The act of “playing” is a crucial part of how a child establishes self image and a basic understanding of the world. I know this because, as a progressive father of today, I have read extensively about this very topic — which is why I progressively freaked out when I found my son playing in the shower with a Barbie doll.
It wasn’t the fact that he was playing with a doll that bothered me, it was the fact that it was still completely intact — something I don’t expect from a child who routinely disassembles my office chair and a good portion of my desk in less than four minutes using nothing but a three-piece “Bob the Builder” tool kit.
I decided something needed to be done. It was time to enlist the help of an old friend; it was time for G.I. Joe to break Barbie’s mojo.
Looking back on my childhood, I spent countless hours playing with G.I. Joe, The Six Million Dollar Man and Big Jim. And let me just clarify right now that they were all Action Figures.
That’s right. Dolls do NOT have muscles, dragon tattoos, and/or weapons. Dolls have “accessories” — things like hair brushes, a change of clothes, and red pumps. Action Figures have bionic powers, or “Karate Chop Action,” or one chrome arm that detaches to become a rocket-fueled pogo stick. I’ve never seen a commercial with Barbie hanging from a helicopter fighting for mankind against Dr. Steel and his deadly eye rays. Although, to her credit, Barbie does have a Winnebago that folds out into a tanning salon, which she uses to avoid harmful UV rays.
I should also clarify that, as a kid, playing with action figures wasn’t always about fighting; It was also about tolerance and acceptance. When G.I. Joe lost part of his head in a tragic Fourth of July sky-rocket explosion in 1972, Big Jim and Six Million Dollar Man just pretended not to notice when he came back wearing Spiderman’s head. I sincerely doubt that Barbie’s friends would be as accepting under the same circumstances.
Along with my decision to purchase a G.I. Joe for my son, I thought it might be helpful to familiarize myself with Barbie so that I might better understand how to exploit her weaknesses. Finding information on Barbie is very easy. That’s because she has at least 40 bazillion people with websites devoted to her.
(Note: Only six of these people are actually young enough to justify being THAT enthusiastic about a plastic doll; the other 994 bazillion should really consider moving their Barbie collection to well-ventilated area.)
I started my search by looking back on Barbie’s history. That’s when I discovered some unsettling “coincidences” between her and G.I. Joe which, if nothing else, might help Ken in the event of a divorce.
For example, In 1974, Barbie’s figure became bustier AND completely bendable for the first time. That same year, G.I. Joe coincidentally developed “Kung Fu grip.” And when Barbie was going through her mini-skirt and halter-top phase?
That’s right: Say hello to “Eagle-Eye” G.I. Joe.
In light of this discovery, it seemed to me that G.I. Joe’s moral standing has been tarnished. I can not, in good conscience, encourage my son to develop his self image with the help of G.I. Gigolo.
And since Six Million Dollar Man and Big Jim have long since retired, I’ve been left with only one choice when it comes to filling that void. It’s going to take a little work, but I’m hoping to have Big Six Dollar Ken ready by Christmas.
(You can write to Ned Hickson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore., 97439)