Monday, November 30, 2009

Society: I know why the won't legalize Pot

I listened to a news report a couple weeks ago on NPR Radio about Humboldt County in California. According to David Samuels of the NEW YORKER, Humboldt County is "the heartland of high-grade marijuana farming in California." In the radio report, it is discussed that not only is legal pot grown in Humboldt, but there is also a significant level of illegal pot growth - what a shock. The rampant pot growth occurs in numerous "grow houses," and it's easy to profit from selling, distributing, and assisting in the cultivation and maintenance of pot in this area. Marijuana is entrenched in the county's economy, due to decades of cultural evolution - the hippies of the 60s migrated here, and camped out on the cheap land, and of course pot was/is a staple perishable in hippie culture. Those hippies are in their 50s and 60s now, and many are comfortable to wealthy, and still consuming pot. But it's not just 50 to 60 year olds consuming pot.

Though, many see the benefits of the entrepreneurial enterprise of the marijuana market, there are the setbacks. The NPR radio report used the phrase "Wild West" to describe some of the criminal activity that takes place - neglected grow houses can go a-blaze and consume ridiculous amounts of energy. These said houses are raided by burglars - whether lived in or not, and then there's those subtle turf skirmishes. This is what the politicians will focus in on to battle the legalization of pot. Legalizing pot is not necessarily the bad thing, it's all of the shady activity that could accompany it. The laws dealing with the proliferation of pot in Humboldt are in many cases far more lenient then other parts of the country.

How do you control a legal pot production market when it's so easy for Joe Schmoe down the road to cultivate it in his green garage, and distribute it as far as he can see - under the table to avoid all those pesky business taxes? This seems to be the issue in Humboldt County, where one can walk through a given neighborhood and point out most of the block(s) containing grow houses from door to door. Is this the type of culture that would evolve if pot is legalized, thus making it more socially accessible and marketable?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sexist Toys

This entry is inspired by two sources: A five hour chat with a friend at Starbucks, and numerous postings on the facebook page. I haven't blogged in quite a while, and it's time to get back to it...

I am not the most avid toy collector - though I do have a designated Toy Room, I have seen other peoples' collections, and my collection pales in comparison. I am in now way a completionist, and would never dream of being so - too stressful. My two main lines of focus are Masters of the Universe by Mattel, and Transformers by Hasbro. If I could own stock in these two companies, I would...some day. I'm 32 years old, and I grew up with these two lines and others. I collected them as a kid, and continue to collect them in my adulthood.

Transformers as of late is proving to be far too oversaturating - the movie line is crap in my humble opinion. I do like the complicated, biomechanical, realistic design of the characters onscreen, but the designs do not translate well to the toys. You have repackaged G1 stuff, reimagined G1 stuff, Animated toyline stuff, the movie stuff...there's just too much of it.

Right now, my focus is on Masters of the Universe (MOTU for short), albeit I don't actually collect the figures...not in the budget. Mattel has a good thing going with its MOTU Classics line. Although there's such a limited supply that it sells out quickly on the website, and so those that don't act fast enough are forced to pay anywhere from $34 on up for a figure they missed out on - that's some mark up. These third party stores - Ebay, Bigbadtoystore, Amazon, have to recoup their costs from buying the figures from Matty, and try to make a profit. Understandable, but that leaves me and many others out in the cold. It's already a lot to pay $20 plus shipping and tax for one figure, so to invest more? I'm a fan, but I can't go that far.

Well, that is until Adora comes out in the beginning of 2010. Adora, He-Man's twin sister, is She-Ra Princess of Power, the central figure of the female spin-off line Mattel produced back in 1984. The thing is He-Man was re-released in a Commemorative Series in 2000, then was reimagined in 2002. And thanks to the 4 Horsemen toy sculptors, the He-Man flame was kept alive with their "staction" figures and busts, until Mattel released MOTU Classics. She-Ra and company would not receive any sort of attention until the Princess of Power herself received an update as an exclusive San Diego Comic Con retooling of the 2002 Teela figure. The MOTU toyline itself is guilty of having only three female figures in its entire run from 1982 to 1987 - Teela, Evil-Lyn and the Sorceress. What's tragic is the Sorceress was a central character to the mythos, and her figure was not released until the end of the line...hmmmm.

