Artifact: Quick Change


Credit: Reason Magazine

This 12-inch doll of a bearded Saddam Hussein was being marketed by an outfit called within 24 hours of Saddam's emergence from his spider hole. While it wasn't the first capture-related "product"—that distinction probably goes to the eBay item "Saddam's Lice"—it does represent another stage in the rapid and ever more curious development of the action figure.

In just a few years, these toys have gone from representing types (like the original such figure, G.I. Joe) to resembling real-life celebrities (most recently, an Ann Coulter doll marketed to her fans and foes alike) to representations of specific images, as in this "Captured Saddam."

Meanwhile, action figures have also gone from being celebrations of their subjects to statements of contempt (such as a talking Bill Clinton doll that proclaims "I did not have sexual relations with that woman") or irony (a Jesus with "wheels in his base for smooth gliding action"). There may be more anti-action figures on the aggregate market than there are examples of the original toy: This is a world that expanded its universe of meaning with striking speed.

Owners of "Captured Saddam" can "embarrass" it with such accessories as a pink dress or an "S&M leather outfit." Or you might prefer the Uday talking doll that begs for its life. If none of this appeals to you, you can even shell out for a custom-made action figure of yourself. If you do, be careful with those accessories.