoidable. But all the feedback I got on this post seemed to focus on that issue, so maybe it's worth pursuing a bit further.

horus kemwer said...

Well, as long as 20-something geek culture is exposed as vastly inferior to 30-something anything, I'm interested.