Poe’s Point > Django Tangled

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By now everyone’s heard about the controversy surrounding NECA’s Django Unchained toys. The Weinstein Company asked NECA to stop production. Predictably, the publicity created a run on the toys and drove prices through the roof.

Najee Ali, the director of Project Islamic Hope, stated, “I actually enjoyed the movie, but we cannot support this type of commercialization.” I suspect Mr. Ali was referring to the idea of toys of any kind from the movie, but I’m fairly convinced that it’s the style of the toys that caused this issue.

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Najee Ali with photos of NECA’s Django Unchained toys

If NECA had made, say, just a Django figure in their usual style – plastic 7″ figures with lifelike sculpts and minimal articulation – and sold it alongside their Nightmare on Elm Street and Prometheus toys, I think it would have flown under the radar.

The problem is that the figures were made in the style of the old 1970s Mego figures. Evidently Quentin Tarantino himself requested this (which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest). If you’re someone familiar with action figure history, then sure, they’re “Mego-style action figures,” and have a certain retro hipness because of that. But to the casual consumer of today, they look like dolls. Dolls for children. Dolls of house slaves like Stephen and Broomhilda, and of slave-owner Candie. I understand why some people found this offensive.

Do I think the toys are inherently offensive? I know this seems like a cop-out, but I’m honestly not sure. I didn’t think twice about it when I heard they were being made – I thought it was really weird that they were Mego-style, but their very existence didn’t bother me, though at the time I knew very little about the movie.

The protesters claim the toys “trivialize the horrors of slavery.” Again, I wonder whether they would have said that of one 7″ plastic action figure of Django alone. Is it Candie the slaveowner they’re objecting to, or are they opposed to any and all toys based on the film? Would dolls of the characters from Roots ”trivialize the horrors of slavery”?

Part of me suspects the figures are totally in line with how Tarantino views his movie – as a blaxploitation/revenge flick. It’s practically an action movie, and action figures are par for the course. By liking the movie but being offended by the merchandising, Ali and his fellow protesters may be suggesting Tarantino’s film is more significant and meaningful than perhaps Tarantino himself thinks it is.

Or maybe they’re just saying we shouldn’t make toys of slave-owners.

I think I’d have to have a long talk with someone like Ali, to more fully understand his perspective, before I could sort out my own thoughts. But I do think NECA (or rather Tarantino, since he requested it) courted controversy unnecessarily by making these “adult collector” toys in a style that many would associate with children’s toys, what with the retro white boxes and the fabric clothing. I believe a single plastic figure of the “hero” character would have been ignored or perhaps even celebrated.

On a side note, Hong Kong company Enterbay seems to be moving forward with their 12″ Django and Candie figures, so evidently they aren’t worried about getting pulled in to the NECA controversy. Of course, those figures have pretty small production runs and won’t be showing up in very many stores.

Comments now closed (10)

  • If Mr Ali bought a ticket to the movie, he already contributed to the problem as he perceives it. Making fun or play out of a serious subject trivializes it and nothing is more trivial than mediocre talents being paid millions of dolllars to play act. His logic is internally flawed as is his knowledge of toy history: Quentin picked mego style toys partially due to his age and partially due to the era in which they made, right alongside the style of film Quentin homages at every turn.

    Anyone wanting an honest scholarly discussion of a topic starts in a classroom, not a movie theater, nor a toy shop.

    • Or to put this more succinctly, if the little people aren’t rioting over the hobbit toys trivializing their struggle, mr Ali can shut the hell up.

      • I think the fact that he's part of the Nation of Islam (which is an entirely separate religion from mainstream Islam) says it all. I mean, come on, it's a racial hate group founded by a white man! If Mr. Ali doesn't realize that Wallace Fard was a black as Quentin Tarantino, he reaaaally has a flawed understanding of history.

  • 1) it’s stupid to be against the toys and not the movie. The toys even say “17 and up” quite clearly on the package. If the commercialization of the film didn’t bother someone, why should adult collectibles? The contention seems to be that these are toys marketed to kids (based on nothing more than them being toys) which is just wrong. They clearly say 17 & up.
    2) the 12″ are imports. Unless someone raises a stink to block them at the border, they’ll still be manufactured and sold because hong kong doesn’t have quite the same racial sensitivities as the US.
    3) as I wrote in a PoA for OAFE, it’s strange that we have die cast models of drone UAVs that kill thousands of civilians in the real world being marketed to ages 3+, but figures from a fictional film using slavery in a historical context that are clearly marked for adults are something to ban. It just seems like a case of the old “think of the children!” idiom, when these were never meant for kids to begin with.
    Yes these are “dolls” ostensibly, but I don’t think anyone would really mistake these as something to buy for little jennifer or Dakota. they’re based on megos which these days just means nostalgia. They weren’t marketed to kids, they weren’t labeled for kids, and they’re based on a movie that even the protestors admit they enjoyed and found entertaining. The fact that they’ve been recalled AND eBay won’t even sell them is insanely ridiculous. There is no shortage of actual controversies out there to tackle, this one is a waste of everyone’s time.

  • Ditto to the points above. Anyone upset at the commercialization of the subject should have begun their complaints with the film; to argue otherwise is specious or ignorant. Perhaps making the toys was in poor taste, but so then the film. This whole thing makes me so disappointed in people.

    • It might be paranoia, but I want to know if anyone has checked to see if this guy has been scalping these figures. Call me kooky.

  • Gotta say that I would have been incredibly happy with a single 7" Django figure in the normal NECA style, and maybe a Schultz figure as well. I agree those would have flown under the radar AND been able to incorporate into my collection better than the Mego-styled ones.

  • Yeah… I'm also stuck on the point that the movie is acceptable, and paying to watch an absurdly violent revenge fantasy in a theater does not "support this type of commercialization." That just doesn't make any sense to me.

  • If I may get upon my soapbox for a moment… For starters, Poe, man, where have you been with this? this all went down a couple weeks back. Secondly, Monkey boy, as much as I found your POA interesting, it won't change a darned thing by us saying "well look at this, this is bad too, so why can it be on the shelf and not those?" because people like to choose their battles. It's much easier to get people riled up over the Django toys than a Matchbox airplane. Lastly, I was at Toys R Us today on my lunch, not really expecting anything new, then Wham! I come across the new series of Cult Classics, and when I saw Leatherface, Freddie Krueger and Frank the Bunny figures on the shelf it seemed kind of silly. I mean, the cardback for Leatherface said he's mentally impaired and that he doesn't know gruesomely dismembering people is wrong. Where's all the people saying that trivializes mentally impaired people? And Frank the Bunny comes with an alternate "shot in the eye" head. How is that not complained about? and Henrietta's nipples, and the Trilobite two pack with a detachable penis? What about those? This is all so silly…

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