I'm not afraid that my son will be lured over to the dark side by violent toys. But I do worry that a constant influx of police-state centered or militaristic entertainment will make him think that mobile police units and surveillance helicopters are normal parts of the landscape.
There's a big mural that lines the wall of the toy department in our local electronics store. It's an advertisement for some line of Japanese action figures that I'm (thankfully) unfamiliar with, a team of nearly identical red-and-silver-clad Mighty Morphing Power Ranger lookalikes. The mural shows them lined up side by side, each striking some sort of heroic-looking pose. Lit from behind with a type of starburst aura, the central figure is giving some version of the Nazi/Bellamy salute.
My son likes to play in the toy department while daddy shops for printer ink and external disk drives and other such supplies. But as my son plays with the toy trains or uses the toy cash register my eye keeps getting drawn to that mural looking down on us. It's violent, menacing and off-putting in a way that's difficult to put my finger on.
But perhaps I'm not alone in noticing the dark turn of the toy department into some type of indoctrination for the police state. We've already looked at how kids games are indoctrinating the next generation of children into the cashless society, but now a team of researchers in New Zealand is highlighting another ominous development: LEGO is becoming more violent.
LEGO, the Denmark-based children's building block manufacturer, has long prided itself on avoiding violence as a primary play incentive. But as the advent of video games and other high-tech toys began to erode their share of the market the company ran into financial difficulty, almost going bankrupt in 2003. From that point on, LEGO decided to make more of an effort to tap into pop culture; clothing lines and Legoland theme parks were replaced by Hollywood movie tie-ins and action-adventure sets. The ploy was a raging success, with 2015 seeing the company rake in a record breaking $1.95 billion dollar profit. It seems that success comes with a price, however.
As the new study from New Zealand's University of Canterbury shows, the era of increased cultural relevance and commercial success has tracked directly with the increasing amount of weaponry and violent scenarios found in the LEGO sets themselves. The study's stark conclusion: "LEGO products have become significantly more violent" over time. But, they stress, LEGO is not alone in this turn toward aggression and violence:
It is unlikely that the LEGO company is the only toy manufacturer whose products have become increasingly violent; for instance, Oppel has already provided initial evidence that Playmobile has followed a similar trajectory. Within the spectrum of available products today, LEGO sets might still be comparatively or relatively harmless. The question remains, though, why violence has increased so much in general.
This "question" is not much of a question at all when one ponders the changes that have taken place overall in American and European society in the 21st century and compare that to the types of LEGO sets that are now on offer. It is impossible to look at the "Mobile Police Unit" LEGO now offers, complete with radar and surveillance screens, or the "S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier" and not be reminded of Homeland Security or the War on Terror. This isn't the LEGO you remember from your childhood.
To be clear, it's not that LEGO, Playmobile or other companies are Illuminati-controlled brainwashing outlets set on making children into sadistic killers. They are just companies that are responding to the cultural zeitgeist and providing the market what it wants. And in this age of gritty reboots, R-rated comic book movies, ticking time bomb torturers and Islamic (false flag) terrorism, what the public apparently wants is more menacing toys for their children.
Which brings us back to the mural that hangs over the toy department in our local electronics store. In the end, I'm not afraid that my son will be lured over to the dark side by violent toys. But I do worry that a constant influx of police-state centered or militaristic entertainment will make him think that mobile police units and surveillance helicopters are normal parts of the landscape. As with so many things, it comes back to parents helping children to understand the context of what they're playing with and what they're watching.