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"If you give a girl a different toy, she will tell a different story."
July 7, 2014 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Frustrated with the modern toy market's focus on female characters with uncomfortable costumes, uninspiring back stories, and unrealistic body proportions -- "most are created for the adult male collector, decidedly more Hooters than heroine" -- Wellesley alumnae Julie Kerwin and Dawn Nadeau joined forces with the legendary creative team at EleventyPlex to crowdfund a new line of fierce, Joan of Arc-inspired action figures, designed to encourage girls to embrace their inner strengths and imagine themselves as self-made superheroes: I Am Elemental.

  • Time: The Female Superhero May Finally Take Flight
  • GeekGirlCon: An Interview with the Women of IAmElemental
  • Vimeo: I Am Elemental

    The first series of IAmElemental figures explores the Elements of Courage: Bravery, Energy, Honesty, Industry, Enthusiasm, Persistence, and Fear. Yes, fear! From the Kickstarter FAQ:
    A note about Fear: the figures are not people. They are the personification of powers and elements which reside in each one of us. Furthermore, they are bound together as the components of Courage, and cannot be separated. Courage cannot exist without Fear. Purple was selected because Fear can be fiercer and more mysterious than the other Elements. And that is fitting, because Fear is harder to understand.

    However, we would strongly argue against viewing Fear as a negative. We want girls to own and know their Fear, and to transform the role that it plays in their lives. Those who see it as only negative miss its inherent strength.

    As a self-defense expert, Dawn believes that Fear's impulse to hide, or to stop something in its tracks, is an incredible tool. Learning to trust your instincts, to stop (freeze), to take a breath, and listen to Fear is important. Fear always has something powerful to say. In fact, Fear is Dawn's favorite Element.

    In the IAmElemental universe, Fear is something to be embraced, not rejected. It has to be understood and accepted. It's a good discussion - and one that we hope people will have with friends and children.
  • Dawn Nadeau, interviewed for Refinery29:
    Play is powerful. And the toys you play with impact the story you tell. I think there's room out there to hopefully uncouple these more adult messages about beauty and sexuality and give back some of the power that exists. We're not anti-doll or anti-princess; we just want to let girls take ownership of these powerful, active storylines.
  • Julie Kerwin talks to Womanthology:
    We created IAmElemental, an independent toy company, to develop a new line of action figures for girls that re-imagines the female superhero.

    If you go into a toy store anywhere in the world, you will see rows and rows of action figures for boys, but there won't be even one shelf devoted to action figures for girls. Although they do produce female action figures, the other toy companies do not create female action figures for girls. Instead, they design hypersexualized figures for the collector market.

    We decided to fill that hole in the market.
  • Amanda Hess interviews both Kerwin and Nadeau for Slate: Finally, an Action Figure That Won't Make Girls Hate Themselves
    Slate: You've described other female action figures as "More Hooters than heroine," all with impossible figures. How exactly did you decide on your figure's measurements?

    Nadeau: You kind of know it when you see it. We were looking for a figure that was female in form—it doesn’t serve anyone well if it's not identifiably female—while being sensitive to the troubling aspects that are very common on these other figures. We spent so much time poring over the torso. We focused on the breasts not being overly emphasized. We tinkered with the breast-to-hip ratio, and how all the pieces fit together, to make sure the legs didn’t splay out in a hypersexualized way. And honestly, the ass crack was a big issue.

    Kerwin: You gotta look at the bum. Everyone talks about the breasts! And trust me, we found some figures where their heads are actually smaller than their breasts.

    Nadeau: We measured.
    IAmElemental online: official site | pre-order | Twitter | Facebook
  • posted by divined by radio (73 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

     
    I wonder if "Fear" couldn't be cast in a more positive light as "Caution."
    posted by Faint of Butt at 10:01 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


    As the parent of a little girl that wears her satin cape (often alone) around the house as others might wear pjs, I'd prefer if they were even a little more human shaped and less hour-glass, but, hey, definitely the right direction here. I might also prefer an inspiration based less on a character that channeled her mental illness into some sort of spiritual cause in support of a patriarchy that eventually (of course) threw her under the bus for stepping out of type, but again, right direction here, not a complaint!

