I guess critics of the NECA-produced Django Unchained action figures are pretty pleased with themselves, now that the popular line has been discontinued and banned from eBay.
But by targeting a marketing tool that has been used by film studios for decades, what did the critics actually accomplish?
Critics of the action figures cried "foul", and based their opposition on the notion that kids should not be encouraged to play with "slavery toys". Some went the increasingly popular route of charging that the Django figures were "disrespectful to [their] ancestors". They claimed that just the idea of producing "toys" that depicted slavery trivialized the horrors of that terrible institution on which this nation of ours was built.
Those critics failed to understand that by releasing the Django Unchained action figures, several weeks before the film opened last Christmas, they were doing what studios have always done before and after a big release– promoting their film. Critics also failed to realize that these action figures were being sold as collectible movie memorabilia, and were not intended to end up in the toy boxes of children across America. The fancy packaging that held the fancily attired figures, which was clearly marked "Ages 17 & Up", should have given that away. And if that wasn't a clear enough indicator that these figures weren't "toys", the nearly $30 price tag should have been.
But alas, the critics and their petitions prevailed in the end. The Weinstein Co. caved to the pressure, discontinuing the line, and seemingly relegating the Django Unchained action figures to inevitable obscurity. Or so it was thought.
Even before the line was pulled, the Django Unchained figures had found their way to eBay. And after they went out of production, their value skyrocketed. Auctions on just one of the figures from the six-figure line could be found, with active bidders, with bids quickly climbing into the "thousands of dollars" range.
The critics were not pleased about this either. Their sights were now set on eBay, and it wouldn't take long for the online auction site to also cave to public pressure by banning the selling of the figures on its pages.
Here’s how Deadline.com reported it:
Listings for the dolls “were removed as they were in violation of our Offensive Materials policy”, an eBay representative tells Deadline. EBay forbids offensive products “that graphically portray graphic violence or victims of violence, unless they have substantial social, artistic, or political value” including “racially or ethnically offensive language, historical items, reproductions, and works of art and media”.
So, let me get this straight . . . eBay “forbids offensive products that graphically portray graphic violence or victims of violence”, but not if they have artistic value, right? Is eBay seriously trying to sell that as the reason they banned these action figures? Are they saying that Django Unchained is not a work of art? If so, what would they call Django director Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill? That film surely could be described as graphically violent. Yet, still, eBay continues to allow the sale of action figures based upon characters from that film.
And if eBay really wants to talk about offensive products, they may want to take a closer look at their inventory. A quick keyword search of their site brings up a plethora of products for sale that could be deemed offensive, including a bobble-head doll of President Barack Obama depicted as a lawn jockey.
So why hasn't eBay removed these items? Why hasn't the same group of critics, who worked so diligently to have the Django figures removed from eBay, spoken up before now about offensive products for sale on eBay? Maybe this whole thing was never really about action figures. Perhaps the kerfuffle was always about displeasure with Tarantino's film; the NECA action figures were simply an easier target to hit. Therein lies the hypocritical double standard which negates any argument for the banishment of Django Unchained action figures from eBay or any other retailer that chooses to sell them. To complain about and campaign against one, but not the other, is either a foolhardy demonstration of ignorance, or just outright malice.
Regrettably, participants in the critical war on Django Unchained have won this battle. And hundreds of collectors of will be denied the opportunity to own what should have been some very cool pieces of movie memorabilia.