This fall, Hasbro unveiled the latest addition to its line of G.I. Joe dolls, the "John F. Kennedy PT-109 Boat Commander" action figure. JFK thus joins two other commanders-in-chief, George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, in being so honored.
In marketing what has been called a "respectful, tasteful figure" by the guardians at the Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, the toy maker is doing more than simply commemorating the 35th president's legendary service during World War II, already the basis of a bestselling book and a popular movie during Kennedy's own presidency. It is providing yet another image of JFK for public consumption, and one sharply at odds with the seamier sides that have come to light in recent years.
Indeed, the main reason JFK continues to command attention is that his various identities seem both inexhaustible and incompatible, to champion and detractor alike: bootlegger's son, Harvard man, World War II hero, feckless junior senator, cutthroat politician, civil rights champion, Cold Warrior, liberal, tax-cutter, Rat Packer, family man, womanizer, martyr—the list is virtually endless. Even, perhaps especially, in death, JFK is many things to many people.
No wonder, then, that Hasbro has high hopes for sales. "The current plan," the head of the doll's design team told the press, "is to do another John Kennedy figure in the fall of 2001."