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In Defense of Plastic Cleavage

Exposing the cover up of X-MEN's Jean Grey action figure.

By Dan Cziraky     December 10, 2000

Recently, I was in Wal*Mart, checking out the empty pegs where toys for Christmas should be(!), when I happened to spy a few X-Men: The Movie action figures stuffed in amongst the dust-encrusted Titan A.E. and even dustier Max Steel figures. Lo and behold, there was a Jean Grey that didn't have that ridiculous, painted-on black bra beneath her leather jumpsuit. No, this Jean Grey had the front of her jumpsuit zipped up to her neck! Whoa, wait-a-minute! First, they release the figure (as well as Storm) with rather copious cleavage in plain view. Then, they add those silly, painted-on bras. Now, a re-sculpt that makes the character more covered-up than Mother Theresa. What is going on here?

Yes, it's that old sexual bugaboo, the double standard. You can have a nearly-naked male action figure of just about any superhero character you could think of: Tarzan in a lion-skin jock strap, no problem! Conan in a bronze 'cup'? Go right ahead! But, you start putting wimmin-folk in scanty clothes and calling 'em toys, well, what kinda sick s.o.b. are you, anyway? Sure, put Barbie in a thong bikini and market it to girls so they can grow up to have all sorts of body issues, but you wanna market a Wonder Woman figure to boys? Why, lookit her, she's only half dressed! You should be locked up!

Sure, there was a time in the '60s and '70s when companies like Mego produced a slew of 8-inch version of superheros in tights, including 'Wonder Woman' and other Spandexed young ladies. In the late '70s and early '80s, during the move to smaller-scale figures (Star Wars, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Super Powers, and, of course, Master of the Universe), you had figures like 'Princess Leia,' 'The Baroness,' 'Scarlet,' 'Teela,' and 'Evil-Lyn.' But, no way was Kenner going to do a 'Slave Girl Leia' or 'Oola the Dancing Girl' in their Return of the Jedi line (1983-85), no matter how much cleavage Mattel allowed She-Ra and the Princesses of Power figures to show.

This sort of attitude is astounding in its absurdity. In the past few years, as we've seen the growth in popularity of 'bad girl' comics' characters (Vampirella, Lady Death, Catwoman, etc.), the toy industry responded. Also, we've had the licensing of movie characters as action figures that had extreme feminine attributes adding to the appeal of scantily-clad femme figures. This lead to the controversy of the 'Lursa' and 'B'etor' figures in Playmates Toys' Star Trek: Generations action figures a few years back: These female Klingon characters had rather prominent cleavage, which was translated to the toy versions. Suddenly, parents were outraged, and the two figures became very scarce as the company short-packed the remaining stock while ceasing production of them altogether. Playmates later encountered a similar controversy over its lone human female figure in their Skeleton Warriors line. The figure was never even produced, although it was shown at the International Toy Fair. The line's female skeleton figure, 'Shriek,' was allowed a revealing outfit because she had only bones to reveal, anyway!
Also in the past few years, we've seen upstart toy companies arise, catering to the collectors market instead of the yard monsters. McFarlane Toys put out sexy characters such as 'Angela,' 'Tiffany the Amazon,' 'The Blood Queen,' and 'Necromancer' in their Spawn and other toy lines. They also produced a figure of Joseph Linsner's sexy, busty Dawn comics character, aimed squarely at collectors. Other companies, such as the now-defunct Skybolt Toyz, produced sexy, projectile-breasted characters like 'Hellina.' More mainstream toy companies, such as Kenner/Hasbro, began using the bustier, more contemporary designs of characters such as 'Catwoman' and 'Batgirl' in their Batman toy lines in an attempt to attract the collector market. One company (gone and forgotten, at least by me!) even produced 'Hari-Kari,' hailed as the 'world's first nude action figure.' (It wasn't; the French beat them to it years ago. Plus, when you removed the figure's breastplate, she was as smooth underneath as a Barbie! Talk about false advertising. Lastly, the figure stank anyway, with poor sculpting and bad articulation.) Dark Horse Comics' recent 'Bettie Page' figureaimed at adult collectorsdoes possess anatomically correct attributes beneath her removable fur bikini top. I'm told be a friend who collects Princess Diana memorabilia that at least one vinyl dollapproved by the late royal's estatedoes feature anatomically correct breasts beneath her removable outfits! (I won't even start with the Japanese toy market, which includes adults-only vinyl figures of nude females in amazing quantities!)

Today, companies like Moore Action Collectibles routinely release sexy action figures in lines such as Chaos! Comics ('Lady Death,' 'Purgatori,' 'Lady Demon,' 'Lady Death in Battle Armor'), Witchblade, and Vampirella. Before abandoning the suddenly unprofitable Star Trek line of figures, Playmates issued such space sex symbols as 'Leeta the Dabo Girl,' 'Lt. Ilia,' 'The Orion Animal Girl,' 'Borg Queen,' 'Lt. Torres as a Klingon,' and various versions of super-hottie 'Seven of Nine.' Currently, Playmates has a line of 6-inch and 9-inch figures of chesty video game vixen 'Lara Croft,' with more on tap for the release of next year's Tomb Raider flick starring Angelina Jolie.

Of course, the important thing to remember is that these are fantasy characterseven the ones from live-action films. 'Lady Death' can have enormous, gravity-defying breasts and an eighteen-inch waist, because she's drawn that way (to paraphrase Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Even Toy Biz, manufacturer of the X-Men: The Movie (and all Marvel Comics-based toys), has had figures in the past with far more cleavage than the current 'Jean Grey' and 'Storm' figures. What the problem is exactly, I'm not sure, and they aren't talking! But, by drawing so much attention from trying to cover up designs that obviously had been approved at some previous point in the manufacturing process, they're the ones making 'mountains' out of relative mole hills, anyway!

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