“No, I know. It sounds weird to me too,” I assured the mother of my son’s friends. “I did just ask if your kids could come over and I could show them Japanese cartoons and take pictures of them. I get it.”
Let’s rewind back to mid-December: my son and I were Christmas shopping, and Nintendo had a game kiosk set up in the mall. Among the games was one called Yo-Kai Watch. My son and I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to it, except that one of the game’s characters was a butt. Like, literally, a butt. A Nintendo rep asked my son if he wanted a Yo-Kai Watch mask. “THE BUTT I WANT THE BUTT,” my son yelped because he’s seven years old and he’s my son and I love him as much as anything could love anything.
But I digress.
We should’ve seen it coming. After the #WheresNatasha and #WheresGamora campaigns – hashtags that called out the lack of female representation in the merchandise for Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy – WHY did anyone assume that Disney, toy manufacturers, or retailers would’ve learned their lesson for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Were we that naïve? Did we just not want to admit what we all KNEW was going to happen? That, even though Daisy Ridley’s Rey was the LEAD CHARACTER in the whole damn film, she would be almost impossible to find on Force Awakens merchandise. Because that’s EXACTLY what happened. Hence the inevitable hashtag #WheresRey.
There’s a unique generational thing going on right now – the stuff that we enjoyed as kids is all cool again. I can’t think of many toys I had as a kid in the 1980s that represented brands and characters that my parents also loved as kids. The opposite is true for my son and I now – I can’t think of many brands and characters that my son and I don’t love together. This means that toy companies like Playskool are making toys for my son…but deviously so, they appeal to me too.
There’s a dad in New Jersey who is “furious” that Hasbro’s Star Wars Black Series Slave Leia action figure is in toy stores. “That’s pretty inappropriate. I got 2 daughters I don’t need seeing that crap,” he told FOX 29 News Philadelphia.
So I want to know – is the Slave Leia action figure appropriate for toy shelves? Should it be relegated to online-only sales so kids won’t see it in the store?
When my son is pretending to be a superhero, or playing with superhero action figures, his imagination is at its best. And when he’s engaging in superhero play around his friends, or even just a washed-up old dog like me, creativities collide and create something even better.
Let’s get this out of the way; a couple of weeks ago, Hasbro sent me some Iron Man 3 toys to play with: a bigger, motion-activated, talking Arc Strike Iron Man figure, and a couple of Iron Man Assemblers – little action figures whose arms and legs come off so you can mix-and-match them. Also, an Arc FX Gauntlet, which shoots foam discs and will leave a welt at point blank range.
So one day, my son came home from preschool and handed me his Iron Man action figure that he’d brought in for share time. As he handed it over, he told me plainly that there’s no “Iron Man stuff allowed at school.” There had to be a story behind it, I thought. The statement evolved into a shrug and “no superhero stuff,” but we didn’t have much else to go by.
When my wife texted me a photo of the box I’d received from Hasbro, I was hardly able to make it through my work day. I knew it had G.I. Joe toys in it, so I knew I’d be reliving my childhood that night alongside my son.
These G.I. Joe toys were sent to me by Hasbro because of the new G.I. Joe Retaliation movie that I’m honestly not at all interested in. But toys and nostalgia do it for me. After ripping open the cardboard box, I found a press release and all I read was “blah blah blah G.I. Joe blah blah blah.” And of course, as I skimmed the press materials, I sing-songed “G.I. JOEEEEEEEEEEEEE” a quarter million times, which annoyed my wife and thrilled my son.
What I love about playing with my son the most is that although I often act like a kid myself, I now lack the simple sensibilities that my son has. I get bent out of shape about adult things, like using toys “correctly” or risking breaking something. My son constantly reminds me how to play, and these G.I. Joe toys have helped me get back to my toy-playing roots.