A Call to Action (Figures): The Stigma Around Action Figures

I’ve mentioned on here a couple of times that I stopped collecting action figures for a few years because of the stigma around them. I was embarrassed and I wanted girls to like me, so I compromised who I was. I’ve had ten plus years to think about this, and I know I made the wrong choice.

I’m an action figure journalist now, and being a professional, someone who is paid to write about action figures, I still deal with blowback now. An adult family member (who will remain unidentified since the majority of my family reads this weekly and is supportive in every way), pulled me aside and s/he told me that s/he hated my work, and that I needed to grow up. I have a lot of negative feelings toward that person, and can’t imagine what it would be like if s/he didn’t know that this something I do professionally, not just as a hobby. Here are the holes in the logic that action figures are for kids though, in case someone tries to mess with your love of toys.

“Life advice from a guy turning 25 today. Just what I needed.”

The first hole is the idea that adulthood/maturity means that it’s time to put childish things aside. Taking everything seriously is as immature not taking anything seriously. It’s more accurate to think of maturity as knowing when to play and when to take things seriously, and trying to strike a balance. Some work and some play make Jack a well-adjusted, functioning member of society.

“You published this? I’d never run it in the Bugle.”

I also resent the idea that action figures being intended for children as a reason adults shouldn’t play with them. Here are some other things meant for children that adults enjoy:

  • Young Adult books and their movie adaptations
  • Comic books and their movie adaptations
  • The Beatles and every other pop band between them and One Direction
  • Any movie that isn’t Rated R, especially Disney movies
  • Recreational and professional sports
  • Roller coasters and theme parks
  • Video games rated below M
  • etc.
“Journalism used to have ethics. And Spiderman!”

I love most of the things on that list. I don’t worry about whether they’re childish or not. I worry about how I’m going to pay my rent and how I’m going to get three healthy meals a day this week. If everyone spent more times worrying about themselves and less about other people, I wouldn’t have to write this at all.

“Not some millennial whining. And seriously, where is the Spiderman I asked for?”

I’ve made more than a few pleas on here for people who’ve never owned an action figure to pick one up, give it a try sometime. Today, I’m making a different plea: even if you don’t like action figures don’t negatively judge people who do. (That’s a huge societal ill: people getting upset over things that don’t affect them. It’s no one’s business who’s marrying people of which gender.) As long as someone isn’t invading your space in an obtrusive way, just let them be.

“This is ridiculous. Where. Is. The Spiderman?”

The stigma against action figures is one we need to do away with, because like all stigmas, it tears people apart. Shouldn’t fun things bring people together?

A Call to Action (Figures) is a weekly column published on Wednesdays, chronicling my rants and raves about all things action figure. Next week I’ll be talking about why people should open their action figures.

Did I get it right? Or did J. Jonah Jameson? Do you have any information on the whereabouts of that criminal Webhead? Where is the Spiderman? Let me and Jonah know in the comments!

By Bryan Stewart

Bryan first discovered an appreciation for action figures at an early age, setting up elaborate GI Joe ant hill attacks, complete with firework pyrotechnics. Due to the high injury rate for the Joes, replacements were a constant necessity.


  1. Great article. The stigma seems to have lessened a little but it’s a shame it still exists at all. Baby Boomers were TERRIBLE about this. Being a Gen-Xer born in late 1974 I had Baby Boomer parents. I remember the first toy I caught grief from my parents for buying. I was an avid G.I. Joe fan as a kid (and still am). The toy in question was the Iron Grenadiers Destro and his Despoiler vehicle. My immediate thoughts were HOLY CRAP! Destro has his own army aside from Cobra, a mini air ship and now a gold mask and a sword??? I gladly plunked down my allowance, to later being chastised for buying a toy “at my age”. That toy was released in 1988. I was only 13 years old. Seems so ridiculous today. Needless to say, I never gave up and my parents just came to except the fact that I was “weird and nerdy”.

      1. Nah. I lost some vehicles in a move, years ago, and sold off a lot of things over the years. Nowadays I mostly limit my Joe collecting to 1982-1985 O-rings and a few select new pieces here and there.

  2. Haters gonna hate. Haters, if anything, are a testimonial to their own personal insecurity and jealousy of the happiness and bliss you have found in a harmless and noble hobby. Don’t let the haters drag you down. Be a champion and fight through the hate with an action figure armada of justice.

    1. Pretty much what I was going to chime in with. I’m 32 and I’ve collected all kinds of stuff for as long as I can remember. I credit collecting with helping me learn to take care of my possessions and keep them clean an organized.

      People who are worried about others and want to ruin the parade are usually those that have unresolved issues with themselves/life and are unhappy. Glass jaw, glass house and the like apply here.

      I wear nerd shirts and make jokes about my own hobbies all the time. Everyone has something they are into that others might not understand. Things that are different or not the “norm” sometimes cause people to react defensively.

      Also, The Beatles and One Direction Aren’t the best of comparisons, but I get it 😉

  3. I find it strange how society can differentiate. If a child like football or baseball etc and carries on that passion into adulthood then that’s fine. Some adults get paid a fortune and are idolized for playing ‘ children’s’ games. It’s ok to wear a shirt with the name of your favorite team on it. But to do the same with a film or TV show is some how odd? It does seem that things have gotten a lot better with superhero films and the like being more popular than ever but at the end of the day the only damage people’s negative comments can do to you is what you allow them to do. I am glad I like what I like and don’t care what anyone says.

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