Body positive action figures for dads

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter Viva, who doesn’t care what shape Barbie is, as long as she can cut off her hair and leave her in the yard.

After decades of criticism, Barbie is finally getting a makeover. More realistic body shapes (petite, tall and curvy) will be hitting the shelves. It’s always a good thing when our kids can play with toys that better represent the diversity of the real world, be it dolls of different races, abilities or body types.

I wonder, though, if all the flack that has been heaped upon Barbie over the years (that Barbie is propaganda by the villainous patriarchy and her unrealistic body image is destroying the self-esteem of our daughters) is warranted. Does it work the other way? Has MY self-esteem also been eroded by the toys I played with as a youth?

It’s been bandied about quite a bit lately that we have a masculinity issue in this country–that the insecurities of the disenfranchised 21st century male leads to ugly outbursts like “Gamergate,” cries that “Rey is a Mary Sue,” weekend warriors taking over wildlife refuges and open-carry fetishists bringing machine guns to Chipotle. Perhaps if our toys hadn’t been so damned perfect and macho, we’d be more comfortable with the paunchy, decaying, underpaid, miserable men we’ve become.

I’d like to suggest some alternative versions of most dad’s favorite toys; versions of our ‘80s heroes more in tune with the body issues now facing us as we enter middle age. Hasbro, if you’re reading this, I’d like a cut of the profits.

G.I. Joe’s “Gotten-Kind-of-Heavy” Machine Gunner

There are hundreds of characters in the GI Joe universe and all of them are ripped. I suppose they are America’s elite, highly-trained special mission force, but I’d like to see at least of few of them battling love handles as much as I do. Roadblock is the cook of the team, plus it is established that he has a cousin from Chicago, so I’m going to say he’s the one with the weight problem – his aunt probably ships a lot of Portillo’s, Malnati’s and Harold’s to the Pit.

Roadblock’s weight really started to bother him when General Hawk changed his codename to “Traffic Barrel,” mostly in an effort to body shame him into making his Fitbit step goals–bringing the insurance premiums down for the whole outfit.

Eczemus Prime

Optimus Prime may be the greatest foe of the Decepticons and the keeper of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, but he is always nervous that everyone is staring at the dry, scaly and red patches on his Cybertronian metal face.

Poorly Fitting Khakis Mutant Ninja Turtles

You’ve heard of Leonardo, Donatello, Rafael and Michelangelo, but no one ever talks about their poor brother Caravaggio. While the more popular brothers wore totally rad elbow pads and color-coded masks, Caravaggio patrolled the sewers in a boxy fleece zip-up from Old Navy, pleated chinos with an inseam two-inches too long, a woven belt and a pair of New Balance sneakers. “I don’t even know how to keep up with fashion, dude,” he would say. “Isn’t, like, resort casual always kind of OK? I have all these Hawaiian shirts and it’s not like they wear out. Cowabunga!”

E.D. Armstrong

Everybody loves Stretch Armstrong and his rubbery muscular physique as he battles Stretch Monster wearing only a posing pouch. Men would be much more comfortable, though, if we also occasionally heard tales of his brother who has problems in the bedroom. Perhaps it’s his blood pressure, or maybe his cholesterol, but E.D. Armstrong just recently worked up the courage to ask his doctor about those pills he saw in that commercial where the couple has bathtubs outside their house.

Iron Lifts Man

Ken is well over six feet tall, and so is damn near every other action figure hero, with Hulk and Chewbacca towering over their teammates. Only Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark seems to be under 5’9”, with noticeably built-up sneakers on his feet in most scenes during “The Avengers.” That modest stature never translates to the toys, though. In plastic form, Iron Man is as tall as Thor. So, where is the superhero for those of us who have to stand on our daughter’s step stools to reach the Cinnamon Toast Crunch from the top shelf of the cupboard?

Mane Pattern Baldness Lion-O

Panthro shaves his head–presumably his Rogaine shampoo didn’t work and his insurance policy doesn’t cover moving hair from his tail to his head. (Do Thundercats have tails?) What I’d really like to see is Lion-O worried about receding temples or a thin spot in the back. The Sword of Omens may give him sight beyond sight, but what can save him from the fate suggested by his clogged shower trap?


The guy has been fighting Skeletor since the mid-80s so do NOT tell me that at his age he’s not starting to get too saggy for that metal criss-cross tank top he wears, when I’ve got to do a thousand push-ups a day just to rock a T-shirt.

Let’s get these inclusive, realistic action figures on the shelves before another generation of boys become shallow, embittered and self-loathing like the rest of us. Besides, somebody has to fight Monobrow Megatron and Plumber’s Crack Hordak.

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