Some Herald “Unlimited Choices” While Others Decry Increased Splintering of GIjOE’s Fan Base
Remember when watching TV was as easy as 1, 2, 3? We do. 50 years ago there were only the 3 major TV networks, and a handful of independent stations vying for our attention. Such concentration of viewership resulted in a shared national identity that provided citizens with familiar reference points of culture and debate. Now, with the addition of thousands of new satellite and cable TV channels, the minds of many have begun “going their own way,” dividing the medium’s previously unified audience. Intriguingly, GIjOE fandom can now be said to be following a similar path. Only in this case, it’s the internet that (counterintuitively) risks splintering fan factions, threatening to pull collectors in so many directions that previous collecting group dynamics may soon become a thing of the past. Admittedly, with all the wonderful things the ‘net has done to bring Joeheads together, it’s hard to imagine that the very same medium could now be working against them. But recent developments reveal—the damage may already be done.
For Example: When discussing GIjOEs, what topics do you consider to be off-limits? Are certain words or phrases unacceptable for use in a GIjOE fan forum? Where do your personal “tolerance thresholds” for opposing opinions begin—and end? Tough questions all, we grant you; some requiring serious introspection. But for fans of GIjOE, the answers used to be very simple—NOTHING. We used to be too busy being fascinated by each other’s Joe-knowledge to be offended by an occasional off-color remark. Regardless of personal scale and era preferences, fans (in the past) loved ALL GIjOEs (yes, some more than others) and were always happy to support one another’s differing tastes and/or viewpoints. What’s happened to change all that? Surprisingly, some say—Facebook.
So what’s the problem? We’re still all GIjOE fans and we’re still just talking about toys, right? Well, maybe not. The introduction of Facebook’s numerous “closed group” GIjOE fan forums has led to an unexpected “splintering” of the hobby. While most fans enjoy the closed groups simply as yet another place on the ‘net to share their fandom (and let their “geek flags fly”), others see them as a way to suppress dissenting opinion. Of course, the level of closed-group moderation (i.e. censorship) has always varied from group to group and moderator to moderator. But in today’s increasingly segmented, politically corrected and word-sensitive society, it’s not unusual for an unsuspecting Joehead to stumble into a group of fans who are more than willing to lead him (or her) into an abyss of dispute—over a simple WORD.
Formerly impervious to trivial disagreements, some fans (nowadays) appear to have developed a decreased tolerance for opinions that don’t immediately coincide with their own. Nowhere online is this evolving phenomenon more apparent than in the closed groups on Facebook. If you don’t know how such groups operate, pay heed: First, you request (or are invited) to join. Then, if you’re accepted, you learn whether the group is moderated or not and its particular “rules” for posting. To remain a member, you must abide politely by its restrictions or risk getting unceremoniously cut (i.e. “black-listed”) from the group’s roster by its all-powerful moderator. If this all sounds a tad Orwellian or close-minded, it can indeed feel so at times. But as one might expect, experiences vary from group to group and depend entirely on the mindsets of the individuals clustered within. Your level of enjoyment (or disappointment) will vary accordingly.
Intriguing Schism Between GIjOE Fans Revealed By Response to Article on The Joe Report
Read the Fine Print—Those who don’t read and/or follow a closed group’s “rules and regs” before placing posts may suddenly find themselves the target of angry and derisive rejoinders from the group’s membership. Even innocent blunders, like the use of an “offensive” term (which vary from group to group) can come to back to bite their authors—hard. For example, your own friendly neighborhood blogazine, The Joe Report (TJR), and its main article writer, Mark Otnes, recently found themselves at the center of an online social media storm in which members of Facebook’s leading 3.75″ GIjOE group, GIjOE Discussion, unleashed a torrent of posts critical of Otnes’ reportage of a recent article, and his use of the term, “Hasblow,” when posting to the group. For example:
The Confusion Re: “Elizabeth,” the “Hasbro Toy Shop” and “Hasblow”
The October 6th article that drew so much attention from the group initially was in fact, one of our shortest. It concerned an equally short email we’d received from a Hasbro customer service rep confirming the complete disappearance of all GIjOE products from the Hasbro Toy Shop (HTS) website. One of the main points of contention the GIjOE Discussion (GD) group members had with Otnes’ article was his insistence that the HTS was part of Hasbro. For some reason, they believed the store to be an independent business and not connected with the toy company in any way. According to this adamant GD group member:
WRONG. To settle this issue, we contacted HTC rep, “Elizabeth” again, both to confirm her own physical reality (machine or human?) and to clarify HTC’s official status. She stated:
“I am a Consumer Service agent at Hasbro, not an automated system. We read and respond to each email received from our consumers. As for Hasbro Toy Shop, the site is part of Hasbro. We feature some of our more popular toys for sale on the site. The reason we do not sell all products is we simply do not have the warehouse capacity to house the 1000’s of products Hasbro makes. As for the GI Joe exclusive toys, that line cannot be sold by us, the product were made only for Toys R Us. I hope this helps.”
