Still an American Hero?

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

I can remember when the first G.I. Joe’s came out in 1964. Being called an “action figure” rather than a doll, the one thing I do know is that boys took to these first G.I. Joe’s like cookies and milk. G.I. Joe’s were popular from the very beginning, and even with the anti-war sentiment due to the Vietnam War (1963-1973), G.I. Joe’s remained immensely popular to boys. Of course, Hasbro eventually changed G.I. Joe from the soldier to G.I. Joe the adventurer, in keeping with trying to turn this first ever action figure into something more “peaceful.” Then of course, the 12-inch figure disappeared for 15 years, and became no more than four inches. A lot of people I talked to expressed dissatisfaction with this, and they all wrote to Hasbro to reintroduce the 12-inch figure someday.

To put it mildly, he Hasbro corporation was hard-pressed to recreate the 12-inch figure because of the production costs. Even after they discontinued the 12-inch action figure and introduced the four inch action figure, the four inch action figures were not being made in the United States. They were being made in Taiwan and Hong Kong—Hong Kong then being the toy producing capital of the world. But to produce a 12-inch action figure again would need to be done somewhere where the costs could be lowered. Even Hong Kong’s production costs were not considered low enough for making a 12-inch G.I. Joe. So, Hasbro found its niche in China.

And that is where G.I. Joe’s have been produced ever since. While I might understand why Hasbro chose China to manufacture all of its current G.I. Joe line, I fine it very, very troubling that Hasbro has done nothing to switch any of its production line back to the United States and employ Americans. It is one thing to say that the switch was made to China to lower production costs, but that argument can only go so far. In my view, Hasbro, like so many toy manufacturing giants, simply ran away and took their investments, American taxpayer money and technology to a country with a one-party system that is neither a friend or ally of the United States. This makes me ask if indeed G.I. Joe can now really be truly called an American hero? Long ago, all G.I. Joe’s were produced in America, and so many parents I talked to were proud to call G.I. Joe an “American product” back then. I wonder if Hasbro will think about this on the 50th anniversary of the production of the first G.I. Joe?

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