Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Consideration of Religious Action Figures; Or, Bible Toys

A little while ago there was some hoopla about Wal-Mart carrying the Accoutrements Jesus action figure. Some people thought it verged on the sacrilegious; others thought it pushed a religious agenda. I have some objections about it myself, and this is the main one: it is a poorly made figure.

The body of the Accoutrement Jesus is a hollow cone with wheels on the bottom, which, if backed up, makes the whole figure glide forward, just like a toy car. Why they thought this was appropriate to Jesus is beyond me; it seems that this action and his glow-in-the-dark hands are a none too subtle comment on the perceived iconographic expectations of "religious types". The fact that the figure of Pope is the only other one in their line that has this feature seems to support this theory. Their Deluxe Jesus figure is much better; this figure has feet and comes with loaves and fishes and no glowing hands. But the ordinary version is the one you see everywhere.

I am not going to get into a discussion of whether or not it is right to have an action figure of Jesus, or any religious figure. But if they are going to exist, they should at least compete in quality with the secular figures that are out there. And this is where toy companies with Christian agendas have fallen down.

Take the figures shown above. These are produced and sold at Now I rather like these, in a weird way. I like the idea of having a Moses and Solomon and Angel action figure, and even the Jesus is better than Accoutrements in many ways. I would probably buy some of these if I was sure the site was still active. But the close up pictures I looked at revealed them to be rather crude and clumsy, with little character or style, and no accessories at all. Their costume sculpt shows little or no knowledge of historical accuracy or flair: David looks like some sort of pirate, and of Adam and Eve, the less said the better. Little art or care is apparent in their making, and that seems to me to indicate a lack of conviction. The same complaints, along with flimsiness, can be made of other biblical lines, like BibleQuest. Bad artistry is bad faith.

In comparison look at the figures of Lord Rama and Hanuman, offered by Rama is supposed to be an avatar of Krishna, and Hanuman an aspect of Shiva; they both appear in the Hindu epic The Ramanya. Character, detail, and presence almost compel belief; you believe in them as characters if not as divine beings. If I was sure this site was still active, I would probably buy these, as well.

This is what producers of biblical action figures have to compete against, and it's about time they get cracking. And you need bad guys, too, fellas, and not just Goliath. Action figures are all just basically there to be characters in stories, stories that are told while they are being played with, and all stories are fueled by conflict. You know, like Good vs. Evil? I think there was something like that in the Bible.


Brer said...

The problems I've had with this post! I meant to put in "Pope Innocent III", and then I couldn't get the pictures in the right order. And the spacing! This seems to happen every time I try to publish a saved draft.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem is that the toymakers are always trying to be so "respectful" that they end up being too vanilla. (except for that Jesus figure you described, WTF?) Somewhere between what we've had so far and Todd MacFarlane's Twisted Biblical line lies a perfect line up. And right on about villians! I'd even like to say a representation of Shaitan himself, to tempt the Christ figure in the desert! As far as whether they should be made or not, as long as no one worships them ,these graven images are just for amusement purposes only, so , why not?