Perhaps you've seen them: those ubiquitous, squat, and dead-eyed figures, which come in many varieties but somehow manage to look exactly the same.
Over the passing years their dull, joyless forms have conquered desks and cubicles alike, tapping into the obsessive interests of video game enthusiasts, comic book nerds, and, hell, even Golden Girls aficionados.
In this current Dark Age, these abominations have become the de facto adult collectible, despite having all the visual appeal of a half-melted Precious Moments figurine. The molded plastic creations in question are called Funko POP!s, and frankly, their reign of terror and displeasing aesthetics needs to end.
Of course, geekdom has always had a history of hideous merchandise--which now make up the contents of any Loot Crate box--but for whatever reason, Funko POP!s have been able to achieve cultural dominance through sheer mediocrity, as if they were the Minions of the figurine world. Any store stocked with nerd paraphernalia is guaranteed to have a wall of these glorified Beanie Babies stacked six feet high, and even if you're doing it for all the right reasons, you'll be sternly asked to leave if you so much as push the entire thing over.
Perhaps the most offensive element of Funko POP!s is how poorly the brand as a whole tries to cop a popular aesthetic. At first glance, POP!s appear to be copying a generic but specifically Japanese "cute" style--because if you're trying to make a cute thing, why not borrow from the culture that practically made "cute" a science? But, upon closer examination, POP!s don't capture that Japanese style at all, and instead come off more like something out of those "How to Draw Manga" books written by white people. Sure, they have the basic proportions right: big head, big eyes, tiny nose. But these essential elements have been artlessly applied to a template to which defining elements of a character can be added, like some sort of modern Mr. Potato Head.
That said, some Funko POP!s are more successful than others in terms of design--even if the bar is set pretty low. Existing characters that already bear some resemblance to the Funko house style--strangely enough, mostly robots--aren't all that offensive; their WALL-E POP!, for instance, is convincingly cute, and looks exactly like the source material. Funko's vast supply of POP!s based on human characters aren't so lucky, though, entirely because their house style demands the faces of these figurines be almost completely blank. That's fine (in theory) if you're dealing with a superhero who wears iconic colors, a mask, and an explicit logo, but not so much with your garden variety humanoid.
For example, The Big Bang Theory POP!s--truly, a match made in hell--are so nondescript that they might as well be called "brown-haired guy with plaid shirt" and "different brown-haired guy with plaid shirt." And when you're dealing with someone as infinitely caricature-able as Donald Trump, this is what you come up with? Really? I assume the fine people at Funko just wheeled out the "pre-Two-Face Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight" mold and went back to counting their various stacks of money.
If, at this moment, you're staring at your own or a loved one's Funko collection, don't worry; we all make mistakes, and several apps now exist to help us find new people who haven't. And luckily, outside of some rare, Twilight Zone scenario, Funko POP!s can be be disposed of easily by gently dousing them with acid, donating them to your local landfill, or by giving them to children who aren't used to having nice things. And if you're looking for a cute figurine but don't want Funko's patented "Hello Kitty meets fetal alcohol syndrome" stylings, why not go straight to the POP!s' inspirations?
Nendoroid and Figma may offer more anime and manga characters than sitcom stars and politicians, but these attractive creations are actually made with effort and love, and won't actively ward people away from your cubicle. But if that's your game, consider sealing yourself within an igloo of Funko Bea Arthurs as the whole world shakes its head.