Sunday, March 29, 2009

Belligerence: New And Improved!

How did the testing group decide the fate of "Standard Aggression"? Did the original look more like Joey Fatone? Did someone point and say "sissy?" Does the crew-cut, shaved-chest look really make it look that much meaner? "Deluxe" ought to at least have razor-cuts in its forehead, and brass knuckles as an accessory. At least it comes with a metal folding chair. We should anticipate the release of the limited edition "Stranglepunching Deathdealers" boxed set by about 2012, if not sooner.

Seriously, though. There are angrier toys out there, to be sure. But for some reason, "Deluxe Aggression" feels a part of the same lexicon as "Mission Accomplished." Scary, and wrong.

As the first few months of the post-Bush foreign policy era get underway, I am re-reading James W. Loewen's Lies My Teachers Told Me, which I love. I hardly needed to revisit Chapter 8 to dissect the "international good-guy" US foreign policy model propagated in our high school history texts. I need only visit the toy section at Target. Even as we gain a few "international slightly less arrogant guy" points, can we finally blink our eyes and come down from this old hallucination? This is the phrase we've been attaching to our kids' toys: "Deluxe Aggression." It was only half, but even Cold Warrior G.I. Joe put money down on knowing.

You may chuckle and cleverly point out the irony suffocating inside the packaging. Our hero was likely manufactured in China and mimics Japanese kabuki, but still embodies American hubris at its most egregious. Neither truly sport nor truly theater, his cohort of steroid-puffed, mob-worshipped idols jaw clench and finger point with all the pre-packaged pathos of the multi-platinum one-hit bubble-gum boy bands. Yes, there are heroes and villains, but each have their fans - and while the "villains" tend more to cheating and fighting dirty, none are really above it when necessary. If a chair, ironing board or waterboard is handy, get busy.

Of course, it's all a lot of power and a lot of bluster, his strings surreptitiously pulled from afar. And all for a brief flash of glory: the used-up, wrung-out carcass portrayed by Mickey Rourke has no use to the string-pullers in the end. His physical makeup is designed to withstand a few months of a child's violent pantomiming and then spend a millennium in a landfill, a permanent plastic embodiment of American nothingness.

I'll feel less gloomy about all this if they bring back The Singing Bee for another season.

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