Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fruitless Search for Mohammed Action Figure Reveals Self-Censorship in Toy and Novelty Industry

A roryshock investigation of the Action Figure Industry (AFI) and the Religious Statuette Industry (RSI) and the Action Figure and Religious Statuette Spoof Industry (AFRSSI) has revealed widespread self-censorship regarding Islam. However, the industries' thoughtfulness and sensitivity quotient is variable when it comes to leading non-muslim religions. Some representative products and/or spoofs reviewed during this investigation are presented here as examples.

There are numerous religious Statuettes and Action Figures readily available, with Jesus apparently the most popular. Many of these figures are poseable, a problematic issue in and of itself, as poseability can lend itself to presentation of a sacred figure in embarassing or even degrading positions and situations. Others combine a utilitarian purpose (e.g. nightlights) with iconographic significance, which could be construed by some to debase the religious item. In summary, this roryshock investigation has found that the AFI, RSI, AFRSSI are essentially one big untamed frontier, where the rules are made up by the players as they damn well see fit, except where Islam is involved. In the case of Islam, the AFI, RSI, and AFRSSI self-regulate nearly to point of outright censorship. The answer to the following question is beyond the scope of this investigation: Is there a thoughtful absence of Mohammed action figures and statuettes (whether poseable, utilitarian, or purely ornamental and fixed) because of respect for the feelings of others or because there is no market for such figures?

Let us examine some representative figures revealed by this investigation.

The photograph below shows a glow in the dark Jesus statuette. There are no known reported instances of serious violence provoked by this figurine. This item is frequently purchased by individuals who find it merely amusing, silly, or "cool." An exhaustive hunt for a luminous Mohammed statuette revealed nothing.

The Jesus action figure to the left bears a coincidental resemblance to a certain redneck personally known to Rory and appears to have had his beard shaved with a precision electric trimmer. There are no known reported instances of serious violence provoked by this action figure.

The spoof Jesus action figure to the right would seem to be the one most likely to incite violence. This Christ comes equipped with a pump shotgun and "throwing nails." Yet, you guessed it, zipolla when it comes to provoked violence.

The Pope is certainly a revered figure, yet the 12" Talking Pope action figure below has not caused any known acts of violence. It has been reported that this anatomically incorrect version has been used by naughty youths to mime sexual intercourse with naked Barbies (missionary style of course). It is also reported that he has been used by children in mock battle with pirate action figures. When an action figure is sent out into the world, anything can happen. So perhaps the industry is wise not to produce Mohammed.

The Family Guy Pope depicted below is clearly intended to make light of the papacy. Yet no violent outbursts in reaction have been reported.

The well-armed and studly spoof Buddha on the right has provoked no Buddhists to call for the death of those who run Jesus Christ Superstore or anyone possessing a likeness of the figure. And how many Buddhists have seen the little Buddhas on the phone or Buddha keychains, yet not felt rage?

The equipped-to-kill Krishna excites no more than thoughts of miniature violent play scenarios in the disaffected youth of the world whose eyes light upon it.

So what about Islamic action figures?. CBS news carried a story some time ago about an Osama action figure that was supposedly popular in parts of the so-called "Muslim world." Here it is:

Rory has received reports that the frustration caused in youth due to the crappy likeness has resulted in an increased propensity to act out violently, on a small scale. However, despite this low-quality toy having the potential to be viewed as nothing more than a demeaning caricature and cause blowback rage towards its distributors, it has generally been viewed as an appropriate and stimulating toy among those who admire the infamous Osama.

When it comes to depicting Allah, the packages are literally empty. The empty Allah package is depicted next to "Islamic Jihad" and "The Ayatollah" at the legendary Jesus Christ Superstore:

What are they trying to tell us here?

While the action figures above may be no more nor less art than the cartoons recently causing madness and violence, perhaps it is worth considering the statement of Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times on February 8, 2006: "What may be overlooked ... is a deep, abiding fact about visual art, its totemic power: the power of representation. This power transcends logic or aesthetics. Like words, it can cause genuine pain." Can we ascribe totemic power to action figures? I don't know, but the AFI, the RSI and the AFRSSI apparently believe so. Or else there sure as shit would be a 12" talkin' Mohammed out there.


Blogger Rebecca Morn said...

I shouldn't... I know I really shouldn't... but:

11:08 PM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

that is one helluva link, rebecca ... a hoot ... thanks for that one!

1:35 AM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

And what are "they" complaining about ... action figure schmaction figure ... I guess if your chosen one or savior has not been turned into a rubber love tool, you should realize that there are "thoughtful" people out there even in free countries ... never thought I would visit the cyberspace "home of the Jesus butt plug."

1:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

dearest mr shock, you missed MY personal absolute favorite SUPER DELUX JESUS ACTION FIGURE: Deluxe Jesus Action Figure
There is no action figure more deserving of a deluxe edition than the Son of God. This 5-1/4" tall, hard vinyl figure comes with eight amazing plastic accessories: five loaves of bread, two fish and a jug for turning water into wine (not guaranteed to work for real). Also features "glow-in-the-dark miracle hands!"

delux jesus action figure

and what of the TUB (of 72) flying nuns? flying nuns

2:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i have actually GOTTEN something from divine interventions........

(uh oh did i say that aloud)?

2:01 AM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

rose ... yeah ... that's a good one ... the archie mcphee ... great accessories ... wwcmd? as to the the divine interventions thing ... did it truly have totemic significance?

2:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

yes, archie is great as is

betty bowers

as far as divine interventions is concerned, that is a HARD question to answer (sorry i just couldn't help that)

4:11 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Morn said...

My pleasue, Ben.

I'd have to say that my favorite among their offerings is the "Jackhammer Jesus". Talk about manly!


Can't say I've bought from them though. My tastes tend more towards the offerings from

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is there a thoughtful absence of Mohammed action figures and statuettes ... because of respect for the feelings of others or because there is no market for such figures?" There's another, far more likely possibility: that no one wants to be targeted for death for making such a figure!

1:01 PM  
Blogger God Is Almighty said...

Where can i find these figures? Slighty serious buyer.

1:01 AM  

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