Thursday, September 23, 2010

Protectors of freedom and justice

NEW YORK — Five gold-uniformed private soldiers led by a Captain Eagle dropped onto a pier by the East River from a helicopter hovering overhead one day last month. They planted a flag, checked their weapons and began moving inland.
Monday, Mar. 1, 1982

The man who financed the invading troops, Martin D. Abrams, announced: "Military themes are back in America. The need for the military has regained the respectability it lost during the late '60s and 70s."

That is the kind of thing they do to get publicity at the annual Toy Show. Abrams is the chairman of Mego Corp., which was introducing an army-sized line of military toys called "Eagle Force."

"Makers Bent on Military" was the lead headline of Toy Trade News for Feb. 27. "Makers Back Military, Buyers Are Divided," reported the February issue of Toys, Hobbies & Crafts.

"The indications are good," said Craig Collier of Consolidated Toy of St. Louis. "During the Vietnam War people were turned off, but now they are getting over it. There's another generation of kids out there."

"Military is in resurgence because of a change in the political attitude of the country," said Mark Nuccio of H-G Toys Inc. of Long Beach, N.Y. "The government is putting more money into defense. It has a higher profile with certain tactical groups being promoted, such as ah* the maneuvers that occurred in the Middle East last year."

The military boom at this year Toy Show — aimed at that new generation of kids out there — is a facinating case study of the synergistic relationship between commerce and government in theUnited States. The toymakers are not responding to a greatly increased public demand for war toys — that's what the line "Buyers Are Divided" meant in the Toys, Hobby and Craft headline.

The manufacturers are betting that the Reagan administration'smilitaristic bent will create the market. The toymakers also see themselves as performing a national service. "We set out to develop a toy line which would capitalize upon and reinforce the renewed sense of national pride, strengnth, courage and determination sweeping America," said Abrams of Mego.

"Our military toy, then, is, we hope, going to reinforce an accepted American concept: Terrorism is wrong and should be stamped out."

Eagle Force wil be sold, like some Reagan military programs, as an anti-terrorist force. "Captain Eagle," "Goldie Hawk," "Zapper" and other die-cast metal Force members are trying to stamp out villains like "Shock Trooper" and "General Mamba."".

An old favorite, "G.I. Joe" — the soldier doll — is being reintroduced after years of retirement. Joe is also after terrorists now, villainous dolls hi the paramilitary uniforms of something called COBRA.

The television commercials will soon begin. The rhetoric will bemodeled after the talk coming out of Washington these days. "Research has shown there is a potential consumer resistance for military toys due to the connotations of war that they hold," said a Mego official, Alan Chernoff. (Editor's note: Alan Chernoff would appear on Donahue to defend the Eagle Force line)  "The Eagle Force figures we are introducing are positioned not as a war toy, but as protectors of freedom and justice."

There were also a number of booklets at the show. One called "Toys Are Teaching Tools," published by the Toy Manufacturers of America, Inc., said: "Today's toys are tomorrow's adult tools, scaled-down versions of real-life objects. With them children can create imaginary lifelike situations. Toys help children to assume adult roles and to experiment with the objects, machines and technology of adult society . . .Children gain a sense of values from their toys."

So, that's what our children will be taught this year.

Mego Museum Eagle Force Gallery

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