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From The Fighting 1:18 forums comes an editorial, pseudo Q and A, on whether or not GI Joe fans matter to Hasbro. This is my humble opinion on the matter.

Hasbro: Enemy of G.I. Joe

In our forum a new member, Fred Broca, asked a question about whether or not Hasbro listened to, or acknowledged the wants and desires of the greater collecting community. Here is the original post, unedited and pasted directly from The Fighting 1:18th forums.

“I originally posted this on the Tank. I thought y’all might appreciate it.

I don’t have a computer, but I’m able to surf the site via the web browser on my phone. Through the various reading I’ve done on this site, I’ve come the startling and unfortunate realization, that we the loyal, faithful, fanboys of G.I. JOE really don’t matter to the executives at Hasbro.

Hasbro, (in my honest opinion,) they completely and totally take us for granted. The brass at Hasbro probably says, “It’s cool that we have a percentage of the collectors. We like and appreciate their support. But the reality of situation is we’re a toy company that carters to children. The target demographic of the G.I. JOE line is boys between the ages of 5-11, maybe even 12. Besides, when it comes to 3 3/4″ military based action figures and accessories, where are they going to go?”

When you think it, all of Hasbro’s decisions concerning Joe makes sense. Especially when you think about the design of certain characters and figures. This train of thought especially makes sense when you think about the direction the movie took.

Sure Hasbro will throw us a bone every now and then, but we’re not the focus. But like somebody so eloquently put in the Joes not selling well thread, http://www.hisstank.com/forum/g-i-jo…ling-well.html, “Hasbro needs to realize that as with Joes are concerned that the target demo shouldn’t be 9 yr olds, but guys who started buying the line when they were 9.”

In my day job, I’m a writer, so I can only explain this from my perspective, which, I admit, is a very limited perspective. But, to summarize my feelings, Hasbro is its own enemy.

Let me explain.

The collector’s think they aren’t getting listened to enough or are being ignored altogether, when, in essence, it doesn’t matter either way. Hasbro does listen to collector’s. Look at the entire 25th Anniversary series of GI Joes. Hasbro can’t get any more connected to its collector base demographic than directly re-releasing virtually everything we loved about the line in a greatly improved format. Unfortunately for collector’s, Hasbro needs to branch out beyond middle aged men for long term financial stability got the better of them. Collector’s are a limited demographic even today. Most of the guys that loved GI Joe as kids are grown up living productive, toy free lives. Hasbro needs children to buy toys.

It’s not that Hasbro doesn’t want to listen to you, or even that they ignore you outright, it’s just that what you want isn’t the secret sauce of success in today’s day and age. Most collector’s want what they had as children. Today’s children aren’t yesterday’s children. This is why past generations thought we acted oddly as children, and why we believe that newer generations of children act oddly. It’s called getting old. GI Joe was popular during the 80s. This was a reflection of the times we lived in. Not just the political landscape, but the entire landscape of child entertainment was fundamentally different than it is today. Children occupied their time more so with toys and cartoons than they do today. Video games and computers weren’t the dominate forms of entertainment back then.

GI Joe left a mark on us because it was there, it was a constant in our lives. Collector’s are simply stuck in the 80s. We grew up with it, but outside of that, there is actually very little we can do to help GI Joe enter a new age. Hasbro helps us where they can, but we can’t sustain GI Joe in this century. Our love of this golden era, the Real American Hero era has completely hypnotized us in everything we perceive about the brand, so we fight for all the wrong things and are, therefore, the wrong demographic to be sought for advice.

But… despite all this obvious knowledge this is not Hasbro’s primary problem. Hasbro needs to radically alter the way it perceives its own properties if they want them to become as engaging as Star Wars.

