IAmElemental's Series 2/Wisdom action figures
IAmElemental, manufacturer of the first female action figures designed specifically for children, unveiled its new Series 2/Wisdom female action figures at last week's Toy Fair at the Javits Center, during which, incidentally, the New York-based startup's founder and "Chief Elemental Officer" Julie Kerwin received a 2017 Wonder Woman Award in the Rising Star category from Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT), presented at the organization’s 13th annual Wonder Women Awards Gala.
The company’s product was also honored by the Toy Industry Association as 2017 Toy of the Year finalists in the Action Figure of the Year and Rookie of the Year categories.
IAmElemental's Series 2/Wisdom release follows last year's inaugural Series 1/Courage set.
"Our first figures, Series 1/Courage, were modeled on Joan of Arc," says Kerwin. "The muse we chose for Series 2/Wisdom is Hypatia: Daughter of the Greek scholar and mathematician Theon, she has been praised by Smithsonian magazine as 'one of the last great thinkers of ancient Alexandria and one of the first women to study and teach mathematics, astronomy and philosophy.' She was a STEM pioneer, writing about math, building astronomical instruments, and distilling complicated philosophical concepts into digestible bits that her students could process and understand. Legend has it that she even drove her own chariot around Alexandria--unheard of at the time!"
Like the first set, Series 2/Wisdom involves seven four-inch articulated action figures based on the "Elements of Power," says Kerwin, their names denoting "superpowers that already exist inside each one of us."
In the IAmElemental universe, then, the girl playing is the superhero, with the figures being the personification of her superpowers. As the company name suggests, the figures tie-in with the Periodic Table of Elements, replacing the building blocks of matter with the comparable building blocks of character.
"We rebranded the Periodic Table of Elements as The Elements of Power," explains Kerwin. "We say that all the superpowers you could ever want or need are already inside of you. Our figures represent the building blocks of those powers. We don’t dumb it down. We believe that kids are capable of understanding these concepts at a much younger age than most people realize [so] we break it down into digestible bits and embed a message of empowerment in an awesome female action figure. In our experience, when presented in this format, children quickly come to understand that they can use these powers to create good in the world. That is the larger IAmElemental message."
The new figures are Creativity, who uses her imagination to dream up original ideas and has the ability to bring any object she can imagine into being; Ingenuity, an inventive and resourceful problem solver who can change herself to mimic her environment; Curiosity, who wants to learn and know everything and is able to communicate in any language; Logic, who uses reason to make connections between facts and draw conclusions and can distinguish what is true from what is false; Exploration, who investigates and explores via the ability to transport herself anywhere in the world; Mastery, an expert in everything she does who can physically duplicate herself; and Oblivion, who wears blinders and has her head in the clouds, but can erase memories.
But Oblivion is further distinguished in that "oblivion" is what Kerwin calls a "dark matter" element.
"From the outset, it was decided that there would always be one 'dark matter' element included in the series--a power that is a necessary ingredient of the core power, but one that requires more deliberate thought and application than the rest," she says. "The existence of these powers acknowledges the fact that life isn't always black-and-white, that there are shades of gray. And it also promotes the idea that choice is a prerequisite to being one's best self."
In Series 1/Courage, then, Fear is the dark matter element, alongside figures representing the positive superpowers Bravery, Energy, Honesty, Industry, Enthusiasm and Persistence.
"In the IAmElemental universe, Fear is one of our Superpower action figures because we believe that she is one of the building blocks of Courage--as necessary to the equation as Bravery and Persistence," continues Kerwin. "Despite some adult criticism, we argue against viewing Fear as a negative, and we urge children to own and know their Fear, and to transform the role that it plays in their lives."
Humans, notes Kerwin, "are biologically hardwired to feel fear. It is a useful and necessary function that protects us, not just from harmful outside forces, but from our own propensity to make poor choices. During adolescence and early adulthood, when the frontal lobe--the region in which our brain considers the consequences of our actions--is not yet fused, fear, when it functions properly, protects teens and young adults from making an awful lot of terrible mistakes. But if we allow it, fear also has the power to stop us in our tracks and prevent us from taking worthwhile risks as well. The trick is knowing the difference."
Regarding oblivion, Kerwin adds: "Like fear, oblivion has its pros and cons. On the one hand, we all need to be able to forget in order to forgive and move on from many of life's challenges and disappointments. So 'wearing blinders' has its benefits to our mental health and relationships.
"Having said that, it is also said that 'those who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it.' So, there is a measure of risk in not being present and really taking stock of our environment and what is happening around us, including what has come before. It is important not to 'stick one's head in the sand'; at the same time, creative, out-of-the-box thinking often benefits from doing just that. Walking around with one's head in the clouds may be risky, but it can also be revelatory [in being] responsible for the birth of innovative and exciting ideas. Like fear, the trick is finding the balance, and putting oblivion to use in beneficial rather than harmful ways."
As for Hypatia, Kerwin regards her as "an inspiring woman, recognized in history as not only a pioneer in STEM learning, but also a polymath--a great thinker on a variety of subjects."
She says that the new series continues the first one's in "providing a strong, healthy female figure, drawing inspiration from ancient Greek and Roman warriors as well as modern superheroes like real-life hero and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and Emily Blunt's fictional character Rita Vrataski in Edge of Tomorrow.
Adds Kerwin, "I want every girl--and boy--who plays with the Wisdom series figures to not only have a lot of imaginative fun with them, but also to come away inspired to grow a powerful brain like Hypatia--to be curious and never stop learning."
"We are really not a toy company," she said in her Wonder Woman Award acceptance speech. “We’re a mission-based company. We’ve embedded a secret message in our toys: You are a superhero, and all the superpowers you could ever want or need are already inside of you. And shared, everyone’s powers grow stronger.”