Kids in TV commercials belonged to a socioeconomic class completely unfamiliar to me -- specifically, those in action figure commercials. I mean, look at the kids in this commercial. Where were they?
We need to speed right past a few issues (marketing war to children is kind of gross, my parents would have killed me if I got my toys all muddy like that, who the hell is that third-rate Destro at the end of the commercial, etc.) in order to address the issue of how these kids actually got to play with their toys within a giant room-sized diorama. They had a ravine! With water in it and everything! If you ever watched the show or saw any of these commercials, you know that 90 percent of the armed conflicts between Joe and Cobra took place in ravines. Loved ravines, those people. Couldn't get enough of them.
These commercials chintzy dialogue between the kids that described what each function was. Take the water cannon in the commercial above: pretty neat. If personal experience is any indicator, though, these kids were only as stoked about these toys because it was the first time they played with them. If these ads showed these kids playing with it for the third time, they would call it the "squirt gun plane thing." The fifth time around, they'd just make airplane noises. Ten times and one of the kids would have already fallen asleep face-down in his little miniature ravine. War is hell.
All told, though, if these spoiled pretend children had to play with action figures, they had certainly chosen the right brand. G.I. Joe was a brand that made room for a lot of possibilities in the departments of cool vehicles, weapons, etc., and even if they only really held our attention for an hour, it was a fun 60 minutes. Not all action figures based upon movies, or cartoons, or what have you, could have done that.
In this spirit, we visit the Sunday performances of Week 5 in the NFL. Which teams were immovable and generic, and which teams had arms that transformed into laser guns and shit? Read on.
THE TOP FIVE
THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS ON SUNDAY: Won vs. Buccaneers, 48-3. The Buccaneers are not a very good team, but the 49ers deserve the top slot this week because beating any NFL team 48-3 is a pretty big deal. Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount, who a week ago looked like a human wrecking ball against the Colts, was effectively neutralized, and the resurgent Frank Gore contributed heavily to a 213-yard running game.
If I were a big-time NFL analyst I would ask "IS THIS TEAM FOR REAL!??!?" and then show five commercials and then say "no." As it stands, they appear to be the sort of flawed-but-decent team that is capable of handily winning the NFC West. Like 20 teams are "capable of handily winning the NFC West," but whatever.
IF THE 49ERS WERE ACTION FIGURES, THEY WOULD BE: Transformers. Would we have had those little Lego hinge pieces if Transformers hadn't blazed so much new territory in the movable-pieces industry? Probably not. They changed everything.
THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS ON SUNDAY: Won vs. Cardinals, 34-10. Twenty-eight of those points came within the first 13 minutes of the game, and 21 of those first 28 came by virtue of three rushing touchdowns from Adrian Peterson. In his fifth season, Peterson continues to be a monster in the ground game and has managed to stay healthy throughout. In this age full of Priestholmesian running back careers that remain in the spotlight for two or so years, seeing this out of a superstar running back makes me pretty happy.
IF THE VIKINGS WERE ACTION FIGURES, THEY WOULD BE: M.A.S.K. Y'all never had M.A.S.K. toys? Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man oh man you have to see this oh man
THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS ON SUNDAY: Won vs. Titans, 38-17. Considering their injuries, the Steelers' running game isn't really supposed to be effective right now, but Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman combined for over 150 yards on the ground. Ben Roethlisberger found four different receivers in the end zone, and the Pittsburgh defense adequately managed a team that had won three straight.
I still can't really offer a long-term prognosis for these Steelers. I'll tell you one thing: the real test comes at some date in the future, when they will have to go head-to-head with such-and-such and so forth. Mark your calendars. Y'all still have calendars? I sure don't.
IF THE STEELERS WERE ACTION FIGURES, THEY WOULD BE: Dino-Riders. What they lacked in vehicles, they compensated for in dinosaurs. The most heavily-emphasized feature was "dino-damage," which was another way of saying, "you can simulate injury to this dinosaur by tearing a huge chunk of flesh off its torso." It was radical in at least one sense of the word, but by no means every sense of the word.
THE GREEN BAY PACKERS ON SUNDAY: Won at Falcons, 25-14. The Pack beat a formidable team on the road, and now the defending Super Bowl champion is off to a 5-0 start. They play two crummy teams before their Week 8 bye.
I said this last week, and I'll say it again: it's such a bummer that we have to wait until freaking Thanksgiving to see them play the division-rival Lions. By comparison, by this point in the season, the rival Chiefs and Raiders have played each other 13 times in football, and they have also played three cricket matches, one round of Scattergories, and a Mario Kart tournament.
IF THE PACKERS WERE ACTION FIGURES, THEY WOULD BE: Lego men. Lego men totally count. In some cases, their mere existences were justified by things other than the imperative to kill people! Some of them were actually purported to explore the galaxy and find cool stuff! But yeah, most of them had guns and/or spaceships with laser cannons and were supposed to kill each other. Look, progressive Danish toymakers! We took your wonderful imagination-sparking creations and made them death-worshiping agents of chaos! Thanks for making the Lego men decapitate-able!
THE OAKLAND RAIDERS ON SUNDAY:: Won at Texans, 25-20. The Raiders were not great this week. In fact, through portions of the game they were kind of bad, especially offensively. But a day after the passing of Al Davis, one of the most influential and iconic team owners in the history of sports, the Raiders played a quality team on the road and manage to succeed enough times, in the right places, to win. I took a weekend-long break from hating the Raiders, and... you know, it's not so bad over here.
