Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why We Collect: Part II - The Macrocosm of Identity

I own more than 2,500 action figures, vehicles, accessories and playsets. Does this make me one of those people? You bet your derriere! Well, at least, as far as the average person is concerned. Toy and action figure collecting is like anything else not fully understood by its host culture; it’s perceived as a little bit outlandish. To the average person, action figure collecting is nothing more than grown-ups desperately trying to live in a perpetual fantasy-world, or at the very least an inability to mature enough in order to leave their youth behind.

The average person couldn’t be more wrong...

Have you ever met someone who doesn’t have any real interests? Their hobbies never seem to surpass the standard party line of watching movies, reading, listening to music, going out with friends, or spending hours glued to reality television. These robots, disguised as humans, have no definitive taste or anything that represents an essence of their identity. While some people don’t understand action figure and pop-culture collecting, I fail to understand the infatuation with the mundane. Dr. Robert M. Price, Professor of biblical criticism for the Council for Secular Humanism’s Center for Inquiry Institute, among other preoccupations, is also an avid action figure collector. In his 1998 sermon, “Action Figure Addiction,” Dr. Price notes, “I believe that your environment is a macrocosm of the microcosm inside you.” What might this sentiment imply about our illustrious Robot population?

A friend of mine once told me she didn’t understand the psychology of collecting, and she thought it was "weird," as I browsed her multiple shelves containing several hundred literary works. The problem here lies in perception. It’s often difficult, if not impossible, to see what’s right in front of you, if you aren’t attuned to it. If Zach spends thousands of dollars restoring classic cars in his garage, nobody bats an eye. If Kayla amasses a wall-sized DVD collection to go along with her home theatre, it’s “awesome.” Even if Marty goes out drinking four nights a week (or more), spending all his money on booze, it’s still seen as fitting in with the status quo. However, if Anna, an adult, collects toys… now, we’re talking “out there.” Why? Because the average person just doesn’t get it, therefore it is not accepted as “normal.” There is a large community of toy and action figure collectors, not only in the United States, but also all over the world, ranging from all ages and socioeconomic statuses. Those not overly familiar with this culture tend to reject it.

Dr. Price eloquently sums up action figure collecting, stating, “…For me to be able to rejoice at the sight of my superhero action figures is to live in a shrine of fictive meaning festooned with idols and icons of the gods of imagination. They are the tokens, the clutchable talismans of my fictive faith.” That said, if people don’t become more willing to embrace the culture of action figures, they’ll simply get left behind, and while the Robots of socity waste away, merely going through the motions and watching the latest episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, a select few of us will be left playing with our toys… and unlocking the secrets of the universe.

Read the sermon, "Action Figure Addiction," and check out more awesomeness from Dr. Robert M. Price here:

"Action Figure Addiction"

Hero Worship Column