Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ken/Allan and G.I. Joe and the Dominant Male

Poor Ken. While he is the Mattel-designated romantic partner of Barbie, Ken just don't get much respect outside a group of Kenophiles. If you spend any time on the Internet, you have probably seen this famous Nissan commercial. Cute. Funny. But is it fair? Nope.

Someday, I’ll look to see what public opinion said about Ken BEFORE G.I. Joe emerged in 1964. Because although Ken could be said to be the “father” of Joe – hmm … therein lies a problem. G.I. Joe, as central figure to the Joe-verse, parallels Barbie as the central figure in Barbie-ville. Pink Barbie for little girls and green [uniformed] Joe for little boys. Gentleman Ken has always been the secondary character, first among the supporting team for Barbie. Barbie is to G.I. Joe as Ken is to Nurse Jane. As a secondary figure, Ken lacks the authority status of primary G.I. Joe. Thus all the impotent Ken jokes. So it is the social rather than the physical differences that give Joe ranking higher than Ken.

Let us view and compare the bodies of Ken and Joe for proof. In the photo and the table below, a Straight leg Allan replaces Ken – temporarily AWOL - and a Land Adventurer G.I. Joe bare all to show their physical differences and similarities.

Okay, you cannot miss it: Ken (Allan) lacks a penis. Please note though: so does G.I. Joe. There is no way that an anatomically-correct adult male figure for children would sell now or then back in the early 1960s. There have been precious and few anatomically-correct dolls manufactured for children today. Only one such doll comes to mind and that one was/is an infant: Archie Bunker's grandson, Joey Stivic. And I doubt the day will ever come when anatomically-correct adult male action figures are marketed for boys in the United States. The outrage resulting from the suggestion alone would leave the poor, would-be manufacturer reeling and fetal-curled in a padded cell corner.

Here is a chart comparing Ken (Allan) with G.I. Joe.

KenG.I. Joe
Height12 inches11 3/4 inches
ArticulatedScant, rigidMulti-jointed, flexible
RelationshipsBarbie's boyfriend, supportiveAdventure Team, dominant

I present this information in this manner because, in recent years, I realized that Ken has been socially short-changed. And as a former Ken-basher – I bought a G.I. Joe BEFORE I bought a Ken; I used to think that Ken was Barbie’s best accessory; and even now, I “tease” my action figures with Kenwear (Ken fashions), this post is my penance for past sins of commission and sins of omission. The aspect of Ken that causes him to be ridiculed is NOT the absence of a visible penis. It’s his supportive role that draws fire.

Pity that Ken should suffer for being a gentleman and good sport. Here’s to Kens across the world and the Kenophiles who honor this great, if secondary, character as he should be.


Anonymous said...

As with all shorter guys, GI Joe has a big ego!

D7ana said...

I need to amend my statement about anatomically-correct dolls for children: there have been SOME, but they are always baby dolls. Older boys and adult males do not come "gender correct."

Which makes sense if you consider female dolls usually are not "sexed." Partly due to American morality and partly due to expenses - surely it is cheaper for toy manufacturers to produce dolls with fewer details than MORE details.

D7ana said...

Ha ha!

Notice how Allan evades eye contact - he's shy, shy, hush, hush - but Joe looks you right in the eye AND scarfs down an ice cream cone. He's the man of the hour LOL!

Niel Camhalla said...

I like this entry but I still think Ken is an accessory. ^_^

More than height, I think the built could give an impression of dominance. Joe has a big chest. I don't think Ken can bench press as much. ^_^ I don't think Ken can even be posed to look like he's doing bench presses.

But Ken's built is good for fashion. Well, he's a fashion doll. Maybe if he's a real man, he'd be a male fashion model but it's not really an ideal job for an alpha male, is it?

Has Ken ever done something noteworthy like save the world, protect peace and order or run for president? (I'm asking cause I don't know much about Ken. All I've seen him do is be a knight in shining armor to Barbie.)

Don't get me wrong. I like Ken. He's very cute!

D7ana said...

I didn't used to, but I LOVE Ken now. He is NOT an Alpha male like Joe. Ken wouldn't fit into the Barbie world if he were. Barbie is the Alpha figure in her world. And yes, Ken would be a male model if he existed in real life.

I don't see Ken as a knight as much as I see him as a gentleman-diplomat. So he doesn't have to save the world in the same fashion that Joe would. Ken looks good, smells nice, and acts well. Plus he serves the "She" of the doll world, Barbie.

I love and have always loved my Joes. They are flexible, pose-able, yet manly. They execute important missions. Joes are warriors.

But ... Barbie RULES. I don't see her throwing up her hands and squealing with glee when Joe honks his horn. Soldiers defer to higher authorities: Barbie is the Queen Bee, mother of all dolls and action figures. Ah, it's probably lonely at the top.

So as the new tee shirts state: "Every one needs a Ken.

Anonymous said...

I have G I Joes and I have Ken dolls. I like them both but nothing can touch a Ken doll that is done well! The one thing that I have learned about Barbie… and therefore Ken … it is the face paint that makes the difference! Some times even after you have de-boxed the doll you can’t tell it is the same head mold you already have! I find that one face paint will make Ken look nerdy and the other suave! To truly understand it you need to look at the work of the repaint artist. There work is truly special! Mattel has done more with the paint on Ken in the past 10 year than in prior years and much more with the newest Ken that any other Ken before him.

As for Joe--they never change the face paint on Joe. It may be 8-12 years before you see a new face. I have seen some repaint artist that work with Joe but not many.

Ken and Mattel males are special! They are easier to fit clothes wise than any other male.

D7ana said...

Hasbro produced some 12" Joes with Black, Hispanic, and Asian head molds around 2004. I give Hasbro points in MALE ethnic diversity. These Joes have smaller chests, smaller feet and decent fashion accessories. Plus, these Joes can fit Ken and other Mattel male fashions (My Scene, Flavas) ;-D

However, Mattel has offered some of the handsomest White males. And their recent Rebelde males are handsome although they did not have "new, tailored" head molds to match the male group members. For ethnic playscale males, I check Big Lots for their Power Team selection or go online to action figures websites.

Most of my guys wear Kenwear because Ken fashions are affordable. Ken fashions fit MOST figures. Exceptions include my Fashion Royalty Lukas and my Hot Toys guys (purr, knees melt LOL).

B.J. Major said...

The original 1964 Allan is my favorite fashion doll, period. I have more of him than any other Barbie, Ken or Midge combined. Even have 3 NRFB. Plus others out of the box I dress and make dioramas with. He has the cutest face and expression, also the best coloring. I love my Allans!

D7ana said...

Hi B.J. Major! Allan is a cutie. I only have 1, but he's a favorite among ,y teen guys.

BTW, feel free to leave a link if your Allans are online. I love to see others' collections ;-)