    I wonder if "Fear" couldn't be cast in a more positive light as "Caution."

    How about "prudence"?
    posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:09 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


    "I wonder if "Fear" couldn't be cast in a more positive light as "Caution.""

    What? No. That name was clearly a conscious decision on the part of the creators. It's powerful and intense and it is ACTION. 'Caution' is moving slowly and seems indecisive. Batman didn't say, "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so I must wear a disguise that will strike caution into their hearts!"

    (okay so Batman said 'terror' instead of 'fear' but you get my point)
    posted by komara at 10:11 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


    My kid wasn't into dolls at all, but loved those Beanie Babies. These are fine, I guess, but they are pretty devoid of personality--you can't see their eyes.
    posted by Ideefixe at 10:11 AM on July 7


    First Rule of Superhero Design: give your Character some Character.

    There are all boring generic Projection Panels.

    We love Superheroes, because we are intrigued how their Power in Context to their Character/Personality plays out.

    Otherwise they are just Blobs of Übermensch nobody can identify with.
    posted by homodigitalis at 10:14 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


    Man, I hate the no Kickstarter until they're closed rule.
    posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:14 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


    I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, or to be against God's will.
    posted by KokuRyu at 10:14 AM on July 7


    Where do you expect to see a children's toy named Fear:
    1. In a roster of heroes named Bravery and Persistence
    2. An Onion article
    posted by MangyCarface at 10:18 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


    Cool project. I wish they were less pink though. I get that this might be a way to make action figures more accessible to princess loving girls, but it reinforces that stereotype at the same time. Anyway, I actually checked out their store, but you can't buy individual toys (yet?). I don't need 7 of 'em.
    posted by travelwithcats at 10:18 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    Where do you expect to see a children's toy named Fear:
    1. In a roster of heroes named Bravery and Persistence


    I wouldn't actually. She stands out from the rest as a negative while the others are about positive qualities. That's why I thought Prudence would be a better name. Maybe her powers could still be to strike fear in her opponent, but also she'd have the ability (wisdom) to know when to fight and when to regroup.
    posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:27 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


    I wonder if "Fear" couldn't be cast in a more positive light as "Caution."

    On the site, under the character description, it's all about how she spreads Fear among her enemies. Which kinda makes sense on its own, but does, indeed, make her an odd fit with the other "elements" which are all about qualities of the hero, not the effect they have on others. You get the feeling that this was the result of some conflicted committee work that resulted in a kludgy compromise.
    posted by yoink at 10:32 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


    When I was a kid, my sister and I used our ninja turtles and G.I. Joes as the good guys in battles against the Barbies we'd inevitably been given as birthday presents. It would have been great to have these elementals on the side of good in those battles.
    posted by ocherdraco at 10:33 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    I mean, they're cool and all, and I'm sure many of them will stay in their original packaging to be sold as collectors items at a ComicCon in the future. But, I showed them to my niece and her friends (ages 9-12, all dancers/gymnasts, but not all Princesses), and the universal response was "Meh". Perhaps the age group is growing out of dolls, but all of them have American Girl dolls, and save their allowances for accessories. (I'm learning how to make doll clothes so I can teach them...I'm a terrible seamstress, so by the time I figure it out, they'll be in college, but whatever...)

    My point being; action figures can be marketed to girls, but I'm not sure these will actually capture the young market.
    posted by dejah420 at 10:33 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


    It reminds me of Captain Planet, in that the creator's hearts are in the right place, but they've created some really uninteresting characters. Good characters have flaws, a la Batman and Spiderman.
    posted by mroben at 10:33 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


    'Caution' is moving slowly and seems indecisive. Batman didn't say, "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so I must wear a disguise that will strike caution into their hearts!"

