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The toy industry is becoming dangerously repetitive

The toys we play with as children often have a profound effect on our developing brains. Teddy bears can teach children to care for a non-living other. Barbies can teach children about fashion and objectification. A model farm toy can be the starting point of a child’s Marxist education.

Toys, in an age which grows more digital may seem old fashioned, are among our important first impressions of the world. Therefore, looking at what is being sold to children is important to examine. Who they will become, subconsciously, will likely come from the toys they wish to play with? So, with this in mind, how does the popularity of Funko pops bode for the next generation?

For those who are unsure what Funko Pops are, you will have seen them if you have been in a game, geek or toy shop sometime in the past five years. They are all based on the same principle, plastic figures from all across the international cultural lexicon, and occasionally real people, with oversized heads and blank black eyes.

Funko Pops stand out in the toy market not just for their distinct appearance, but also the fact that no other kind of toy has been spread across so many brands as successfully. No other figurine specification is as broad in its demographics or range of brands. They cater to practically every fandom and interest. So far, so at first glance harmless. But the question then arises, who are they for exactly? 

They represent the erosion of a toy market towards a singular image

They’re definitely often branded for children, given their cute design and dominance of the toy market. But, because of their limited dexterity and broad demographic range they’re often regarded as a collector’s item. Given they are somewhat flimsy as plastic figures go, not impressive even within their boxes compared to many products they seem overvalued as a collector’s item, especially given if you don’t have a specific rare kind there will likely be several variations.

If they are for kids however, then this is where their potentially insidious side comes into play. Funko pops have limited value individually so they incentivise someone to collect more of them. Individually their worth is little, but a shelf of them has appeal. They exist for kids to ask for more and they accommodate for this. Their packaging allows them to be easily stacked. Walls of them appear in toy shops. They are all easily made and can often very little. More than any other type of figure they all conform under the same pattern. But all this may sound overdramatic. After all, what toy band didn’t want to incentivise children to buy more of them for a collection? 

The answer again is related to the fact that Funko Pop has absorbed every aspect of the cultural lexicon it comes in contact with. No intellectual property seems to escape, and in doing so we witness children coming into contact and seeing not their favourite characters they can actually play with but pale imitations they can stack on their shelves and demand more. We see values of collection purely for the sake of ownership over the desire to be interesting.

Monopolisation of media, particularly for media aimed at children is a subject often in reference to Disney, keen to crush or buy all competition to their mega-corporation

They’re cheap, they’re easily available and work as the toy version of fast food. They represent is the erosion of a toy market towards a singular image. Funko pops won’t develop children, they will simply make them want more of the same, at the end of the day, relatively unfulfilling toys.

Monopolisation of media, particularly for media aimed at children is a subject often in reference to Disney, keen to crush or buy all competition to their mega-corporation. Funko Pop does the same. They encourage fewer variations for greater profit in an industry which often can creatively lack. Children deserve better.

Does that mean we stop buying Funko pops? Well if you like them to fill your student shelf then I can’t exactly decry for any reason, some people just like the look. But they are worth bearing in mind. Some trends may seem harmless, others hint at the kind of society we are and may become, and if the goal is to simply amass instilled in us as kids, then where can we go from there?

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