I have, on occasion, written about how much I hate nostalgia. People who engage in constant stroking of their nostalgia nerves strike me as feeble at best, blazingly immature at worst, and most likely massively unhappy with their lives today. With that in mind I must come to you with a confession: minutes ago I PayPaled someone money for an Enemy Visitor toy from the NBC miniseries V.
It’s perhaps also worth noting that I have heaped scorn on toy buyers in the past as well; to me the idea of buying toys as an adult – when not done in moderation – is a shameful waste of cash. So what the hell am I doing shelling out 30 bucks for a toy that isn’t even particularly good? I mean, look at the picture to the right – the figure is in a cheap felt uniform and while the idea of having interchangeable heads – one human, one lizard – is pretty cool, the lizard noggin is a teeny pinhead and looks plain silly. This is a shitty toy, and even when it was originally released back in the 80s, I knew it was a shitty toy.
But I couldn’t have it. This, I must admit, partially fueled my desire to buy one now. I’ve been eyeing Enemy Visitor figures for the better part of a decade, and every time I see one I am reminded of how I could not have it when I was younger. That’s what sets it apart from other toys I have looked at lustfully, like an Alien figure from the release of the first film, or a Godzilla with flying fist action – I had both of those toys, and rebuying them now feels like masturbation.
But is buying an Enemy Vistor toy like scoring with the girl who rebuffed me in high school*? I won’t know until it arrives in the mail, but I tend to think not. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this ill-advised, childish purchase comes from a really pure place. I fucking love V. And not in a nostalgic way, although I am sure nostalgia helps me look past some of the more egregious TV miniseries aspects of it; I genuinely love V and think it’s a terrific piece of work, considering all the limitations of it. Sure, the metaphor of aliens as Nazis is overwhelmingly obvious (the Visitor symbol is my laptop’s desktop background and it has gotten me looks at the coffee shop), and the special effects are often atrocious, but V works as a cracker jack sci-fi yarn with something to say. In this way it’s like the original Planet of the Apes films for me – these are things from my childhood that I have discovered hold up and are still enjoyable with minimal shame today.
Planet of the Apes, by the way, is the other property whose childish merch really calls to me. Especially the old stuff, which has a touching naivete and low brow charm about it… although I do covet some newer items, like the Sideshow Toys Lawgiver Polystone statue. I don’t know what Polystone is, but it sounds impressive. And having a replica of a statue from a forty year old movie is the kind of off-center collectible I like; my only other toys are an action figure replica of Amazing Spider-Man #39’s cover, one of the iconic and awesome Spidey images, but since it’s Spider-Man unmasked and bound not an orthodox action figure. I also own a variant Star Trek II Khan figure, where he’s all burnt up. Again, not your obvious Toys R Us figure**.
I might have a sense of massive buyer’s remorse when that Enemy Visitor doll shows up at my door (and God knows any women I bring home may feel a similar remorse the next morning when they see that fucking thing on my shelf), and I doubt that finally owning the toy twenty years after the fact is going to make my adolescent years any better in retrospect. Looking at the Enemy Visitor won’t bring me back to those days in school when my friends and I would gather and wonder what the Visitor’s alien nemesis race would look like (before V: The Final Battle totally dropped that tantalizing storyline), or to the lunchroom where we’d pretend to be jaw-disengaging lizard aliens eating gerbils whole. I’m still going to be a 33 year old guy sharing an apartment in Los Feliz whose big victory this week was appearing on basic cable. But I’m going to be that guy with an Enemy Visitor doll on my shelf.
Maybe toys aren’t that bad after all.
*Read as: all of them.
** Full disclosure: I also have a Beppo the Supermonkey plush toy and a talking Gollum figure. They have personal associations and I don’t tend to think of them as ‘toys’ but as mementos.