    :(
    posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:34 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


    And regarding Fear: it doesn't take courage to do something you're not afraid of. Fear is an inseparable component of courage. I'm glad they have the courage to call it what it is.
    posted by ocherdraco at 10:35 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


    Be sure to cick on the "Elements" page and go to image 8/20 in the slideshow, of the little girl dressed up as Bravery. Or, well, maybe don't do that if you're in your late twenties/early thirties and have the baby rabies. Because now I want to have a little girl just so I can dress her up in padded shoulder armor. So adorable.

    I LOVE THIS. Unreservedly, pink color scheme and all. I was a little baffled by Fear when I first clicked through, but this:

    As a self-defense expert, Dawn believes that Fear's impulse to hide, or to stop something in its tracks, is an incredible tool. Learning to trust your instincts, to stop (freeze), to take a breath, and listen to Fear is important. Fear always has something powerful to say.

    This is way cool, and I'm totally behind it. We've had so many discussions about how girls and women are taught to ignore and silence their fear when it comes to self defense type situations. (Think Gift of Fear.) This seems pretty abstract as a way of countering that, but it's interesting and admirable that they're trying.
    posted by sunset in snow country at 10:35 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


    Cool idea, but from a design standpoint, all of these dolls look stunningly similar, with names seemingly thought of by marketers, rather than people who mean to inspire or stand for something. I wish I could say it's just a different look, but it just seems poorly thought out.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:37 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


    The designs are pretty bland, and the concept seems to be more or less a direct echo of MLP:FIM and the Tinkerbell series, where every character is supposed to embody something rather than be somebody.

    Firestar from the early '80s Spiderman series is still the gold standard Superheroine, to my mind - she's not a love interest or damsel-in-distress for her teammates, she's equally powerful and gets her own storylines and motivations. Also, the costume is colorful and cool without being cheesecake. (She also talks with Aunt May about Aunt May's health and her dog all the time, so she also passes the Bechdel Test.)
    posted by Slap*Happy at 10:37 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


    they've created some really uninteresting characters

    I still can't decide, after looking at these for a while, whether the neo-Victorian moralism is amazingly creepy or actually kind of great in an art-naïf kind of way. It's like a McGuffey's Reader dressed in Marvel drag, or the kind of comics you get handed by evangelicals looking for converts.
    posted by RogerB at 10:38 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


    And regarding Fear: it doesn't take courage to do something you're not afraid of. Fear is an inseparable component of courage. I'm glad they have the courage to call it what it is.

    So she's empowering the enemy?
    Fear spreads the impulse to pull away and hide. She has the ability to stop a moving object in its tracks
    I really think they needed to make sure they were all on the same page about whether Fear was something the hero has or something the hero inflicts on others.
    posted by yoink at 10:41 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    and the universal response was "Meh".

    It probably just needs a cartoon show to support it.
    posted by VTX at 10:42 AM on July 7


    I believe I read that they agree that the design is a bit generic and same-y but that's what they could afford at this stage. I would like them to have a variety of bodyshapes, for sure. But a pudgier or shorter or taller mold is going to cost extra.
    posted by emjaybee at 10:44 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


    Man, I hate the no Kickstarter until they're closed rule.

    Me too -- would have loved to have supported this.
    posted by scody at 10:46 AM on July 7


    Yes! I love these and I funded their Kickstarter. I'm almost 30 and I don't have kids but I don't care, I still want these action figures.
    posted by Librarypt at 10:51 AM on July 7


    Jeeeze their mobile site is awful. It took me upwards of 8 clicks, and a revisit to the damn fpp to even get to a non-icon sized photo of one of the figures. This shit is getting ridiculous. It was easier to find icons of what corporations supported them.
    posted by emptythought at 10:56 AM on July 7


    This is kind of weak sauce, between the generic look and the bland (but also confusing--what's the deal with fear? I don't get it.) virtues. (And the Joan of Arc thing is a bit odd to me, as well--she's definitely not a role model in my house.)

