Friday, March 20, 2009

What Walks Down Stairs Alone or In Pairs?

My birfday is only about a week and a half away, and you know what that means - new toys on our their way to my mailbox!

My own Globey's arms fell off long ago

Toys and I have a funny relationship. I love 'em, sure, but largely, I don't get them. As you may have picked up, I am a boy person, and as such, there's a certain expectation that I should like action figures. And I do, but probably more out of obligation than anything else. I appreciate and action figure for it's artistic qualities. I love the look and feel, and examining the finer details of the figures, but beyond that, I'm kinda clueless about what you're supposed to do with them. Play, obviously, but action figure play isn't something that ever came naturally to me.

I know from commercials that you're wrap your hand around the toy's midsection, shout menacingly, and knock down towers of generic pop cans, but that's just the mechanical side of it. I guess what I'm lacking is the why. Why is that so fun? It was never enough for me to merely shout at Batman. I need to know my motivation.

The funky-fresh rabbit who can take care of it

Maybe part of the problem is that I didn't have that many action figures. That's misleading - I did have a pretty rad collection of Ninja Turtles, Bucky O'Hares, and Pee-Wee's Playhouses, but then I would go to my friends' houses and be confronted with enormous totes filled Ghostbusters and He-Mans. My family's not poor, but we definitely didn't have the disposable funds to get caught up in that fully-articulated detachable plastic arms race.

So I never got terribly into action figures (at least not compared to the other kids I knew), and for the most part I didn't feel like I missed much. There are, however, two exceptions. First, I never had a Transformer, and that's always bothered me. It's not out of any love for Optimus Prime and Auto Bunch - outside of a single episode of Beast Wars and the music video for "The Touch,"* I've never seen any of the Transformers cartoons or movies. Because I felt ridiculous staging imaginary battles between Darth Vader and Beetlejuice, I was always most drawn to the action figures that were either based on characters I loved with a passion (i.e., Turtles, Bucky, and Chairy) and action figures that did stuff, and in that realm of figures that do stuff, there's no beating a Transformer. As a result of never having one, I never quite got the hang of how they worked. I'd go to friends' houses and they'd hand me a Decepticon to play with. I'd be all cool and non-chalant, ready to find the robot lurking within the car, but that thing would be like a friggin' Rubik's Cube to me. Nothing makes a seven-year-old boy feel inadequate quite like a Transformers-solving deficiency.


The other exception is not a type of action figure, but rather the habitat of the action figure: the playset. In my family, we have a few fantastic Little People playsets - the two-story house that can be split into a sort of cross-section, the A-frame house, and this funky old McDonald's, which isn't technically a Little People playset, but it's the right scale, and that's all that matters in the world of action figures - but Fisher Price toys don't compare to the unbelievable baddness of a behemoth like the Technodrome, which may be the coolest toy in existence. Playsets are awesome because they take the few things I like about action figures - namely the artistry and interactivity - and blow them up into an explorable environment. On TV, you're left piecing together the backgrounds of a few shots of Krang bickering with Shredder. With the toy, you're free to poke around every corner of the Foot Clans secret base. This desire to immerse myself in complex imaginary worlds is probably a big part of the reason I'm such a video game nerd, but that's another subject.

So, to sum up the last eighty paragraphs, action figures ain't really my thing. The toys I do like are the ones wher I get to make a difference. Woody and Buzz are nice, but give me Mr. Potato Head, and after I've gotten tired of sticking an upside nose in his eye hole and given him an arpit moustache, I'll be ready to move onto the Hots Wheels tracks, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, K*Nex, and, above all else, Legos.

Dudes and dudettes, Legos really and truly rock. You know how I like to ramble on and on when I'm trying to make a point? No need here. Legos are da bomb - I know it, you know it. Whether you're following instructions or going freestyle, building a little red house or jumbling in some blues, blacks, and those yellow bricks with the smiles on the side, they're the best. No more to say.

I will go back to Hot Wheels tracks for a second, though. I've never much cared for cars, outside of toy cars shaped like rats and robots on wheels, but I can say nothing bad about a toy set that encourages you hurl chunks of metal and plastic from the top of the stairs at Mach 2 down a rickety track with a lopsided loop and a ramp at the end. Sugary breakfast cereal,cartoons, Hot Wheels tracks, and building a living room fort out of pillows and blankets - if you have not spent a Saturday in this way, you have not lived.

Those Hot Wheels tracks with the electric motor things that just fly around a pre-made course are stupid, though.

Okay, time to wrap this all up, and I think the only way to go out is to tell you bout my #1 toy. After all my ranting about the strengths of complex, interactive toys, this may be a bit of a surprise. He's about 2 cm tall, doesn't have any points of articulation or other mobility, and he has a hard body covered in short, blue fur. His name is B. Bunny, and I will love him forever. My older sister had an identical pink bunny, but, I assure you, B. is much cooler.

[Picture not available]
B. Bunny is too fly for your undeserving eyes, anyway.
This is also the first time I've ever referred to him in print. There's a good chance his name is really Be Bunny or Bee Bunny, but B. safely covers these possibilities.

* Challenge: I'm trying to compile a collection of music videos in which guitars are used to fire beams of energy. So far I have "The Touch" and "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," but I know there must be more. If you know any, help!


owl. said...

What about Bisexual Bunny? Seriously, why would someone abbreviate "Bee"?

Jake said...

Well, I named him. Maybe I didn't want to stumblethrough a tricky name like Bekog or something.

Anonymous said...

brilliant, brother! B. Bunny bees beautiful.
bye bye!

-bister back
(hey my fake name is real words)

Jake said...

My spellcheck tells a different tale, bister.

Played with Barbies instead said...

What's a bister?

I always assumed kids liked action figures for sentimental reasons like you liked that bunny and I liked a couple dolls but was bored by others I wasn't attached to.

That and they allow people to act out things they wouldn't do on their own.

Also, I don't think our Globey ever came with a Randy. Why???

Anonymous said...

the B is just B and has always been just B
Mom (all knowing)

Jake said...

I'm disappointed in the sense that mo' Pee-Wee is always mo' bettah, but really, who liked Randy, anyway?

Anonymous said...

Randy's only redeeming quality was his freckles.
I love freckles.

OK, come to think of it, he just made freckles look bad.