Friday, 24 February 2017

Stranger Week Day 7 -- POP! Television: Eleven (Stranger Things)

Weird girl with magical powers who can’t communicate properly with those around her. This is a well-worn trope across all genres of weird fiction, and it’s one that tends to drive me up the wall. I’ve never been totally clear on why it bugs me so much, either; perhaps because it tends to be played for crappy comic relief and/or heavy-handed social commentary on how sometimes what we see as cultural norms are actually a bit strange AND HAD YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT THAT??!?!?*

But I didn’t dislike Eleven at all. Millie Bobby Brown had quite a central role as part of Stranger Things, and she pulled it off admirably. Eleven was rather different from some of her cinematic forbears in that the producers opted to play her in a relatively understated fashion – and for the most part, convincing – as opposed to exaggerating everything into an opportunity for “hilarity”. There are some funny moments, but they’re never break the wider tone of the show.

As might be expected, Eleven is depicted with a shaved head, dirty face, bloody nose and a pack of Eggo Waffles. She’s also wearing the clothes that she gets from Mike’s house (was it meant to be Nancy’s old clothes, or just from a dress-up box? I don’t remember), even down to the calculator watch. So this POP isn’t based on any specific scene; it’s more of an aggregation of several elements of the character, though you could argue that it’s from right near the end when she fights the Demogorgon.

Eleven was actually the first Stranger Things POP teased, back before they even had the license. What we got here is much the same as that initial prototype, which is impressive – it’s one of Funko’s more detailed POPs, both in terms of sculpt and paintwork. Obviously Netflix and the various other licensors were quite happy…but the cynic who used to work in advertising makes me think that Funko had the license for a lot longer than they let on, and the whole “these are prototypes” thing was just to build hype. Never mind either way; the final product is a good one.   

There is also a Chase version of Eleven, packed at a 1/6 ratio. It uses the same body sculpt, but has a different head sculpt – it’s Eleven after she gets her blonde wig and has her face cleaned up. And this brings me to a complaint. I don’t mind that Funko does Chases; but in four years of collecting, I have only ever encountered four or five in the wild. Traditionally, they’ve also tended to be paint variants – metallic, glow-in-the-dark, that kind of thing.

But in 2017, Funko is now bringing in sculpt-based chases, and that irritates me no end. Once upon a time, Funko would have simply released these two versions of the character separately, and people could simply pick and choose which one they wanted (probably both, in most cases) – now we don’t have that option. Though they’re ostensibly being packed at higher ratios than before, I can virtually guarantee that they are still going to be a huge pain in the ass to find. Given that I’m expecting (as I have noted numerous times on here) Season 2 versions of the characters to eventually be released, I’m probably not going to make much more of an effort to search out the Chase version. But Funko’s doing similar things across a number of their lines, and I don’t think it sets a very good precedent. Their Twin Peaks range has done something similar, in even more disappointing fashion -- an entire major character has been relegated to a Chase figure.       

Not counting the Chase, there are two other versions of Eleven at this stage and I suspect we’ll see more not too far down the track. There’s an Underwater version, with her “swimsuit” and helmet. Next month there’s an Emerald City Comicon exclusive – Upside Down Eleven, who’s in a two-pack with Upside Down Barb. It looks to be the Underwater sculpt without the helmet, so I’m sure customisers won’t have any issues creating their own.

Eleven is must-buy for fans of the series, and she seems to be the best-selling so far. Funko have done a bang-up job with this one, and here’s hoping we see this level of care and attention applied to some of their other ranges in future.

*One of my other pet peeve is when characters are described as “quirky” by their actors, screenwriters or directors. In our day-to-day lives, we do meet quirky people, and they’re often highly engaging and entertaining. But on film, “quirky” tends to be code for “the character has one or two oddball interests but is mostly just extremely irritating and will make you resent the time they spend onscreen”. 

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