    I hope that by the time my daughter is old enough to be playing with action figures there's just the middle ground of cool female superheroes that occupy the chasm between buxom sexy-sex assassins and the weirdly parochial notion that girls need or want toys that embody these bizarre virtues ("I am the spirit of recycling!" "And I am the power of friendship!").

    Just please give me a woman who has been bitten by a radioactive squirrel or something that doesn't have her boobs hanging out and an improbable waist. Just a "normal" person with superpowers or something that isn't some kind of Real Doll and isn't some hokey concept.
    posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:56 AM on July 7 [17 favorites]


    Cool project. I wish they were less pink though. I get that this might be a way to make action figures more accessible to princess loving girls, but it reinforces that stereotype at the same time.

    Maybe I'm a princess girly girl, I don't know, but I wish they had outfits - particularly for secret identities. Much more fun to put myself in the stories. Of course, as a kid, my favorite action figures were the She Ra buddy who had a sparkly blue jewel in her chest and the Moondreamers, so maybe I just like shiny?
    posted by maryr at 10:59 AM on July 7


    I'm a feminist and I have a daughter who's just the right age for this and I got 44 seconds into the video before I couldn't take any more. I expect I'll have roughly 100 more chances to see it as it shows up on my Facebook feed over and over, though, so maybe I'll try again later.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 11:02 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    Just please give me a woman who has been bitten by a radioactive squirrel or something that doesn't have her boobs hanging out and an improbable waist.

    Sadly, the original appearance of Squirrel Girl, as created by Steve Ditko and meeting your specifications precisely, would end up with The Most Common Superpower in some of her later appearances.
    posted by Halloween Jack at 11:07 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


    I approve, but I think it's doomed. Need to build up the characters first, then sell action figures.
    posted by BrotherCaine at 11:09 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


    1) "Fear" glaringly doesn't work here

    2) They should market to boys, not just to girls

    3) "Using Joan of Arc as our Muse" - yet they somehow missed out the Religious Visions/Chats with God part. Maybe replace Fear with that.
    posted by Bwithh at 11:16 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


    On the site, under the character description, it's all about how she spreads Fear among her enemies

    Duh. She's obviously the Batwoman character.
    posted by MartinWisse at 11:18 AM on July 7


    Her ability to control squirrels is surprisingly effective and has allowed her to defeat major supervillains.

    Excellent. I had no idea Squirrel Girl exists, but I have found I think a more inspiring role model for my daughter than Enthusiasm and Sticktoitiveness.
    posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:19 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


    I like the idea of female superheroes who are not just fan service, but these are incredibly boring, which tends to end up being the problem with almost all projects of this sort that come out of a desire to do good. They end up being too much about doing good and not enough about blowing shit up real good. They just don't seem even a little bit fun.
    posted by jacquilynne at 11:34 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


    A character that spreads Fear? I'm a fan already!
    posted by Roentgen at 11:35 AM on July 7


    Excellent. I had no idea Squirrel Girl exists, but I have found I think a more inspiring role model for my daughter than Enthusiasm and Sticktoitiveness.

    Spider-Girl, created by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz as the teenage daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson worked really, really well.
    posted by mikelieman at 11:35 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    They should make a superhero called "Sight."

    "Unlike all the other Elementals, Sight has EYEBALLS!"
    posted by crazylegs at 11:39 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    And regarding Fear: it doesn't take courage to do something you're not afraid of. Fear is an inseparable component of courage. I'm glad they have the courage to call it what it is.

    Yeah, I thought about that, but they already had "Bravery" as a character.
    posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:48 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    Well, the bio says "Fear spreads the impulse to pull away and hide". Her power is to cause fear, rather than feel it.