—Elizabeth, Customer Service Agent, Hasbro
So…Elizabeth is a real person, works at Hasbro, and confirms that the Hasbro Toy Shop is part of Hasbro. Points proven. We stand by our article and its simple premise: GIjOE is NOT being sold by Hasbro’s own online outlet store: the Hasbro Toy Shop. Otnes was not discussing “exclusive” GIjOE brand toy sales at Toy’s ‘R Us—or anywhere else. (Editor’s Note: It was also strongly suggested—by a GD member—that we double-confirm the store’s status by also contacting Hasbro’s PR firm. We did so. But after a week, they have yet to reply to our inquiries.)
Claiming the High Ground—and Then Abandoning It
Debate about Otnes’ article (and the appropriateness of “Hasblow”) aside, comments like the one above (from another GD member) indicate a somewhat hypocritical, “have-it-both-ways” mindset. In other words, when a closed group objects to the use of an “offensive” term (from one of its own members) and then responds with a slew of their own (such as this group’s description of 12-inch fans as “dinosaurs, mentally retarded, brats,” etc.) then its easy to question their purported sincerity and desire to spare the feelings of others. We’re all Joeheads, but it’s important for members of closed groups to adhere to their own rules, or risk igniting yet another, intra-fan “flame war.”
And finally, here’s two more Joeheads who wanted to provide some slightly more in-depth, well-considered commentary on this whole “3.75-inch versus 12-inch” collecting schism thingy:
“I’d feel worse for them (12″ collectors) if the bulk of that part of the community didn’t take a figurative crap on any 12” product that’s been released in the last 15 years. … The 12″ camp continued to desert the GIJCC because they DARED to place the 4″ figure fans on equal footing and now doesn’t understand why the Club swings so heavily that way …
Make no mistake, I know some GREAT fans of the 12″ Joes—but 12″ fans who contribute to growing (or even maintaining) interest in their hobby are few and far between, and these Patches of Pride guys—who can’t even accept that GI Joe has been a predominantly 4″-scaled toy line for, oh, 32 years now—aren’t going to accomplish much with this sort of guerilla journalism.”
—Mike I.D., GIjOE Discussion
“Hasbro was VERY clear on its plans for GI Joe nearly 8 months ago, which didn’t include 12″ for a very important reason: 12″ is DEAD, or at least the 12″ figures collectors want. … And every attempt since in bringing back 12″ has been met with retail failure (all THREE TIMES in 10 years!).
… Ultimately, this blog (The Joe Report) … shows a real lack of knowledge on the current toy market or even the brand itself. Anyone following GI Joe over the past 5 years (much less 10) could have likely seen the trends that bring us to where we are now.”
—Steevy M., Hisstank.com
Finally, we were also taken to task by one high-ranking Joehead who insists we mispronounced the cheerful yell of support for our favorite action figure, stating:
Bottom Line: Thanks to the gated-community mindset and feelings of supposed safety fostered by Facebook’s new closed groups, the old “Wild West Days” of free-ranging arguments and flame wars between fans are largely a thing of the past; and the older, unmoderated, text-only forums, such as the venerable wide-open Sandbox, have now become veritable ghost towns (see story HERE).
Nevertheless, as the quotes above show, verbal attacks on fellow fans still occur, even within these new closed groups, and chastised members may find themselves feeling as if they’ve unwittingly traded some of their 1st Amendment freedoms for a false sense of online peace and quiet; essentially “preaching to a choir” of like-minded souls, where nary a dissenting word —is allowed to be heard.
P.S. All this kerfuffle over “Hasblow,” has us genuinely curious. What’s YOUR opinion about the disputed term? Please vote below, so Joeheads of all stripes will finally know. Thanks!