Ken and Barbie are getting some rowdy new neighbors. This week, a set of action figures based on "real" characters of World Wrestling Entertainment will hit store shelves alongside Mattel's other doll franchises, including Barbie, Ken and Little Mommy Walk & Giggle.
The new lineup of action figures includes heavily-tattooed wrestler "The Undertaker," seven-foot-tall "Big Show" and his archenemy "Rey Mysterio Jr." Shoppers can also buy all of the "accessories" befitting the characters, including dented garbage cans, "aluminum" ladders, and the like. "All figures offer extreme articulation, amazing accuracy and authentic details like arm bands and tattoos," says Mattel's marketing blurb.
This new product line begs one seemingly obvious question: Is a company that made its name on fashion dolls for girls (not to mention the Little Mommy baby doll line) treading on thin ice with parents by releasing a series of action figures who are able to perform Tombstone piledrivers, chokeslams, or Last Ride powerbombs?
Evidently not. WWE recognizes its appeal to young boys, an audience that Mattel has struggled to provide popular product lines to in the past. Although WWE has gone through a "rock music phase and an adult-oriented phase," according to the New York Times, it says it's now PG-rated, opting instead for story lines and interactions that befit a soap opera (of sorts).
Yes, the cast of the WWE beats each other up once a week on live TV. But parents are letting their kids stay up and watch the show (22% of the audience, says the WWE, is younger than 18 -- substantially younger, if Mattel's customer base is any indication), and those are the sort of parents who would buy toys for their little boys that can (with signature moves, no less) beat up their little girls' toys.
Meanwhile, Mattel's marketing copywriters carry merrily on. "Kids can recreate their favorite matchups and storylines," says the stock description in each of the WWE Elite Collection Series 1 action figures. It's the same cheeriness that accompanies the marketing materials of the Barbie Ballerina: "Girls adore the beauty and grace of ballerinas, and Barbie doll captures the dream as a prima ballerina in a beautiful, glittery ballet outfit..." But then there's a disclaimer: the poor "dolls cannot stand alone or dance."
In the end, not only does the WWE Elite Collection CM Punk totally beat up Beach Party Ken, but the WWE toys have a lot more moves. And this, perhaps, is the knockout punch.
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