Question: Can you tell me either of the first names of the Duffer Brothers? I write about pop culture for a living and I still had to look this one up on Wikipedia. I also had to do a quick Google search to inform me how they both look because I couldn’t pick either of them out of a line-up. I don’t single them out to be mean. They’re a highly successful duo whose work on Stranger Things has made them a bankable name in television (especially after signing a nine-figure deal with Netflix last month). Still, I wouldn’t exactly say either of them is especially notable or iconic, which was why it was such a surprise when I discovered that they have their own Funko Pop dolls.
Funko officially reveals the Duffer Brothers 2 pack! Coming this week to Hot Topic. pic.twitter.com/pVacc3XWOw— DisFunko (@DisFunko) August 22, 2018
The Duffer Brothers aren’t the only directors with their own tooth-rottingly cute Funko Pop figurines. Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids, can be seen with his dapper ensemble and matching umbrella. James Gunn’s there in a rather generic-looking hoodie, while Aquaman’s James Wan has a fab pink streak in his hair. Alfred Hitchcock is in black and white and scowls at you with derision, while Taika Waititi has that pineapple romper. There’s Guillermo del Toro and J.J. Abrams and Vince Gilligan and, of course, the Game of Thrones creators. They’re all very sweet and I’m sure they take pride of place on many a Film Twitter nerd’s shelves.
Funko Pop rolled out a new boxed set for collectors of GAME OF THRONES figures. Not the characters this time. The writers… Me, David Benioff, and D.B. Weiss. They're calling it The Creators. I suspect that this is the only time I will ever be as tall as David Benioff. pic.twitter.com/G7oYMfc4sz— George RR Martin (@GRRMspeaking) October 18, 2018
But guess what I couldn’t find a single example of? A Funko Pop figure of a woman director. Not a single one. I could find one of Tom Cruise’s character from The Mummy but not one of a female director or showrunner. This proved disappointing alas not very surprising to fellow overlords in the Pajiba Slack chat and got us all thinking.
Funko’s Pop! Vinyl line has become one of the most instantly recognizable pieces of merchandise in modern geek culture in a shockingly short period of time. The chibi-style design with beady eyes and appealingly cute sizing has proven itself surprisingly versatile. Funko’s savviness in turning absolutely everything into an easy-to-collect figurine has made them a staple of collectors the world over but also an easy go-to gift for the casual geek. It’s an accessible form of merchandise that covers every area of pop culture. You can get an adorable Pennywise Funko Pop or one of Amy Winehouse with her distinctive beehive hairdo, or Jeff Goldblum reclining sexily in Jurassic Park. There are arguments to be made about the mass commodification of fandom and the ultimate pros and cons of mass-production as part of its DNA, but there’s no denying Funko’s success or why people continue to gravitate towards them.
Funko are doing what geek culture has always done: Take specific properties, characters, and real-life figures and make them into iconography. Some things are so adored and revered that they become symbols of sorts, and eventually, for better or worse, that’s something that can be commodified. I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at this piece and wondering what the big deal is.
They’re dolls, that’s all, right? They’re the little boxes that clog up your local comic book store and have become utterly inescapable. Who cares if there are no collectible figurines of women directors for us to throw money at? I get that but think about the basic message being sent here. Who gets to be worthy of treatment, not only by Funko but by the wider pop culture landscape? Who is typically ignored in such conversations and denied the same level of attention? How does that translate to lost job opportunities, pay equity, critical focus, and so on? When women directors continue to be marginalized on such a grand scale in this industry, a company that has made its fortune out of turning everything into an icon coincidentally following suit and ignoring that whole group speaks volumes. It’s not just Funko either. I can get so much merch with David Lynch’s face on it from various shops and designers (and believe me, I’ve considered buying a lot of it) but next to nothing for women like Jane Campion.
The other argument I hear is that there just aren’t any women directors who are as instantly recognizable as, say, Guillermo del Toro. When you look at his Funko Pop doll, with his big glasses and notebook clutched in his hands, you immediately know who that is. Sure, but can you do that with the Duffer Brothers? The JJ Abrams and James Gunn figures look near identical. Surely someone like Ava DuVernay (as Kristy suggested) or Agnes Varda (as Ciara offered) would be worthy of such treatment before many of these gentlemen?
The conversation made me think of the work of companies like Girls on Tops Tees and tees-en-scène, t-shirt companies that put women in film front and center and create iconography around them that has typically only been afforded to white men in the business. They’re not just super cool (I have ones of Lynne Ramsay and Lucrecia Martel), they act as a sign of fandom and respect. It’s part of a wider game of historical and cultural catch-up that goes back through the last several decades of film and gives female directors their dues. An Elaine May t-shirt may not undo the years of sexism that plagued her career but it can serve as a reminder of the reverence she’s been due for some time now.
Besides, it’s also just a question of economics. The whole point of Funko’s model is that it understands the importance of the niche. Not every figurine will sell millions of copies but if you tap into a dedicated enough fandom that’s small but fervent, you will reap the benefits. Even if there aren’t millions of people waiting to buy female director Funko Pops, there are certainly enough of us who have been starved of other opportunities to splash that cash. Why won’t you take our money, Funko?!
So here’s what we want to see: We want women directors to be given the same level of fandom treatment as their male counterparts. We want to see them elevated to icon status with the same sort of enthusiasm and number of opportunities. We want pop culture at large to see such incredible women as a pivotal part of the conversation and not just asides or novelties. Come on, Funko, think of the merch. Hell, Team Pajiba did all the thinking for you in our extremely productive Slack chat.
What about a Patty Jenkins one? How does the director of Wonder Woman not have her own figurine? Or a chic mini Sofia Coppola? How about Greta Gerwig directing in her Lady Bird prom dress? Or Agnes Varda with her two-tone haircut? Amy Heckerling’s shaggy hairdo would look amazing on one of these dolls, as would Ava DuVernay’s locs and her many dresses with pockets. As Kristy said, if the Duffer brothers get their own, why not Jenji Kohan, whose look is far more distinctive and she’s certainly worthy of such fandom given that she essentially helped to found Netflix original TV with Orange is the New Black. Let’s not forget Kathryn Bigelow and her Oscar. Take all these ideas for free, Funko, and let us have nice things!
Header Image Source: Getty Images.