New Django Unchained “Slavery” Action Figures Join Ranks of Other Controversial Toys

The six new Django Unchained action figures are creating a controversy among collectors and others. (Photo: NCEA)

The controversial, 8″ tall Django Unchained action figures. (Photo: NECA)

A new line of action figures based on the film, Django Unchained, is creating some negative press for the film’s director, Quentin Tarentino, the toy makers NECA, and their partner, the Weinstein Company. The figures in question are 8″ tall and depict characters who were either slaves or slave owners in the film. Critics of the new figures have deemed the toys “inappropriate” and are asking for their complete removal from the market. According to a recent AP article…

We were outraged,” said Najee Ali, director of the advocacy group Project Islamic Hope, upon learning of the figures. “We feel that it trivializes the horrors of slavery and what African-Americans experienced.” Ali also called the action figures “a slap in the face of our ancestors.”

Of course, such toy-centric controversies are not unprecedented. GIjOE fans with long memories will recall that Hasbro expected to receive similar heat for its 1960s “Soldiers of the World” line. The line consisted of a French Freedom Fighter, British Soldier, Australian Soldier and Russian Soldier, PLUS two more figures which were WW2 Axis enemies, a Japanese Imperial Army Soldier and a German Wehrmacht Soldier.

Despite fears by executives at Hasbro, the sale of a WW2 German "Stormtrooper" action figure failed to generate any significant public outcry. In fact, the figure and its excellent accessories would go to be one of the most popular sets ever produced. (Photo: Profiles in History)

Despite fears by executives at Hasbro, the sale of a WW2 German “Stormtrooper” action figure failed to generate any significant public outcry. In fact, the figure and its excellent accessories would go on to become one of the most popular sets ever produced. (Photo: Profiles in History)

In his book, “GIjOE: The Complete Story of America’s Man of Action,” author John Michlig reveals there were some tense deliberations about the German figure early on at Hasbro:

“Merrill Hassenfeld’s brother, Harold, made a strenuous objection to the inclusion of a German storm trooper, arguing that no company—especially one with the Jewish heritage of Hasbro—should commemorate this purveyor of brutality.”

The controversial "Mad Bomber" action figure by 21st Century Toys. (Photo: ebay)

The controversial “Mad Bomber” action figure by 21st Century Toys. (Photo: ebay)

As we know, despite their trepidations, all of the foreign soldier figures were produced and are now held in the highest esteem by collectors. Perhaps it’s a sign of the modern world’s more “politically correct” sensitivities, but back then, the Japanese and German figures drew very little objection from the public. In fact, according to Michlig…

” Neither the media nor the retail buying community ever brought up the issue.”

The Adolph Hitler action figure w/box. (Photo: fastupfront)

The Adolph Hitler action figure w/box. (Photo: fastupfront)

GIjOE has always needed a wide variety of “bad guys” to fight. Without Nazis or COBRA, Terrorists or Mad Bombers, Joe would just be sitting around his headquarters (not very heroic or interesting). Over the years, most of the “worst of the worst” of humanity have been produced and sold as action figures—yes, even Adolph Hitler.

The "Terrorist" action figure by 21st Century Toys was widely decried for the public after 9/11, but remains very popular with collectors. (Photo: ebay)

The “Terrorist” action figure by 21st Century Toys was widely decried by the public, but remains very popular with collectors. (Photo: ebay)

And then there were the accidental, tampered with and unintendedly misused toys. Remember the foul-mouthed Bratz and Barbie dolls? Or the infamous Breast-Feeding Doll? How about Harry Potter’s Vibrating Broomstick? WHEEE!!! These “controversial toy” lists can go on and on.

Bottom Line: In a free-market, capitalistic society, products will always be made to meet diverse consumer tastes and preferences. But manufacturers can’t please everyone and they know that. They know that each new product is a gamble and the chips will fall where they may. “Good toy, bad toy, inappropriate toy,” that sort of judgement ultimately rests in the eye of the beholder. When someone doesn’t like something, they don’t buy it. The public “votes” with their pocketbooks, and their voice is heard loud and clear.

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One thought on “New Django Unchained “Slavery” Action Figures Join Ranks of Other Controversial Toys

  1. kneonknight says:

    I remember when I was hunting down the SOTW figures as a kid, and there wasn’t too much fuss about the German or Japanese Soldiers, but the Russian was another matter. Apparently, many of the locals objected to the idea of a “Commie” being sold to kids, as if by playing with him we would be embracing Marxist philosophies or start selling military secrets to the Kremlin. In order to buy one, I had to ask the store manager specifically for that particular figure, and they kept them out of sight behind one of the display counters. It was almost like buying pornography. Life in the Cold War Era, what a blast, right?

    The Terrorist from 21st Century Toys was one I never had much interst in, not because of the subject matter, but due to the fact that I have never cared for molden on headgear for any action figure…it kind of limits their potential, in my opinion. Locally, the figure was kept off the toy store shelves due to the actions of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in what would become known as the “Columbine Massacre”, as many people in this state thought that it would be potentially upsetting to the family members of the survivors and victims. In this case, I think that discrete “censorship” was a good idea; it was just an unfortunate coincidence that the figure was released mere days before that horrific event.

    As for Najee Ali, I find it telling that he had nothing to say about Hasbro’s African American versions of the Navy Admiral or Army General from the 50th Anniversary of WWII series. It would seem to me that such figures also “trivialize” what “African Americans experienced” during the war. I can only find records of one African American general, that being Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., and absolutely no African American admirals whatsoever. Honestly, portraying African Americans in such positions of authority and prestige is a very far cry from what was the norm during the war, and completely ignores the historical reality of segregation and discrimination prevalent in all branches of the armed forces at the time. Then again, the extremists of the politically correct crowd have never let little things like history stand in the way of their rants.

    As a final note, it is interesting that Hitler and Stalin have been immortalized in plastic, yet no one has produced a “Hanoi” Jane Fonda figure. I think in that case the various manufacturers know precisely where to draw the line, and I doubt it will be crossed in my lifetime, if ever.

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