Toying with fame 

People hoping to have an action figure made of themselves generally have to settle for a voodoo doll. If not for some disgruntled employee or freakish ex holding a little fetish, thinking "This is you" and sticking a carpet needle in its eye, a lot of us would have no effigy at all. We will never be immortalized in 11 inches of plastic any more than Barbie will ever be immortalized in a bad driver's license photo.

It's amazing, though, how many people do achieve doll status. The entire wrestling world, the Spice Girls, anyone in a movie that sold more than 100 tickets -- naturally, these people are all represented in toy form. And it's cool that Gen. Colin Powell has been honored by Hasbro Inc. with his own look-alike G.I. Joe doll. Colin and Joe go together like "cold" and "beer" -- they share the qualities of bravery and patriotism and being too smart to run for president.

Yet there is also a doll of Drew Carey. I love Drew Carey. But a kid who spends hours locked up in his or her own head playing "Drew and Mimi" (yes, there is a Mimi figure, too) is positioning himself or herself to appear on the cover of Newsweek, along with a gun and the caption, "What went wrong?" There are beanie dolls of Kiss, which means you might check one night and find your baby chewing purposefully on Gene Simmons' exposed tongue. There's even a doll of Susan Lucci that doesn't do much of anything but wear fabulous clothes, which is what "life-like" means in this case.

Plastic fantastic

Sure, these are mostly collector pieces and not meant to have their hair cut, their heads pulled off or be launched by a tennis racket and into the neighbor's yard by your kids, like normal dolls are. But they are dolls nonetheless. By today's pop-culture standards, being dolled up is as much an honorific as was a Renaissance oil portrait. Who wouldn't want an action figure of themselves?

If they made inaction figures, maybe the rest of us would be in business. If they made over-reaction figures -- ones that said, "What did THAT mean?" whenever you push their buttons, which you do all the time -- a good many more of us would achieve immortality. Unfortunately, "My kid thinks I'm a hero" carries as much weight as "My mom thinks I'm real neat," which is hardly enough to get you into a box at Kaybee.

Well, not normally.

Hasbro Inc. is searching for "real-life G.I. Joes," the Colin Powells you never hear about, to celebrate the 35th birthday of this granddaddy of all action figures. The deal is that you have to describe, in 100 words or less, why you or someone you know embodies "The Real Life Spirit of G.I. Joe," which a company press release identifies as the virtues of "honor, courage, respect, service and good clean fun." Thirty-five essays will be selected and the subjects will receive, among other things -- hold on to your grenade launcher -- "a G.I. Joe action figure with the head sculpted in his or her likeness."

Pretty cool, huh? Now don't you wish you had given at least a little thought to acquiring any of those virtues in all this time you've been hanging around? Why can't you be more like Colin?

See some action

Those who think they actually might have a shot at this honor can get contest details at Meanwhile I, and everyone I know, can find some chat room and sit around and bitch about how come we never win anything. Cynical, even as kids, we never believed our parents when they told us, "That attitude isn't going to get you anywhere." Now their evil warning is proven true, and we're still not getting any toys.

If only the contest criteria were a little different. I can think of a fair number of people who have a lot of G.I. Joe attributes, but not of the spiritual kind that are mentioned in the contest guidelines.

For example, if "stiff, inflexible and plastic" were among the Joe traits Hasbro was looking for, we could all whip up essays describing past business contacts that would be shoe-ins. If "kung-fu grip" had been on the list, there are armies of needy exes many would find eligible for the big prize. Ditto the trait of "confused and disturbingly ambiguous genitals." ("Choking hazard" is not listed on this particular toy's box.) "Looks great, but I end up doing all the work" could definitely describe any number of co-workers. And "expressionless; never contributes to conversation" is a complaint we've all had about someone at parties.

See? If the focus were on a few of Joe's other attributes, we all might have action figures raining upon us like piñata candy. But since it isn't, those of us who are out of the thrifty-clean-and-brave loop might just as well work with the traits we have and be the best greedy, dirty cowards we can be. A voodoo doll with our name on it is better than nothing at all.

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