Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Revenge of the Geeks

"You seek Yoda!"

Yesterday I went to Toys 'R Us on a snoop. With the release of the final installment of the Star Wars saga just days, and now mere hours, away, I wanted to check out what was being offered by way of action figure displays at the nation's biggest toy retailer. I went with my housemate who was looking for items for her two year old boy.

As one could expect, there were a couple end-aisle displays full of action figures on pegs, and a television running a DVD of Star Wars that was stuck on the "options" page so that it played the same three bars of John Williams music over and over again. And over and over again. And again; I stayed there for about half an hour checking out the fantastic new wares, and the theme music got burnt into my aural canals.

When I first arrived there was another fellow allready scouring the displays: mid to late twenties, curly black hair, stylish glasses and casual hipster sort of clothing--a far cry from the overweight, ponytail sporting comic book store guy from the Simpsons. I didn't want to blow my cover, so I circled through the flanking aisles nonchalantly, pretending that I was checking out the Batman, Ninja Turtle and Transformer toys, perhaps for my son's birthday or something. But the guy was taking his sweet time, so in the end I decided to start up a conversation.

"Any good ones in there?" I asked, eyeballing the fantastic assortment of characters from a sideways angle to see if I could catch site of one of the rarer ones--maybe a Darth Vadar, or pregnant Padme.

"You a collector?" He asked me. I think he could see in my eyes that I was.

"Yeah, but they make so many of them nowadays, you really have to be selective."

We then talked for ten or fifteen minutes, and I told him some of the inside information about the new figures that I'd gleaned in my researches: that the new Darth Vadar is perfectly posed to hold other figures as if he were choking them; that the new C-3PO looks as though his thumb is missing on one hand, but it's just the way they made the mold; that Darth Vadar's medical droid looks like it's going to be one heckuva figure, etc. The fellow was super nice, and he acted quite intrigued by the revelations I was disclosing.

"They certainly look different than they did when we were kids" he said. And I had to agree. The amount of energy that must go into producing those little toys is amazing.

After we talked for a while, the fellow pulled a figure out from somewhere near the middle of the wall.

"Do you have one of these yet?" he asked.

It was a little figure made of translucent blue plastic: "Holographic Yoda", a Toys 'R Us exclusive shipped in extremely limited quantities!

He handed the rarity to me. "I got one yesterday in Burlington. This is the only one I've seen out of all these figures."

"Gee thanks!" I said. I wasn't sure I was going to buy the figure. It was five dollars more than the other ones, and I'm no longer the kind of collector who keeps my toys in their packages. Then I saw the sign saying that if you bought three regularly priced figures, you got the Holographic Yoda figure for free. Scratch one up for marketing gimmickry--I was only planning to buy one, or maybe two figures tops, but I ended up getting three just to have the little blue Yoda.

Just about then my housemate and friend returned with her kid, and, coming upon two guys talking toys in front of the Star Wars display, said that we looked like a couple of geeks. I was a bit offended by this, but my companion seemed to take it in stride. You could tell that he was a sophisticated and centred kind of person, and, unlike me, didn't care whether anyone caught him parked out front of the action figure display searching all the way to the back of the wall for the rare ones.

I guess we are kind of geeky in our enthusiasm for a multi-billion dollar fantasy movie franchise. In my life thus far I've probably spent more money on Star Wars merchandise than I have on traveling or cloths, or anything else short of higher education. I used to buy so much stuff that I had to sell it again because I didn't have the room to store or display it. Now I try to be more restrained; there's just too much product available to have the Complete Collection.

My current collection of Episode III figures

On the afternoon news today there was a panel discussing the buzz over the new movie, and they were pulling out every tired cliche and stereotype you can imagine:

"Star Wars fans are a bunch of forty year old guys who still live in their parent's basement and have never had sex with a woman. They should get a life!"

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. People just don't get it! Living in a parent's basement is a small price to pay if it allows one the freedom one needs to set up one's collection of still-in-the-box vintage Star Wars merchandise. The critics are just jealous that they didn't have the foresight to stock up on vintage figurines when they were being sold for 99 cents in the clearance bin at Zellers back in the eighties. You could put a kid through university with the money those things are worth on todays' collectible market. Just go to Ebay and type in "vintage Star Wars" and you, too, will feel The Power of the Force.

Anyways, next time I hit Toys 'R Us in search of Darth Vadar's Medical Droid or the newest Clone Trooper Commander, I'm going to hold my head high, and say to the world, "Yes, I'm a thirty-something Star Wars toy collector--and if you have a problem with it, may a Mynock eat the Power Couplings out of your Moisture Vaporizers, because Star Wars is the best thing to hit movie theatres since those little cans of flavoured powder on chains that you can sprinkle on your overpriced pop corn!"

May the Force be with You

1 comment:

Pamela said...

Enjoyed this perspective on the SW toy phenomenon. I have a slightly different perspective on it, as I was one of the clerks who couldn't keep the figurines in stock during the first SW toy invasion. I wrote about this on my blog about a week or so ago...Remembering all those kids (and all those parents) still scares me.

Great blog!