The Five Worst Plastic Army Men Of All Time
Posted By: Peter Hartlaub
My wife brought the boys back from the playground the other day, and told me that our 5-year-old son had played with another kid who brought some plastic green army men. Excited that the family moratorium on guns had apparently been lifted, I went down to the basement and opened up the small black briefcase that contains all of my most awesome toys.
My son already has access to my toy trucks and Slinkys and Rubik's Cubes and other more boring toys from my childhood. The black box is filled with less politically correct toys, including army men, a team of die-cast metal bank robbers, some plastic Indians and a couple of cap guns. (My awesome toys also included some rolling papers and a pipe from my pre-college pot smoking days, although those will never be passed on. While I plan to teach both my sons how to drive a stick shift and shoot a free throw with proper mechanics, they'll have to figure out on their own how to roll a tight joint.)
I found about 40 army men inside, not including the ones that had been partially melted in a toaster oven. My son was excited, but I noticed that he quickly segregated the army men kneeling with rifles, standing with flamethrowers and holding their bayoneted weapons over their heads. The sucky ones -- we'll get to those in detail below -- ended up in a pile. More than 30 years after I played with these same army men, my son was equally bored by the mine sweeper and the guy talking on the giant telephone.
When I was a kid, I didn't question these things. But now I consider it one of the great mysteries of life: Why did toy manufacturers produce such a half-assed fake military force? It cost them exactly the same amount of money to make a cool guy kneeling next to a machine gun -- and yet there seemed to always be just one of those in the bag, and 20 guys marching in place.
Below are the five worst army men of all time:
5. The mine sweeper. Even as a kid, this army man reminded me of the old guys who used a metal detector to find spare change on the beach at Coyote Point. I realize that bomb detection units are more important than ever in the military but I never had any use for this soldier. All my other army men were locked in mortal combat, and this a**hole is looking for his car keys. I only have one mine sweeper left. I think most of them ended up getting a toaster oven court martial.
4. Marching infantry. Seriously, these guys are just asking to be shot. A large number of my remaining white German soldiers are marching in formation, presumably so the Indiana Jones villain in the hat on the right can point at the ground and order them into an ambush. (I know it's just a 2 1/2 inch tall piece of plastic, but can't you see Ralph Fiennes -- or maybe Guy Pierce -- playing him in the movie?) As a kid, I never had any question why the Germans lost World War II. Apparently, they never bothered to pull their guns off their backs.
3. The radio operator. Considering that I had multiple army men wielding flame throwers and machine guns, you'll have to excuse me for not getting excited about the guy making a phone call, on what appeared to be a toddler's Fisher Price Little Chatter Telephone. I didn't see "Platoon" until a full decade later, so I had no idea that the radio army man might be doing something cool like calling in a napalm strike. I always figured he was ordering a pizza.
2. The dead guys. I've always wondered if these dead military personnel were included as some kind of anti-war message to kids. Maybe the liberal foreman in the army man manufacturing facility insisted on throwing one dead army man in each package to show that indeed, war was stupid. If an army man plant ever moved to San Francisco, I'm guessing that all you would get is a bag of dead army men. And the Board of Supervisors would introduce a resolution requiring any toy manufacturers doing business in the city to include an equal number of picket-wielding anti-war protesters in the package.
1. The WTF? I'm not even sure what the hell this guy is doing. Catching a fish? Setting up some bowling pins? Changing the batteries on a sex toy? I'm guessing someone will tell us he's loading some kind of Korean War-era artillery device, like the one that took out Sgt. Hulka in "Stripes." But with no artillery in my black box, he just looks like he's trying to get a Section 8. In any case, my son and I both gave him a dishonorable discharge. Worst army man ever.
PETER HARTLAUB is the pop culture critic at the San Francisco Chronicle and founder of this parenting blog, which admittedly sometimes has nothing to do with parenting.