Once upon a time, I became a meme and didn’t even know it. It was the summer of 2016 and I was hanging out with friends after a long day of work. A few drinks in, we’re joking around and my friend Mike said to me, in an odd, cheeky way I didn’t quite understand—almost like he didn’t want to mention it but the booze had other plans—a simple, five-word sentence: “The Funko Pops were decimated.”
Huh? What did that mean? The words sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place them. I asked Mike what he was talking about and he looked at me with utter shock. “You don’t know?” He proceeded to remind me of an article I’d written the year before which I certainly hadn’t forgotten about. An article about my experience buying Star Wars toys at an event called Force Friday that made me a (probably justified) target of ridicule and hate for days and weeks on end. That article I remembered. This line I did not.
Turns out, the line was from that wildly divisive article and had, apparently, taken on a meme-worthy life of its own. A war cry for people to use pointing out idiocy in consumerism, among a bunch of other things. I shook my head in disbelief. That couldn’t be true. Mike took out his phone, put the phrase into Twitter, and there it was. Nine months later, at that very moment, tweet after tweet of people talking about decimated Funko Pops. What the hell was happening?
Where that line came from while I was writing, I’ll never quite know. What I do know is that in September 2015 I lined up at midnight to buy toys for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and had a very disappointing experience. In fact, I was so mad about it that the next morning I woke up and banged out a little rant for this very website. Now, that rant wasn’t just about me. I was the entry point but I also quoted dozens of other people who shared my shitty experience. In a way, I saw the article as more of a trend piece than anything else. That didn’t matter. Minutes later, the replies began rolling in. People were very mad at how spoiled I sounded. How stuck up and annoying I was being. People literally sent me death threats about it. It wasn’t pretty and went on for a long time. It was one of those situations that, these days, you chalk up as an unfortunate symptom of being online.
In the article, I talked about walking into the Star Wars aisle of Toys “R” Us and finding it overly messy because 30 people had been grabbing and clawing at everything right in front of me. One specific toy stood out though: the Funko Pops, mostly because they were one of the few that didn’t instantly sell out. They had, however, been shuffled all around the shelf in a very haphazard way. And so, in angry blogging mode the next morning, I described that situation as “The Funko Pops had been decimated, with just a few Finns and Reys remaining.” And people keyed into that.
It’s nice to imagine the line stood out because it was such a catchy turn of phrase—“Oh Germain, you’re such a talented writer.” That’s not the case. I now can very clearly see it’s because it’s an idiotic thing to say, that doesn’t make any sense and evokes all manner of odd visuals, that people found hilariously stupid and perfectly representative of a privileged outrage. Even so, why that or any specific phrase caught on and has still endured to this day (albeit it not as much as almost a decade ago) still feels exceedingly random. Even now, every once in a while someone will still refer to me as “the Funko Pops are decimated guy,” almost exclusively as a dismissive insult. The way I look at it though is, I’ve written tens of thousands of articles in my career. At least people remember one of them.
Plus, in the years that followed, the phrase somehow became oddly prescient. Just last year, Funko reportedly dumped about $30 million of Pops in a landfill. And what better phrase to describe that than, say it with me, “the Funko Pops were decimated.” The year prior, Funko bought the super cool company Mondo, only to dismantle and destroy it soon after. Say it with me, “the Funko Pops had decimated.” The company even laid off a sizable portion of its staff last year, which is a decimation that’s not as fun to joke about.
From another point of view, that people latched onto the article at all marked a seismic change in the toy industry itself. When I lined up for Star Wars toys in 2015, it was the thing for collectors to do. It was something I myself had done several times dating back 15 years. But in the years that followed, Force Friday events got smaller and the need for lining up to buy merchandise became less necessary. These days, most collectors preorder any items they want online, leaving the thrill of the in-store chase as more of an afterthought. Indeed, a whole facet of the hobby has been decimated.
I’m also fully aware that, to some, writing about this odd thing with such a nostalgic spin could be viewed with the same type of vitriol as the original post. Why should anyone care about the “Funko Pops are decimated” guy? Frankly, you probably shouldn’t. Maybe instead, take it as a cautionary talk about the power of words. To consider how what you say might be interpreted by others. As a result, maybe don’t say everything that comes to mind. Think of things differently. Choose to be more selective, more thoughtful, less reactive. Maybe the Funko Pops were decimated for a reason. And that reason is progress.
Oh my God, I can’t believe I just said that. How silly. I’m decimating my own lessons already.
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