The only constant in GI Joe is that every time GI Joe resurfaces, it will inevitably disappear.  The main problem Hasbro faces when comparing GI Joe to Star Wars is that GI Joe is not a timeless property like Star Wars is. Every time Hasbro tries to dust off its GI Joe franchise, they discover everything that made it relevant last time are not the same things that are relevant today. Star Wars has remained relevant for over thirty years all the while remaining relatively unchanged, but it has a thriving, expansive mythology that can be drawn upon. A mythology that doesn’t have to reinvent itself every five years. Star Wars has timeless themes, stories that are epic in scope, heroic and recognizable characters, and it seeks to pioneer facets of the medium it chooses to occupy at the time.

GI Joe leaves no mark on our culture, nor does it alter our perception of the way we view the particular medium it is created for, and leaves no lasting after thought about the consequences of the character’s actions within the story. Star Wars was created by a guy wanting to tell a story. Joes were created to sell toys and they were created by a toy company. Selling toys is natural for a toy company, but, people with zero respect for story lines, little patience for character development, and no room in their annual profit reports for emotional arcs are expecting results from toys being driven by cartoons, comics, and films. These are all artistic mediums of expression that need well thought out stories to be truly successful.

The same rings true in all properties Hasbro holds the rights to. Transformers is another example of this reinvention mentality within the company. Neither of these franchises is timeless and the entire company finds themselves outdated very quickly. They spend so much money trying to keep their pulse on what people, particularly children, find trendy, but they ignore what has always been interesting to people of every generation, at any age: A damn good story with conflict and characters.

People seek drama because drama holds our attention. Drama puts us on the edge of our seat, it captivates us. We become invested in our characters because they are interesting, quirky, or likeable. They stand up for the things we may not have the guts to stand up for. The story gives the people we root for danger, which in turn, allows us to become invested in their well being. This is writing 101. Conflict within and around characters makes for good storytelling.

This is why bad movies, or in this case, irrelevant toy lines, fail. Instead of drama, Hasbro gives us easily recognizable, multi colored uniforms placed on mannequins of little, or no personality. These uniforms become the only substance which fans can attach themselves to, they become an anchor. Instead of Duke being a heroic, first sergeant who is constantly living down the mistake of losing his previous men in combat, but leads GI Joe into battle in hopes of atonement, he is the guy in tan shirt and green pants. Instead of Optimus Prime being the courageous leader of the Autobots struggling with the immense responsibility of leading his scattered people, fans get wrapped up in the fact he had blue flames on his truck form in the film. Even as Hasbro desperately tried to rehash Transformers over the years from cars, to animals, to dinosaurs, to women’s hygiene products, Optimus Prime was always the leader, and he was always the stalwart warrior, but fans ignore all of this. Because Hasbro is a toy company, only capable of understanding short term profit gains the emphasis was always placed on the look of the character and never the drama surrounding the character. This, in turn, has transferred to the fan base.

GI Joe: Resolute showed us the possibility of merging the old with the new. The series even demonstrated that Hasbro is capable of putting story first to breathe life into a franchise. Resolute brought the only things that were important from Real American Hero: The names of the characters and the archetypes they play in all mediums of GI Joe. They mixed this with the nods to the original 80s run for fans, some modern military mentality not based on outdated Vietnam era principles, ratcheted up the danger level up by giving our characters a truly threatening situation to deal with, and even giving them just enough difference in look that recognizable toys could be produced. Resolute didn’t have time for character development due to its short length, but this would have been the last building block for creating a great franchise tooled for this century. In short, Resolute created drama, but as an added bonus, it could sell toys (which it actually did).

Unfortunately, Hasbro is already changing GI Joe. The movie gives us another, even more cheesy scenario than the original 80s cartoon, and they are creating another, new animated program on their newly developed children’s network. Again, these are all reinventions of GI Joe. They aren’t even keeping things consistent in the same year, let alone the same generation. There is no opportunity to connect, and no one will care about GI Joe in the long haul, ultimately rendering it irrelevant forever if they don’t begin approaching the franchise as something more important to them.

You can comment on the editorial here, or at: http://forums.fighting118th.com/showthread.php?t=1699

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About Paul Pratt

Father, Husband, Writer, Sarcastic Ass.

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