    (Fanfic ahoy!)
    posted by running order squabble fest at 12:05 PM on July 7


    These are cool and I would totally get a set for my son if he was older. I may even order some now and hold them until he's old enough.
    posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:09 PM on July 7


    You know when your parents bought you the thing that was "the same as" the other thing you really wanted? This is that.
    posted by smidgen at 12:12 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


    Squirrel doesn't rhyme with girl. Not even close.
    posted by Just this guy, y'know at 12:23 PM on July 7


    You know when your parents bought you the thing that was "the same as" the other thing you really wanted? This is that.

    You mean "Go-Bots"?


    Oh... who could forget my grateful utterance of:

    GRAMMAIWANTEDOPTIMUSPRIMENOTWHATEVERTHELLTHISISJUSTBECAUSESOMEASSHATATTOYSRUSTOLDYOUTHISWASJUSTASGOOD... [fading wail as I flee the room]

    That was my 7th birthday.
    posted by Debaser626 at 12:28 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    Perfect is the enemy of good. If the names and backstories bug you, just take them out of the packaging, mix them up with the kid's other action figures and don't show them the kickstarter page. Presto - diversity in the toy box!

    And as someone who was actually once a little girl, I'd have loved these. I made up my own names and stories for the Barbies and "11 1/2 inch fashion dolls" I played with anyway and they were often superheroes.
    posted by kimberussell at 12:32 PM on July 7 [9 favorites]


    Generally speaking I am majorly on board with projects like this, but there are some major issues going on here with the color schemes, marketing, physical appearance of the doll's faces, and the overall storyline used to anchor each doll and its purpose. You can make something marketable without resorting to the sexualization that Mattel, Disney, and other doll companies employ for their product lines. There's just a level of visual and conceptual dissonance here from all sides that I can't get past.
    posted by Hermione Granger at 12:40 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


    Marvel really needs to make a Kamala Khan figurine.
    posted by painquale at 12:43 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


    It's like they didn't see that episode where Lisa designs a doll to compete with Malibu Stacy
    posted by prize bull octorok at 12:50 PM on July 7


    2) They should market to boys, not just to girls

    That is kind of the opposite of why they are doing this. Boys are very well-served in the action figure department. But they can certainly play with these too, if they like.
    posted by emjaybee at 12:51 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    Just please give me a woman who has been bitten by a radioactive squirrel or something that doesn't have her boobs hanging out and an improbable waist.

    This is one of the best things I've ever read about female superheroes
    posted by clockzero at 1:06 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    I was prepared to love these, but I hate the design. They all look kind of samey to me.
    Like Fear, though. I want to stand her on my desk and make her talk to Reason and Sense!
    posted by Omnomnom at 1:34 PM on July 7


    I backed this precisely because the figures don't come over-laden with back-story and tie-in media and crap, I mean my eldest is into Lego Chima but man, I feel if we miss a single issue of the comic then she'll be ostracised in the playground. Sometimes you need a blank slate or two for them to project their imaginations onto, and these figures make good use of strong archetypes.

    Also backed on Kickstarter, and just shipped today, 3D-printed medieval/fantasy armour for Barbies. And it's approximately 300% as awesome as originally billed. Seriously, check out these pictures. Over a thousand rivets, yo.
    posted by Hogshead at 2:03 PM on July 7 [15 favorites]


    I was recently reflecting on how my (male) cousin and I never used Barbie dolls or action figures for their intended purpose when we played together. We inevitably ended up each choosing a doll of our gender and then playing street-karate buddy cop comedy duo radio broadcaster adventures, which was a weird game borne of wanting to be hilarious and also break things and sometimes record our witticisms on an old tape machine.

    I liked having female dolls, but I think I wanted them to have a little personality-- it was fun to play pretend that I was Barbie doll while cracking jokes and kicking ass, but a positive female hero-type doll would have probably been a more positive identification. I didn't want to boringly identify with a sexless, adventureless "woman" doll, though, I wanted a bit of imagination. Otherwise might as well "be" a Lego.
    posted by stoneandstar at 3:23 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


    You mean "Go-Bots"?