She-ra's line was relatively successful, essentially being an amalgumation of Mattel's two successes - Barbie and He-Man. This amalgumation unfortunately was a key component in the ultimate failure of the She-Ra toyline. Most action figure lines historically have been guilty of producing mostly male figures, and having maybe one or two female figures. The logic is that boys don't want to have girl figures because's too girly. Mattel's decision to make She-Ra strictly a girls' line doomed it from the start, that and the divergent marketing of both the MOTU and the Princess of Power (POP) lines - which ultimately doomed them both. The problem with POP is that the powers that be really didn't know what it should be. Though it was a line for girls, it was an action figure - which was something that boys typically played with. The term "action figure" was coined so that boys didn't have to refer to their 12" G.I. Joe as a doll. Some parents were apprehensive in buying She-Ra figures because she was considered too violent for girls, and they didn't want to promote tom-boyishness. Boys themselves would not dare venture into the "pink" isle at Toys 'R' Us or where ever to pick up a She-Ra figure. I myself had my mother smuggle my She-Ra figure, and kept her in hiding so my father and brother wouldn't ridicule me.

Filmation, the animation house that produced both the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, essentially used She-Ra's show as a tool to market both the He-Man and She-Ra toylines...

MISTAKE #1. He-Man was cancelled to make She-Ra. So, in essence, She-Ra season one, is He-Man season 3, with He-Man in a guest starring role. This is where the confusion starts. He-Man's success is largely based on this syndicated cartoon series that catapulted the toy franchise to unprecedented fame and sales. You take that marketing vehicle away, and you are destined to see a decline in sales - which is what slowly happened with MOTU. She-Ra, though being a girls' line was made to be hoplessly codependent on MOTU to evolve. Rather than establish She-Ra as her own independent line with some connections to MOTU, the She-Ra show depicted her universe as half MOTU. ALL of her villains, save for Catra and Entrapa, are MOTU characters. So, in order for a girl to logically complete her toyline, her parents have to buy her boys' toys...big no no. Catra should have been the leader of the Horde faction on Etheria (while Hordak re-established a Horde presence on Eternia perhaps). The feline beauty should have had a mass of colorful villainesses at her beck and call to fight against She-Ra's rebellion. But the logic was that you can't have too many "bad girls" in the line, because you don't want girls to want to be bad...sugar and spice and all that.

MISTAKE #2. The inconsistent marketing for She-Ra, as mentioned above, is another dooming factor. The commercials and collectible fiction depicted She-Ra with more Barbie-esque qualities. Pinks, and orchids donned the advertisements, with She-Ra combing her hair wilst admiring her reflection in a pink mirror in the pink Crystral Castle. This was stark contrast to the television series, which did a good job of balancing the sexes if you will. The pinks and orchids are toned down, and She-Ra herself is a strong, but beautiful take charge kind of lady. Boys could watch the show and respect girls, and girls could watch and aspire to be a strong leader. However in Marketing, you have to have a clear and concise direction for what your product should be, and how it is to be represented. This is definitely not the case.

MISTAKE #3. Making a unisex figure toyline....uh a little too early for that. Let's face it, She-Ra was way ahead of her time. Idealistically, a toyline should be accessible to both sexes, not just for boys or girls. This idea that boys only want swords and guns, and girls want combs and dresses is a little dated. Is it the norm for a lot of people, perhaps. But the doors shouldn't be closed to the boy that wants to comb a doll's hair, or have more female action figures, or a girl who wants to wield a sword and be a warrior princess. Maybe conquering sexism starts with the action figure.