Articulating the Action Figure

Essays on the Toys and Their Messages


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About the Book

Action figures are more than toys or collectibles—they are statements on race, gender, class, body positivity and more. This collection of nine new essays and one interview argues that action figures should be analyzed in the same light as books, movies, television shows and other media. Through an examination of the plastic bodies that fill our shelves and toy boxes, “Action Figure Studies” can inform the next generation of toys.

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Alexandratos is a playwright and essayist who lives, teaches, and writes in New York City. His plays, like his academic work, usually involve action figures and pop culture, and have been produced internationally.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Jonathan Alexandratos
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 188
Bibliographic Info: 7 photos, notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6427-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2847-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction. Posing the Question: An Action Figure Studies 5


Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Action Figure: Part One 13

Daniel F. Yezbick

The (Re)Resurrection of Captain Action: Will Justice Be Done? 28

Thomas G. Endres

Plastic Military Mythology: Hypercommercialism and Hasbro’s 39

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

J. Richard Stevens

The Same Aisle: The Intersection of Resistance and Discipline 58

in Brony Fandom, or, Friendship Is Mythological

Tracy L. Bealer

Selling Girl Power in the 1980s: ­She-Ra and the Gendered 71

Dimensions of Action Figures

Keith Corson

“Seeing into the life of things”: Toy Story, The Lego Movie 85

and the Wordsworthian Imagination

Geoff Klock

Get Your Freak On: The Monstrous Seduction in Mattel’s 99

Monster High

Cathy Thomas

All Dolled Up: Monster High, Project MC2 and “Action” Figures 120

Christopher Bell

“Toys with brains”: Skylanders and the Growth of the 135

­Toys-to-Life Market

Kimberly A. Owczarski

Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Action Figure: Part Two 152

Daniel F. Yezbick

“I was always Wonder Woman”: An Interview with 170

IAmElemental’s Julie Kerwin

Jonathan Alexandratos

About the Contributors 179

Index 181

Book Reviews & Awards

“These toys have been literal figures in the discussion of race and politics…[offers] food for thought on the connection between action figures and gender bias and body positivity…hyper-commercialism is also considered, including a look at Hasbro, which was famously one of the first to target both children and parents…. While much is covered pertaining to how action figures stand as cultural history artifacts, through which we can explore much deeper themes, the mere mention of She-Ra and the like will send readers down a meandering and nostalgic rabbit hole. Though the sturdy foundation of this book is highly academic, the soft underbelly of bygone birthday party themes is certain to keep readers intrigued.”—Booklist ; “Alexandratos presents a collection of essays written by scholars who discuss action figures and the various ways they relate to culture, gender, literature, and society at large”—ProtoView.