Chabon on Lego: You’re Doing It Wrong!

Thank goodness Michael Chabon is around to save us from the evil machinations of Lego:

In the world of Legos, what I did discover is that my kids were taking these beautiful, gorgeous, incredibly restrictive predetermined Legos Star Wars play sets — and yeah, they really wanted it to be put together just the way the box showed it. I don’t think it occurred to them you’d want to do anything else with it. But inevitably, over time, the things kind of crumble and get destroyed and fall apart and then, once they do, the kids take all those pieces, and they create these bizarre, freak hybrids — of pirates and Indians and Star Wars and Spider-Man. Lego-things all getting mashed up together into this post-modern Lego stew. They figure out a way, despite the best efforts of corporate retail marketing.

What a douche. Lego Group doesn’t care what you make with their product — they just want you to buy it. In fact, they expect their customers to whip together a “post-modern Lego stew.” If Lego’s goal was to ensure the toy being kept in stasis, the official Lego magazines wouldn’t contain alternate builds — that is, different designs you can fashion with the bricks in a particular set or by combining those from several sets. Their console games wouldn’t contain unlockable minifigure creators where you can mix characters from DC Comics and LucasFilm to assemble unique avatars. Hell, if their goal was fossilization, Lego wouldn’t even be in the business of making a construction system. They’d just sell a finished truck or Death Star and be done with it.

There’s no downside to Lego. If a child wants to build what’s on the box, then he’s learning to read manuals and follow instructions, a good skill to have if he ever wants to bake a cake or fix a car. If he wants to disregard the box and construct something on his own, then he’s exploring the same process involved in writing a novel or designing a piece of furniture. It’s impossible to go wrong.

Chabon looks at his kids and sees subversion of corporate hegemony, a reflection not of his children and their actions but rather of his own common political mindset that consumes the fruits of capitalism while complaining the whole time he’s been tricked or oppressed. The rest of us parents — including those of us who grew up with Lego — watch our children playing and see gears moving behind clear eyes.