    For a while I thought the Go-Bots were AWESOME, based on couple of model kits I got as a kid.

    Later on, I realized that a company had taken models of the transforming Robotech planes and motorcycles and repackaged them as Go-Bots. Real head spinner for a kid.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:42 PM on July 7


    That Barmor is amazing.
    posted by running order squabble fest at 3:55 PM on July 7


    Wait, what?


    SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!
    posted by Faintdreams at 3:58 PM on July 7


    So there are no "I AM FEAR", "MY MOM IS FEAR", "MY SISTER IS FEAR" signs in their viral send-in-photo-of-yourself campaign thingy but there are for all the other powers.
    posted by Bwithh at 4:32 PM on July 7


    Hogshead: "Also backed on Kickstarter, and just shipped today, 3D-printed medieval/fantasy armour for Barbies. And it's approximately 300% as awesome as originally billed. Seriously, check out these pictures. Over a thousand rivets, yo."

    I did not know this was a thing. I need this thing. This thing will be mine.
    posted by dejah420 at 5:40 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


    Incidentally, am I the only one who is wondering what happens when the Elements of Courage go up against the Elements of Harmony?

    Shit's going to get real in Equestria.
    posted by running order squabble fest at 6:05 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    My toddler took one look at the page and shouted "Dollies! Flying dollies, please mama can I have them?" She has not responded that way despite my efforts to regular action figures like Batman or even Wonder Woman, although she adores Barbie, thanks to a very princess-oriented older girl at church. The designs really resonated with her and I'm so looking forward to when they finally come here.
    posted by viggorlijah at 6:57 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


    (Re-reading thread) I actually like the blankness. They are pretty open-ended characters that allow for a lot of imaginative play, and I like that you buy them as a set to play with. It's the appeal of Barbie to me - you can make her a ninja assassin or a baker. She has no real storyline that you have to embed her into. My kid got a small Peppa Pig set recently and she started re-enacting the episodes first, and then went off on her own way, but it was much more restricted in play than she is with the random melange of toys she normally play-acts with, because Peppa had to be Peppa, she couldn't turn into an adult or a dragon as easily.

    It is super depressing to look fruitlessly in the toy shop for female action figurines that aren't display pieces - you can order them online, but just browsing, it's almost all male or animals (male animals!). I also like the colours they've chosen because they are not skin colours - these could be any race, including asian. They're not that shade of pepto-bismol pink or sweet ballerina pink, but strong bright colours.
    posted by viggorlijah at 7:57 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    I probably would have liked these more as a kid than I do now. Though honestly, the dolls and paper dolls I played with as a little girl were appealing because they had interesting outfits that you could take on and off. The detail was part of the appeal - the fact that they had subtly different faces, which ones seemed a bit plain and which ones had the boring clothes affected how I played with them. Sometimes they were the mistreated daughter à la Cinderella, sometimes they were the mean ones. I guess my point is I've never understood the action figure type thing where most/all of the doll is a single moulded part and they look nearly identical. The dolls I had could do everything action figures do plus they were fun to dress up and had personalities in their facial features. Clip-on wings or a weird collar wouldn't really do it for me. (BTW I was Barbie-less, these were other dolls.)

    However, that's just me, and I'm aware that action figures may well be beloved by many girls. I like the idea and I do love having Fear as a superhero. Anyone who doesn't understand how fear factors into courage, go back and read the Oz books. The Cowardly Lion actually doesn't change - he's still just as afraid as he always was. It's just that he can act despite his fear - that's the real definition of courage.
    posted by Athanassiel at 8:32 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


    Aw, dang, if I weren't actively trying to reduce stuff and things in my life, I would SO be ordering a set of these for the figurines-and-tchotchkes shelf. But I figure if the Warriors of Virtue figs didn't make it past the last culling-of-things, well.
    posted by Lexica at 8:54 PM on July 7


    These would have been a good addition to the games my brothers and I played with our Teenage Muntant Hero Turtle and Bucky O'Hare figures. It's been twenty-odd years and I am still not over my crossness that the one female character in Bucky O'Hare didn't have an action figure. As for their lack of back story, I don't think that necessarily matters: we had Barbies, He-Man, Batman, GI Joes, etc. all mixed up and they found new stories when we played with them.
    posted by daisyk at 12:07 AM on July 8


    Boys are very well-served in the action figure department.

