"It's the parenting, stupid!" Readers respond to "From G.I. Joe to Tora Bora Ted," by Petra Bartosiewicz.

By Salon Staff

Published September 15, 2003 7:24PM (EDT)

[Read "From G.I. Joe to Tora Bora Ted," by Petra Bartosiewicz.]

While Petra Bartosiewicz's piece on military action figures raises some interesting questions, don't we ultimately have much bigger fish to fry in this country? We should be happy that our children aren't forced into toting real Kalashnikovs like kids in Liberia, Congo and Sudan. Besides, military action figures have been mini-propaganda tools ever since G.I. Joe made the cold war safe for rec rooms and backyards everywhere. There's nothing really new here except that the toy companies have gotten better at the details (although the Bush-in-a-flight suit doll is just wrong).

Militarized toys are just a symptom of what's wrong in this country -- let's not waste our energy on dolls when the real problem is the puppet-in-chief.

-- Tom Pryor

It's the parenting, stupid.

I'm 44 years old, a child of the Vietnam era (my brother was there). My G.I. Joe was my favorite toy. He was a Marine, because that's what my dad had been. I had enough toy guns to supply a division.

As an adult, I'm horrified by what our government is doing, supposedly in my name. I hate guns. The last time I got into a fistfight was in seventh grade.

My kids were little during the great Ninja Turtles hysteria and they had more than their share of toy guns too. They've grown into thoughtful, nonviolent teen-agers who know that violence solves nothing.

While it's true that you need to know how your kids are playing, let's give the tykes a little credit. They're smart enough to be taught that toys are toys and war is war and there's a hell of a difference. You don't even have to take classes in "the art of play" to know how to do that. We need to trust our children's crap detectors, which, more often than not, are better those of most adults.

If you've raised your kid with care and attention, you could buy them a Jeffrey Dahmer doll and they'll still grow up to be normal, healthy, well-adjusted -- and nonviolent -- adults.

Kids don't turn to violence because they play with a toy soldier, even an unusually realistic one. Kids turn to violence because of material, spiritual and emotional poverty. They learn to hate and hurt because their parents haven't worked hard enough on raising them to make sure their needs are supplied.

-- Tom Pantera

In yesteryear, my favorite toys were my G.I. Joe's. They provided a world of action, adventure, and a good-vs.-bad contest with great appeal to many children of those times and probably all times to come.

Now a little older, we realize that war and the politics involved with it are more complicated. Cynicism and concern about just what our military is doing around the world interfere with our appreciation for the sacrifices and positive accomplishments of our soldiers. I'm glad Salon published this article. Parents, as well as anybody who once played with war-themed toys, would do well to examine this tradition and think about what messages we can send to our children.

The old Joe soldiers were not so much conventional military -- their clothes ranged from fatigues to plainclothes to sci-fi costumes, while the evil Cobras were simply a well-financed, vague sort of terrorist organization that wanted to take over the world like any other comic book villain. Many new Joe's, in particular the line of detailed 12" dolls and accessories, are clearly representations of real-life soldiers. Hasbro and the other companies now latch onto current events to market war toys to kids. And some have entered dangerous waters by turning a vividly bombed-out house into a playset or lionizing our sitting president for children by sculpting the AWOL guardsman into an action figure.

If the toy companies want to tap into current events, maybe they could make more toys like the Eco-Warriors, an unconventional line of Joe's made in the early '90s in which environmentally conscious good guys pursued the nefarious Cesspool (http://www.yojoe.com/filecard/91/cesspool.shtml), a CEO whose corporate greed wreaked ecological havoc.

-- D.P. Pare

The article on "war toys" By Petra Bartosiewicz published today was poorly researched.

There is no figure called "Tora Bora Ted" offered by Dragon Models. The figure has the name Ted, and his area of operations is Tora Bora; that is clear if you just look at the very link you provide to the retailers site.

In addition, nowhere in the article does it mention that the action figures made by Dragon Models are for ADULTS!!! The packaging clearly states that they are for those "14 and up." When mentioning the "world peacekeeper" figures or other Hasbro figures, it is mentioned that these figures are for those "3 and up" or "5 and up." Why was the "14 and up" disclaimer not included in the description of any of the Dragon figures? The figures by Dragon Models are highly detailed, and quite fragile. They are not for children. Not just because of the content, but for the fact that they would break if they underwent any level of "play" by a child. It is exactly for this reason that you do not find Dragon Models 12" action figures at toy stores like Toys 'R' Us or KB Toys "brick and mortar" shops.

Other than militaria shops and scale-model hobby shops, the only place to get Dragon Models figures is online. That requires a credit card in most cases.

Dragon models figures are not marketed to children, rarely if ever sold to children (because they cost $40 to $70 or more each), and not sold in stores that children would frequent. They are not comparable to Hasbro's G.I. figures or any other mass-market figures sold at Toys 'R' Us, Wal-Mart, KBtoys, Target etc.

-- John

Salon Staff

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