The Reagan era White House directly contributed to He-Man.
Deregulation and the FTC
In the late 1970s the Federal Trade Commission put forward recommendations to limit the amount of advertising directed at children. Behind this recommendation was a study which included expert testimony on the negative physical & mental effects of advertising to children. Essentially children have a difficult time understanding they are being marketed towards – they aren’t savvy enough to differentiate between entertainment and product marketing. As a result they tend to want whatever toys or sugary foods are marketed towards them and through pester power they try and get what they want.
The FTC recommendations were to (among other things) restrict the number of minutes of television per hour children could be shown commercials as well as banning certain kinds of television ads (such as ads for highly sugary foods). In response lobbyists and special interest groups representing the food, toy, candy, and broadcasting industries among others came together spending millions of dollars to block the FTC’s recommendations from becoming law. Feeling the pressure, Congress passed the Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act in 1980 which effectively removed power from the FTC. Quoting the act, “The Act suspends the Commission’s children’s television advertising rulemaking proceeding …” . As an additional response in 1981, as one of his first acts as president, Ronald Reagan appointed James Miller as the new head of the Federal Trade Commission. Miller proved to be a friend of big business and helped to further deregulate the industry.
With the industry deregulated and left to regulate itself companies went full-speed ahead producing new products and new ways of selling those products to children. Not content with advertising just during the commercial breaks of other shows, there were entire TV shows developed that served as vehicles to help sell toys. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), Care Bears (1985), G.I. Joe (1985), Transformers (1985), ThunderCats (1985), etc. all were either aided or came about entirely because of the new deregulation. Most of the top selling toys at the time all had their own TV shows.
Ultimately an entire generation’s loyalty to certain toys & cartoons was the direct result of the pro-business Reagan administration. Entire franchises were started because of the ability to market directly to children. If it hadn’t been for this deregulation our pop culture landscape would have been very different.