    With unrealistically muscular bodies that ARE DESIGNED FOR ADULT MALE COLLECTORS and that provide boys with unattainable body image standards that impel them to steroid abuse or a lifetime of anger and depression at not being able to attain this impossible ideal.

    Anybody who looks at female bodies in comics or in "action figures" and screams "SEXISM!" but who ignores male bodies, or who sees those male bodies as agentic and strong, is sexist, and blindly sexist. Those muscular men are, for boys, the equivalent of too-skinny female models whom girls develop eating disorders to emulate.

    There are ZERO realistic, healthy, non-overbuilt "action figure" models FOR BOYS. ZERO.
    posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:07 AM on July 8


    Maybe we're not blindly sexist. Maybe we're concentrating on one thing at a time, and the current thing is how girls don't have superheroine dolls to play with.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 10:14 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


    ethnomethodologist: " There are ZERO realistic, healthy, non-overbuilt "action figure" models FOR BOYS. ZERO."

    Feel free to start a project to address this problem, then. This thread, however, is about people who saw a different problem and decided to address it.

    Whether you intended it this way or not, trying to demand that feminists deal with problems that affect men and boys before it's reasonable to deal with problems that affect women and girls is an old and tired derailing tactic.
    posted by Lexica at 12:02 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


    I counted from the action figures on Amazon's best-selling list aimed at kids and got 4 female figurines out of the top 100. The rest were male humans, robots or animals gendered as male. The male action figures had a wide variety of sizes and shapes, from cute little round ones to tall muscled ones, and included Spiderman, a fairly lean figurine.

    And to my horror, as a blow against sexism (not), there are boy versions of the Bratz dolls. Looking at them makes me want to hug a waldorf doll.
    posted by viggorlijah at 12:35 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


    There are ZERO realistic, healthy, non-overbuilt "action figure" models FOR BOYS. ZERO.

    It didn't take much looking to find quite a few of them. Spiderman is frequently portrayed as not particularly muscular. GI Joe's characters seem about evenly split between muscled and wiry. Many of the Star Wars characters are so costumed that you can't distinguish anything at all about their body types.

    There are definitely plenty of action figures where the characters have hugely built up chests, especially in the super hero genre, but the number that don't is far more than zero.
    posted by jacquilynne at 12:58 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


    It didn't take much looking to find quite a few of them. Spiderman is frequently portrayed as not particularly muscular. GI Joe's characters seem about evenly split between muscled and wiry. Many of the Star Wars characters are so costumed that you can't distinguish anything at all about their body types.

    It's a little bit niche, but the Real Ghostbusters action figures have the kind of bodies you'd associate with the Ghostbusters - Stantz is a little paunchy, Spengler a little beanpolish, Venkman a little thin on top.
    posted by running order squabble fest at 3:22 PM on July 8


    There are ZERO realistic, healthy, non-overbuilt "action figure" models FOR BOYS. ZERO.

    Fuzz the Hipster
    Edgar Allen Poe
    Jesus
    Charles Dickens
    Sigmund Freud
    Richard Wagner
    Oscar Wilde
    Geek Man
    Male Nurse
    Beethoven


    And the ultimate in reflective-of-real-life-American-male-physique action figures, Jay & Silent Bob.

    Or for realism, were you thinking something with horns living under a bridge? A Troll maybe?
    posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:54 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


    ...Most of those are meant to be gag gifts. All Accoutrements action figures on Amazon.
    posted by maryr at 8:58 AM on July 9




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