I was torn on the title of this article, but I figured this one would be the most eye catching. Other potential titles included, “Toys that would be on clearance in 2 months, now worth $1,000s of dollars”, “The most valuable ReMego toys to date” and my favorite, “Django UnBayed”. The story, if you haven’t been keeping up, is that NECA’s Django Unchained Mego-like figures have stirred up quite a controversy. It’s certainly not the first time a toy has been controversial and it’s hardly the first time in the last few years that protesters have convinced someone that an “adult collectible” is being sold to children in a toy store.
Of course, times change. Matchbox got into quite the controversy in the 80′s when they made Freddy Krueger figures that WERE marketed to kids. But nobody bats an eye at Krueger figures lining the shelves of Toys R Us anymore. We have action figures of everything from fictional murderers to real life serial killers. You’d think we’d be past the days of a plastic toy getting people up in arms, but we’re not.
So what makes this controversy different? Slavery, I suppose. You see, at the heart of the issue is the concept that kids will buy these toys and play “slavery” with the dolls. As someone who played with toys far longer than he had any right to, I’m sure certain aspects of slavery already creeped into my toy playing. Weren’t Rocksteady and Bebop basically slaves to Shredder? But I digress… Even though these toys are aimed at adult collectors, it was first that we had to “think of the kids” and how they might be exposed to such horrors.
Even though none of these figures had made their way to Toys R Us yet (one assumes they would have eventually), they were pulled from the virtual shelves. Now we couldn’t just protect the children, we all needed to be protected. You see, we live in a strange world. You can own an AK-46 assault rifle, but you can’t own a toy from a movie where someone was a slave in it. In America, as long as it’s not hurting anyone, you can complain and get rid of it. Just try and find a t-shirt with the Kentucky Wildcat penis tongue on it anymore. But guns, those are okay. You can buy a rebel flag, dynamite, beer and a katana at the local flea market on Sunday, but not toys about a slave hero from a movie.
Perhaps what makes this so interesting is that the brouhaha went national. It garnered the attention of the Weinstein Company, producers of the film, who then forced NECA to stop making the figures. They even made NECA go so far as to call for the toys sold to retailers to be returned. Since the toys had just barely hit and not yet made it to larger retail chains, it’s pretty easy to stop these toys cold.
The figures are so rare that protesters can only carry pictures of the figures to complain about.
That more or less negates the need for a protest, no?
Apparently, the National Action Network and Project Islamic Hope, two civil rights groups at the center of the storm, felt the figures were commercializing the slave experience. Of course, one could easily argue that the movie itself does the same thing. And we know there will be other Django merchandise, t-shirts, hats, Slurpee cups. It’ll happen and that’s just as much commercialization as anything else. So why are toys persecuted? Because nobody stands up for toys. Toys are still considered “children’s playthings” in the minds of the masses.
Yet, despite all that, the figures have been selling for hundreds and thousands of dollars on Ebay. The highest auction I could find was over $5,000 for a set of figures. At least until today, as Ebay wants nothing more to do with Django. Ebay has removed all of the auctions, at the behest of complaints, because it violates their “racially or ethnically offensive” policy. Even though Ebay pulled the items down, several have popped back up, all at inflated prices. Ebay’s jump into this mix will likely briefly increase the figure’s worth but I suspect over time, if Ebay continues to pull auctions, the price will plummet. Nobody really wants these figures, they only want them because they’re rare and controversial.
Which brings me to my second point. These are not good toys. Had this controversy not erupted, nobody would even know these figures existed. These figures had absolutely ZERO hype. The only people who were interested in them were the hardest of hardcore and Mego collectors. Popular toy blogs weren’t talking about them and the only discussions on the Mego forums were about the potential for new kitbash parts. You see, nobody really wanted Django Unchained toys and certainly not in the Mego format.
When people started to get the figures in hand, the discussions turned to how they had a decent likeness, but that the bodies weren’t very good and that parts of them looked rushed. In fact, I ranted about how NECA should have taken the time to make a better body and that they went too detailed on the clothes for the scale resulting in figures that looked too stuffed. The consensus was that these were a nice first try from NECA, but that they still had a way to go before being something to truly seek out.
This is where the civil rights activists failed. These figures would have been in virtual clearance bins in a few months. Heck, it’s entirely possible that without the controversy, we’d already be seeing these figures at markdown prices. They aren’t amazing figures and they had no promotion. Even though Django Unchained was successful, the demand for toys was minimal. Especially these toys, because of the format that they were made in. Most people who liked the idea of Tarantino Megos, wanted figures from his other properties, not this one.
In the end, the controversy has made these figures into superstars. It’s painted toy collectors into being some sort of sicko racist xenophobes and because everyone caved, from NECA to Ebay, it’s set a precedent that could come back to hurt actual toys people want, in the future. That’s the scariest part about this whole thing.
Then again, maybe I’m just upset that I almost bought a set of these figures for the parts and am sad that I didn’t pull the trigger back when it was $100 for the whole set. Instead I was going to wait for them to go on clearance. Now they’re worth thousands. Man, isn’t that always the case? Quick, someone get offended by the Terminator: Salvation figures. I’ve got a ton of those I’d like to sell for big bucks.