Each holiday season heralds the arrival of the latest toy craze. This results in parents performing Herculean-like feats to procure the coveted item so their offspring will squeal with joy as they rip off the wrapping paper.
Two groups of action figures are this season’s biggest “must haves”. First are the licensed Star Wars Action Figures from the long anticipated new movie. Star Wars characters are complex and whimsical. They encourage and simulate imagination.
The other set of Action Figures receiving a lot of “buzz” are the Politically Outrageous Action Figures (P-OAF’s). Two long- standing reputable and competing firms originally produced a total of 22 action figures. In preliminary focus groups, those Politically Outrageous Action Figures that showed little sign of popularity were dropped from the product line. These were mostly criticized for not being loud enough (and not loud was equated to weak). As of this writing- there are three Politically Outrageous Action Figures produced by the Blue Company and the Red Company’s product line contains ten variations. These action figures are vying for the position of number one in each company and then they will face off to decide this season’s best seller! We will know the results next November.
Unlike the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who among other attributes, introduced children to the spirit of cooperation, these Politically Outrageous Action Figures seem to be in combat with each other constantly and in doing so, exhibit language and behaviors that no parent would encourage their children to emulate. Our air waves continue to be filled with hurtful statements that have attacked women, immigrants, and the disabled. Insults and epithets instead of light sabers are brought into battle. We want our children to learn about politics, yet find ourselves switching to Dancing with the Stars when the language gets too vitriolic, which is often.
Through fantasy play with action figures, children can imagine themselves as powerful, capable and confident. Action figures can teach heroism, like GI Joe. Even the horrible, impossibly built Barbie, who always looks great in a mini skirt, forever walks on her toes and maintains torpedo breasts that defy gravity-even Barbie had a positive influence-she was loyal to her friend, Midge and committed to boyfriend Ken. (Lately, I heard she is pursuing various professional options-nurse, teacher, bull rider. Good for her!) Action Figures can present positive role models.
Not so for the Politically Outrageous Action Figures. They teach rudeness; they demean those who don’t agree with them! But wait, there’s more! They encourage bullying! They interrupt! They lie! They call others liars! They NEVER say I am sorry! NO parent, after examining the behavior of the Politically Outrageous Action Figures would want their child having a set of those to open on Christmas morning!
So, how is it that despite the obvious production defects, these action figures are still being marketed on the airwaves and in our media? And some folks seem to want to buy them? Maybe they are like Chia Pets; no one really wanted them, but we went along with the buzz and bought them, thinking we were being “ironic”. Even loveable Innocent Elmo, who just a few years ago fell victim to hackers reprogramming him to utter obscenities (if I remember correctly aimed at “your mother”) was instantly recalled due to public demand. Poor Elmo was labeled “Offensive”.
We protect and shield those we love from faulty products. We demand high standards, safety first and quality. We don’t accept a potty-mouthed Elmo, nor e-coli in our Chipotle take-out and we shouldn’t accept these Politically Outrageous Action Figures who role model all those negative behaviors we try to discourage in all our interpersonal relationships. Adolescents often behave like Politically Outrageous Action Figures. They make gross generalizations and blame others for their mistakes and scream hateful things. They have zero impulse control. It is why we don’t trust them to drive a car. Politically Outrageous Action Figures who behave in kind should not be entrusted with nuclear devices.
I suggest we consider whether the Politically Outrageous Action Figures are really meeting our standards of civility. Sure, you need to state your beliefs and voice your opinion, but be kind. Is kind too much to ask for? Kind is not weak. In this season of, “Peace on Earth and Good Will to All”, maybe we need to demand a recall so that both companies can go back to the drawing board and have an opportunity, if not to produce a better product, then to work out the kinks on those existing products. Because this holiday season and for holiday seasons to come, we should simply refuse to accept the unacceptable.
© 2015 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback. Recently, she finds herself taking on the roles of consumer advocate and political analyst.