Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This STILL isn't the droid I'm looking for, but whatever. (OR: R2-D2 collecting the Tyler Durden way)

Ever since 1980 I've been aware that the R2-D2 they sell at the store isn't the best one they can make. It is a truth that has defined me as a collector of vintage space toasters and to a greater extent, as a man.

I thought I was happy in '79 when my mom bought my sister an R2-D2. I was sure that we could cross that 'get an R2-D2' block off our list of things that needed to be done in order to be respectable members of Star Wars society. I thought that no matter what happens, we had that R2-D2 problem licked. But in 1980 when they released R2-D2 with Sensorscope I felt like the world had passed me by. Same thing with that C-3P0 with removable limbs. Suddenly the advance of toy robot technology made the toys I had old and outdated. I felt deficient as a six year old for not having the hot new toys (that were really the same old toys with minor mold changes).

There's a scene in Fight Club where the main character (we'll call him Jack) and Tyler are at the diner and Jack is trying to relate to Tyler why he feels bad about losing all of his possessions when his apartment exploded. He says that he viewed his possessions as solutions to needs-that his sofa was more than just a sofa, it represented the solution to a problem. Once he had that sofa he didn't have to worry about that sofa problem. Boy did I know how he felt. Sofas, R2-D2s, it's all the same. Tyler responded with the idea that being incomplete is more empowering than chasing after solutions. It was part of the famous 'the things you own end up owning you' conversation. I found it profound and all but it's hard to come to those conclusions when you're six years old and you're watching Empire Stirkes Back and that damn sensorscope keeps popping out of R2's head in every scene.

I think the problem was that to my six year old mind, the only Star Wars collection that mattered was the one with all the newest toys, usually pictured on the cardbacks of the latest figures. Was it so wrong to feel that way as a kid? The new sensorscope R2 was definitely better than what I had. Was I justified in wanting the latest in toy droid technology or was I just a greedy little kid getting sucked into an obvious marketing ploy? Ultimately none of this mattered because my mom never got me sensorscope R2 anyways. By 1983 I resigned myself to accepting that I'd never have the 'real' (aka latest) R2-D2 and that the one I had was the only one I'd get.

It never dawned on me that older toys could fit into the overall picture of a personal collection. The concept of a complete collection encompassing stuff that came out before was unfathomable. I felt that once a new version of R2-D2 came out that the previous one may as well not exist. As long as they kept making new versions of the same character that I'd never own my inadequacy intensified. It was all about the new hotness for me. Even if I got the new R2 with Sensorscope I'd still have problems. What was I supposed to do with multiple R2s? The most horrible contemplation of all was what would I do if they made a better one than sensorscope R2? I couldn't consider that possibility. It was too horrible.

At that age I was willing to believe that Kenner's second R2 was an honest attempt at rectifying the defective first release R2s that didn't come with sensorscopes. Of course they meant for all R2s to have sensorscopes. I figured they just didn't realize that the first 100,000 ones didn't. Maybe they'd send me an apology in the mail along with a new R2. I thought the Kenner toy company were my friends and they were just trying to make the best R2 possible and once they got it right they'd stop making them. In 1983 when a friend brought an even newer version of R2 to school, this time with a pop up lightsaber feature, I realized that Kenner not only wasn't my friend, but they outright hated me.

Over the last 30 years they've made an assload of R2-D2 action figures with all sorts of toasteriffic features and lifesaving applications. There have been ones that beep and light up and ones with three legs and rotating domes and ones with sensorscopes and popping lightsabers and rockets and ribbed for her pleasure. But they never just combine it all and make the ultimate two inch tall R2-D2 and that pisses me off. Why don't they just make the best R2 they can?

Aggravating the problem is how figures nowadays have a short shelf life so you never know how long the current flavor of R2 will be there and whether or not the one that replaces it will be a step forward or backward. Over the last ten years I've watched R2s as they progressed and regressed in terms of features and in 2004 I considered the three legged model that also beeped and lit up the ultimate. It doesn't have a rotating dome which I considered a necessary feature, but damnit, I needed to stop being jerked around. I bought that one and called it a day and swore I'd never buy another R2 again. I just let go.

Of course the torment did not end there. On my birthday this year the damndest thing happened and I found a 24 year old sensorscope R2 on Return of the Jedi card at an antique store here in Rapid City and I bought it. It was funny how all these years later I found that particular figure on a day with such personal significance to me. What a great birthday present it was to close the R2-D2 chapter of my life forever. I thought it fitting that I stopped buying R2-D2 with the very one that made me feel inadequate and obsolete in the first place, which is all heartwarming in a sort of defeatist, giving-in-to-the-man kind of way.


Smurfwreck said...

When I was a kid, it was all about the Ton Ton that also served as a 3.75" sleeping bag for a Wampa mangled Luke. I contemplated taking a kitchen knife to my regular Ton Ton, but never did it. It just wouldn't be the same.

To take your final R2 into the "collector owning toys vs. collection owing collector" realm, are you considering opening that bad boy to extend the sensor scope just once?

As an aside, do they even make newer versions of stuff like the Wampa, Ton Ton, and dare I ask Rancor? If not, why not.

Also, I got your mp3 replies to the podcast, and I'll include 'em on the next 'cast when I get off my ass and record it, hopefully soon.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

I remember the Tauntaun! I felt the exact same way! I thought about moddding mine except the original had a hard hard plastic belly and really couldn't be cut. The opening belly area on the second one was made of two soft rubber flaps. Again, they really should have made the most movie accurate Tauntaun the first time and not jerk people around.

The R2 will stay sealed, although I would appreciate the symbolic victory in raising the scope. Having it sealed is a cool memento of my angsty childhood.

They did make new versions of the Tauntaun for the 3 3/4 inch figure lines. They've been released twice, the last time being 2003. History repeated itself and the 1999 releases didn't have split bellies. So even today's kids got jerked around. But to be fair, the Hasbro Tauntauns had great details like a broken horn for Luke's and plastic guts for the split belly ones. The Wampa and Rancor have also gotten new sculpts in the last few years.

I'll be looking forward to the next B.I.T.80's! I hope lots of people respond to the poll. From the responses to your blog it looks like you're building up a following.


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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.