Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Doing It To The Kids

So Drek posted something thoughtful over at my place, and here I am writing about toys. Well, hi, I'm Tom, and I'm a LEGO maniac. Having two small kids, a grown-up income, and an understanding spouse has been very good for my habit, though nothing quite lives up to those glorious days when e-tailers routinely sold stuff without regard to the need to earn profits, or at least contributions to fixed costs.

As with any dorky/nerdy/geeky hobby, there are active fan communities including some which specialize in trolling the intertubes for new set information and leaking same. Looking over the 2008 Duplo lineup in some spy shots, I saw this image and thought, "Duplo dinosaurs? Why, my 3-year-old will love Duplo dinosaurs!" Then I saw this one, and thought, "Dinos and cavepeople? WTF, TLG?! Why are you being part of the problem?"

Granted, the answers to the above questions may be, "Chill out, they're just preschool toys." An I says, "Buddy, this is a blog. Without trivialities to complain about, we might have to do real work!"

This would not be the first LEGO dinosaurs-meet-people controversy, borne of the LEGO Group's efforts to try to maintain mind-space with their core pre-teen boy audience against video games and Chinese-made knockoff brands with fewer qualms about military or otherwise violent sets. A couple years ago, a play theme called Dino Attack, or the Theme With No Protectable Relationship to Jurassic Park Under IP Laws [*], featured mutant lizards [**] battling a human force with sci-fi-ish but undeniably militarized vehicles. The original plan was that Dino Attack would be a North America-only theme, whereas a dragons-vs-longboats Vikings theme was geared towards EU kids. The adult fans' reaction was not snark-free:
Dinosaurs co-existing with humans for the creationist New World versus mythical beasts for the barely Christianised barbarians of the Old World?

Forward looking, modern technology for the freewheeling United States, versus backward looking swords and wooden boats for the hidebound EU?

Discuss - 1000 words.
Eventually, the Vikings discovered America and the EU got de-fanged versions of the Dino Attack sets. Since then, a series of Batman sets has included realistic firearms (though packaged in a separate tiny bag, maybe so they can be deleted for Scandinavian sensibilities?) and otherwise, as Alan Schussman observed a while back, were not afraid to keep the Dark in the Dark Knight (which sparked a massive debate among the Legorati). The crazy backstory to the current Mars Mission sets — human crews mining energy crystals on Mars discover that the little green natives aren't feeling generous and are ready to use force — has enough Iraq war subtext that the alien figures had to be made really lame to preserve some sense that the orange-and-white human vehicles belong to the good guys. Then there are the forthcoming Indiana Jones sets.

This is just to say that it's a fun time to select toys for kids. In our house, for better or worse, the Joker is some guy with a bright-colored suit and funny face, and the Death Star is a big gray spaceship. We'll see how long that lasts...

[*] The LEGO Group had previously issued licensed Jurassic Park sets.

[**] Adult fans don't care for the action figure dinosaurs, but my kids love 'em.

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