I spend a lot of time over on my other blog talking about reality and how everyone ought to be well-versed in what actually happens in the real world no matter how unhappy or disappointed it might make them feel. Whether we like it or not, there are both good points and bad points to everything that we do. There are good things about our jobs and bad things about our jobs, good things about our relationships and bad things about our relationships and most importantly for this article, good things about our hobbies and bad things about our hobbies. Yet far too many people refuse to acknowledge or address the bad parts of their hobbies. They’d rather clench their eyes shut and pretend there is no bad. That’s just not realistic.
Recently, over on an action figure forum, they were talking about the availability of new action figures at retail. People complained that with each new reset, there were no new action figures being put on the pegs, this made it much harder to find figures in the “wild”. I pointed out that, at least locally, every new reset reduced the amount of real estate in the aisles. The local Walmart, which used to have a full aisle of action figures, is down to a single 16′ section. Actually, I think it’s less than that, maybe 12′, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, I don’t want to be dragging out a tape measure in the store. The local Target, which used to have an aisle and a half of figures is now down to less than an aisle. Toys R Us, which used to have 5 complete aisles for action figures, is down to about 3.5 aisles and half of that is clearance. I have no idea if they’ll shrink their selection down to 2-3 aisles once they clear out the back stock.
Even though one or two of us, including the site owner, were talking about and agreeing with this turn of events, the majority of people on the site refuse to even consider the possibility that the action figure collector’s market has a problem. Nobody wants to figure out how to solve issues, they just want to pretend that the issues don’t exist and they’re willing to insult and attack anyone who persists in talking about these “mythical” problems.
The same goes with stamp collectors. I know I’ve mentioned that there was a discussion about the end of the post office and I said that I had no problem if the post office went away entirely. It does very little good in the world, people need to adapt to the new reality, get e-mail, pay bills online, etc. If they need to mail a package, there are other companies out there that specialize in it and do it very well. As for printing little sticky squares with pictures, that’s largely gone the way of the dinosaur, most postal clerks will put printed labels on your packages and letters unless you strenuously insist otherwise. It’s just easier and more efficient. We don’t really need stamps anymore. Stop making them. There are 150 years of worldwide stamps out there to collect, there doesn’t need to be thousands more every year. However, these people keep wanting to support a dying system, more our of habit than rational reason. Buy stamps! Stick them on things! Put them in the mail! It doesn’t matter if it slows things down, makes for more work, they can’t keep collecting them if they don’t keep mailing them!
It reminds me of an old argument I heard back when I was into furry fandom, close to 30 years ago now. There were people who advocated buying every furry comic, every furry drawing, every furry product that you could find, just to “support the fandom”. It didn’t matter how awful the art was, how badly written the comic was, if it was furry, you had to own it! Sorry, I don’t buy that. Fuck the fandom. I buy what I like. If people want me to buy their products, they need to produce things that I like at prices I’m willing to pay. That’s how capitalism works.
Look at the music industry. Vinyl largely went away 30 years or so ago when the industry went to CD. Today, CDs are being phased out in favor of wholly digital music. Yet there are enough people out there who still like music on vinyl that there is a small group of manufacturers who put out music in vinyl. In fact, I just heard a rumor that some of the original Godzilla soundtracks are going to be re-released on vinyl. It’s not my thing, but hey, I’m glad that there is still a significant following out there. That’s not really the case for action figures or modern stamps though, those things are being phased out because they just don’t sell and a minuscule number of collectors who will buy anything, not just the things that are worth buying, won’t change that.
In the end, we ought to just deal with the reality of the situation whether we like it or not. If it’s a problem, we can band together and fix it. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that there are no problems doesn’t actually make the problems go away. Looking only at the bright side of life tends to get you broadsided when the dark side comes to call. Yet if we’re not willing to actually acknowledge the problems, we can hardly expect to address them. Maybe if more action figure collectors had acknowledged the problems a decade ago and tried to rectify them, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Maybe action figures would sell better if they weren’t so badly case packed. Maybe the industry could have worked to find a non-oil-based solution and had it in place today. We may also have to face the fact that the traditional action figure may no longer have a place in our modern kid-driven marketplace, that, like the tin toys of the past, these just might not be viable or interesting to kids in the modern world and that companies can no longer stay in business selling to an ever-shrinking demographic. We might have to acknowledge that the end of the action figure has come, except for very small and relatively expensive niche manufacturers. That’s reality. Deal with it.