In what we hope will be the last surprise of 2020, Netflix The Queen’s Gambit is getting his own set of Pop! Vinyl figurines from Funko. The three statuettes will feature Anya Taylor-Joy’s main character, Beth Harmon, in a variety of costumes from the show, none of them related to chess, but all elegant. Fans can buy Pops to get a piece of the show’s unique aesthetic, filtered by Funko’s aesthetic, but the real question is: why is it O Queen Gambito getting Funko Pops?
If you allow me to speculate wildly, maybe The Queen’s Gambit is getting a Funko Pop, not because it’s a Netflix show that is both critically well-received and popular according to Netflix’s own metrics, but because “getting Funko” (coining it now) solidifies popular content that can be a little transitory because of streaming algorithms.
Netflix was able to maintain an aggressive release schedule during 2020 because of how many shows and movies it had already accumulated. But you can honestly say that you remember any of those early February and March hits, like Tiger King or Love is blind?
More broadly, was your media ownership really popular if it didn’t “win funk”? I would say no. And other Netflix Funko collaborations have immortalized popular streaming mega-hits like Money Heist and Weird stuff, before being incorporated into the Netflix soup, only to resurface for new seasons.
Getting funky is almost like getting a panel at Comic-Con; this signals a level of fan involvement that justifies capitalizing, at least monetarily. A show may lose interest (or the many Netflix carousels), but plastic waste is forever.
Funko’s ability to rotate figurines quickly certainly helps in that regard. Even though Netflix’s deal was closed before the show was a success, Funko’s fast-fashion approach to manufacturing allows it to put a Pop into production in less than two months, according to a report by The goods. Given the October 23 debut date for The Queen’s Gambit, Beth Harmon Pops fit well into Funko’s compact production window. (Another strange thing: these Funko Pops will go on sale on April 20 next year.)
The Queen’s Gambit Funko Pop! it’s an interesting inflection of Funko’s manufacturing power, Netflix’s development skills, and the weird ways that popularity arises in culture. Probably no one will talk about the show 40 years from now, but when I’m combing the desolate lands of California and find a Beth Harmon Pop in a destroyed suburb, I will remember and negotiate for water accordingly.