IF THE RAIDERS WERE ACTION FIGURES, THEY WOULD BE: Masters of the Universe. I don't know, these were a little before my time. Everyone's big brother had them, so they were cool by proxy.
THE REST OF THE WEEK 5 WINNERS
- Patriots (won vs. Jets, 30-21): Star Wars. Highly-regarded. Unable to bend their knees.
- Seahawks (won at Giants, 36-25): SilverHawks, naturally. These toys featured Colonel Bluegrass, a military commander who meandered around the universe with a steel blue body suit, a cowboy hat, and an electric guitar. Why stop there? Make the packaging out of chocolate cake and dollar bills instead of plastic! Design his hands so that they can hold cigarettes! RADICALLLL
- Bills (won vs. Eagles, 31-24): GoBots. The Malt-o-Meal of the Transformers game.
- Chiefs (won at Colts, 28-24): Power Rangers, what with the little robots that joined to form a giant robot. They missed the window. I wish they had been around while I cared.
Bengals (won at Jaguars, 30-20): The plastic men with functional parachutes that came out of 25-cent vending machines. More awesome than they receive credit for.
- Saints (won at Panthers, 30-27): Last Action Hero. This isn't really an appropriate analogy. I just wanted to note that Last Action Hero action figures existed.
- Chargers (won at Broncos, 29-24): Earthworm Jim. If I ever write a post-apocalyptic novel, it will feature a moment in which a child wanders through ancient ruins and discovers a hyper-specific obscure action figure. Like an Earthworm Jim action figure. Or, like, Baby's Day Out action figures. He will kneel and play with them for a few minutes, eyes full of wonder, before he wanders off into the ash-peaked horizon. And that will serve as the ultimate purpose, the final verdict, of Galoob's line of slapstick movie-themed toys. This is going to be such a stupid novel.
THE WEEK 5 LOSERS
We now venture into the territory of "movie- or TV show-themed action figures that didn't actually exist."
- Eagles: The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon-themed action figures. The only action figures in production would be Tony Danza (packaging actually calls him Tony Danza), an anthropomorphic football, and a garbage can. The toy manufacturers did not watch the movie.
- Colts: Home Improvement. The front of Wilson's body is molded to a giant picket fence. There is a special run of "goth phase Mark" which is just a version of Mark wearing a black T-shirt. It does not have any pose-able parts or do anything ever.
- Cardinals: 127 Hours. Action figure canon is set years after the events of the film. Two products are available: an armless Aron Ralston and an arm pinned by a boulder. In the ad, one child is shown holding Ralston and having him explore business ventures and write a book and give talks and such, while his friend sits cross-legged with his motionless boulder-and-arm at the other end of the house.
- Giants: The Wonder Years. The central playset of the line of products, the Arnolds' house, comes complete with a Daniel Stern mask that the toy enthusiast is encouraged to wear while narrating.
- Titans: The Bridges Of Madison County. Concept of film re-worked from "siblings Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep struggle over what to do with their mother's ashes while dealing with her mysterious past" to "CLINT EASTWOOD DOES RADICAL STUNTS OFF BRIDGES." When the button on his back is pressed, he says, "Go ahead, punk, make my bridges of Madison County." Meryl Streep's character is re-imaged as a pencil-pushing killjoy who is also a toxic waste monster.
- Panthers: The Wire. Toy company executives started watching the show under the impression that it was a show about busting up terrorist sleeper cells and the dangers of a post-9/11 world, and five seasons of the show were not enough to convince them otherwise. Bubbles has a gun. Frank Sobotka has a bazooka. Cedric Daniels wears a cape. Snot Boogie is a zombie whose accessories include a set of nunchucks fashioned out of a pair of dice.
- Jaguars: Action figures based upon the events of a 45-minute instructional video that is shown to new hires at Target. Action figures include a generic Target employee, a "Caution" sign to place near spills, and a cart that is stubbornly branded as a Bascart even though no normal person in the world has ever called a cart a "Bascart" ever.
- Texans: Raging Bull. Three figures, all meant to be each other's villain. Young La Motta punches when you press his button. Old La Motta hammers diamonds out of his heavyweight belt (child in commercial shrieks "you'll wake up the kids!" in a high-pitched voice). Tragic La Motta stiffly hugs a reluctant Joe Pesci. His "secret lair" is the Dade County solitary confinement room.
Buccaneers: LOST. Set is sold all at once as a box full of loose objects, such as half-assembled Jack Shepard and John Locke figures and random pieces from jigsaw puzzles that do not fit. Only fully-assembled figure is a man on a couch who says things like "IT WAS REALLY GOOD FOR A LITTLE WHILE" and "WELL IT WAS JUST TOO COMPLICATED FOR MOST PEOPLE" and "MY STANDARDS FOR STORYTELLING ARE EMBARRASSINGLY LOW."
- Broncos: Multiplicity. A brilliant suggestion by Spencer Hall. Just a ton of Michael Keatons.
- Jets: Being John Malkovich. The action figure is completely motionless and function-less, with one exception. There is a timer that is set to a random period of time that will last anywhere from one to five years after production. When this timer expires, the figure will emit the shrieking of MALKOVICH MALKOVICH MALKOVICH at smoke-alarm volumes. There will be no means of turning it off short of completely destroying it. This feature will not be advertised.
- Falcons: Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? Yes, action figures based on the hit game show that ran on PBS. Features the Final Round set, which is randomly and cruelly set to Africa, and small child hopelessly lugging the beacon from country to country in a futile attempt to find Lesotho.