Princess of Conspiracy: The Case of the Missing Action Figure
We Americans love a conspiracy. We just can't stand the idea that a lone loon like Oswald can squeeze off a few lucky shots and change the course of the entire century. Stuff like that really bugs us. It's not right. Must be another explanation. Must be É a conspiracy!Hey! I'm not complaining! I'm the same as you! And like you, I've got some favorite conspiracy theories of my own. Like my latest one concerning the unavailability of Princess Leia Organa action figures.This isn't exactly news. The lack of Leias -- specifically, the 4-inch tall molded plastic figures manufactured by Hasbro that feature the princess in the white gown she wore in the first Star Wars film -- has been noted by other media in this town."Among the most difficult action figures to find is Princess Leia in a white gown," the Bee's Dan Vierra wrote back in January, before the re-release of the Star Wars trilogy. "Adult collectors seem to have hoarded the royal figure."Sure. Collectors seem to have hoarded them. That's what they want you to believe. But I'm here to tell you that after an exhausting and fruitless three-month search, there's more to it than just that. It's a conspiracy, and its intricate web may run from your local toy store to the highest echelons of our society.Somehow, somewhere, somebody out there doesn't want our daughters to have Princess Leia dolls, and so far, their efforts have been extremely successful.Oh, I've looked. Believe me. I've looked. FAO Schwartz and Kay-Bee Toys in the Arden Fair Mall. Toys "R" Us out on Florin. The Broadway Target. FAO Schwartz and Toys "R" Us in San Francisco. I've checked all of the pegs in all of those stores and more. I've flipped through so many blister packs in the last three months, I've got blisters on my fingers.Not one Princess Leia.Not one.Oh, sure. I've seen a few Leias in Boushh Disguise -- you know, the bounty hunter get-up she was wearing at the start of Return of the Jedi. That's right. The only Leia I've found in the last three months is the princess dressed as a man!Here then, the conspiracy begins to unravel. Who is the most powerful filmic woman of our times? Thelma or Louise? Forget it. Criminals, and not only that, they committed suicide. That woman from Fargo? Maybe if she didn't talk so funny. Need we waste any more of our time? Obviously, the most powerful woman is, was and always will be Princess Leia Organa. She is everything we yearn to be: pu re, intelligent, heroic, and because of that, she is a threat. This ain't no Barbie doll. This is a woman who can make a difference.So, this immensely powerful persona and potential role model, and what do we get? An action figure dressed up like a man, and even that one's hard to come by! You don't think a deeply twisted patriarchal society such as our own would have any interest in suppressing the most inspiring female character since Joan of Arc, do you, girls?Hasbro, of course, maintains that the Leia shortage is strictly due to the hoarding of the figure by collectors. But when asked, the toy company would not release the number of Leias manufactured or their proportion compared with other figures. Even the number of Leia dolls shipped in each box of 16 figures is a closely guarded industrial secret."We did hear from the public that they still wanted the princess, so we put her back in the box," an anonymous Hasbro spokesperson said.But they didn't put her in any of the boxes I've seen opened, and believe me, I've seen plenty. A whole shipment came in while I was standing near the Star Wars display at Toys "R" Us in San Francisco, and I was hurriedly rifling through the blister packs when I suddenly noticed I wasn't alone."Have you seen dah Jah-vahs?" a medium-built guy with dark sunglasses and a European accent asked."Uh, no," I said. "I'm looking for Princess Leia.""Oh, dah princess," he said, shaking his head. "It is such a shame, no? Her face is disfigured, you know. I do not dink dey made very many of dose.""You're a É collector?" I asked."Oh, yah, I have dem all," he nodded. "They had dah Jah-vahs here just de udder day É"He was a freak, the kind of guy who would have been into Dungeons & Dragons 20 years ago. He told me how he traveled from city to city, toy store to toy store, how different regions seem to get different action figures. He recalled seeing lots of Leias in Minnesota.Lots of ugly Leias.I've yet to see my first Leia (as always, I refer to the original figure in the white gown), but the figure's unattractiveness has been confirmed via the Internet."Demand for the Princess Leia figure was strong for over a year," says Randy, a Q&A guy on the Action Figure News Web site. "She was gorilla-ugly, but still was sought by collector and non-collector alike."Let me get this straight. The most powerful female character of all time -- the Force is with her as much as her brother Luke, damn it! -- and not only is the action figure nearly impossible to find, if you happen to get lucky and do find one, it's "gorilla-ugly."Need I go on?I had hoped to find lots of stimulating conversation regarding the lack of Leias while surfing the collector sites on the Web, but such was not to be the case. Indeed, if there is a lack, no one seemed too concerned. Most of the serious talk concerned yet-to-be-released action figures, like the upcoming "Enslaved Leia."Apparently, this is the Leia most males choose to remember. You know, the half-naked one chained like a dog to Jabba the Hut. I guess they even dealt with this softcore S&M fantasy on an episode of Friends. I'm sure they left the part out where Leia strangled that fat ugly bastard Jabba with the very chains he used to enslave her with.At any rate, the collector's world seems to be filled with more bluff and innuendo than it is with genuine supply and demand. Prices fluctuate on whims. One site had Leias for $35. The Boys Toys Network offered to sell me one for $19.95. I've seen some for as low as $6.But I don't want to buy from a collector. I want one from the store. More importantly, I want little girls everywhere to be able to get them from the store. And when they do get them, I want them to be beautiful, not "gorilla-ugly." Role models like Princess Leia come along only once or twice a millennia.To spoil something like that, it takes, well É a conspiracy.