Greetings loyal minions! It’s been a while, but now exams are over I can finally get back to doing what I do best: lounging around and writing the occasional post for this website. Despite the fact I haven’t posted anything for the past month or so, I have been lurking around BrickUltra and keeping track of all the news stories coming in. One thing I’ve noticed is that recently there’s been a sudden increase in the number of sets that have reached 10,000 likes on Cuusoo. This is great news, but another thing that’s come to my attention is that two sets that have reached 10,000 likes have been rejected by LEGO because they don’t fit into what the company describes as their “core audience”. Naturally, there’s been much anger over this, and I’ll concede that I’m extremely disappointed I won’t be getting a LEGO Dylan Moran. But at this stage a few important question must be asked: Is LEGO doing the right thing when they choose not to produce these sets? Are these sets really too adult for LEGO’s core audience?
You may say I’m not the best person to be asking these questions. After all I did write an entire post about sets I’d like to see produced and even took the piss out of LEGO for not producing a Halo toyline. What you have to understand is that post wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. It was simple wishful thinking. I’m fully aware that none of the lines I suggested will ever be produced, I only wrote about it for a bit of fun.
I think the best place to start with this is to analyse why Serenity and the Winchester were rejected in the first place. A lot of people expressing their anger about the sets going unproduced have used the defence that Star Wars also contains violence and yet LEGO still produce a boatload of sets every year. The issue of violence in media is a confusing topic, but there’s a reason why LEGO don’t want to go near things like Shaun of the Dead while Star Wars and Lord of the Rings get a free pass. The key word here is blood. There IS violence in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but if you really think about there’s little to no blood. Granted, there’s more blood in Lord of the Rings than there is in Star Wars, but by the standards of today it’s very little indeed. All the killing in Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings is accomplished with either arbitrary flashes of light that leave very little physical damage or the really violent stuff is so far and few between that it’s not really a cause of concern. The problem with Shaun of the Dead is that the violence is not only relentless, but very bloody indeed. And that’s not the only issue.
Let’s say for a minute that bloody violence wasn’t an issue. After all, Firefly and Serenity don’t contain much of it, so why don’t I have a LEGO minifigure of Mal? Well here’s another key word for you: Sex. I actually feel sort of risqué just writing that here. Sex is one of the most restricted, closely guarded concepts in the public consciousness of today, and one of the main reasons a film will receive the dreaded “18” sticker from nervy film censors. Even if a film or video game contains little violence or bad language, the merest suggestion of sex will bump up the age rating a couple of notches. The Clone Wars movie was given a PG rating by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for one scene in which there was the vague suggestion of “sexualised dancing” in the background. Of course, this issue is very sketchy as well and I don’t know the full details of what warrants a “no-no” from the censors, but given the stories I’ve heard from directors and actors about battling with film censors to lower the age rating of a film that seems to be about the length of it.
So what? There’s barely any sex in Firefly if any at all. That’s true, but you’re forgetting one important fact: one of the main characters is a prostitute. Now a lot of people know that Star Wars contains prostitutes as well (just look at the outfits in the background of the nightclub scene in Episode II, you’ll see them), but that’s just it: they’re in the background. They’re not characters. They’re hidden, out of sight, and no one has any idea except the most mature of audiences. No awkward questions need to be asked because none will ever be raised. When a prostitute is one of your main characters, however, and the issue of her occupation is almost constantly foregrounded, then you have a problem.
At this stage another question presents itself: So what if LEGO produce a set based on the Winchester or Serenity? Most kids won’t have seen Shaun of the Dead or Firefly. Just because you produce a set based on them doesn’t mean the kids automatically have to go and see them, right? That may be true and I’m not saying that if you’re underage that’ll stop you watching things you’re not supposed to. I know when I was a kid I went out of my way to watch films that contained as much violence and sex as possible just to prove how tough I was. But the issue doesn’t lie with the kids, it lies with the parents. While parents will always face rebellious children, often children will be doing so of their own accord. While I don’t believe that violent games or violent films will produce a generation of serial killers (the author Richmal Crompton said, absolutely correctly, when questioned about her books promoting bad behaviour in boys that original sin was around long before she started writing), LEGO is one of, if not the most, popular toy companies operating today. Let’s imagine for a minute they produce sets based on Shaun of the Dead and Firefly. I firmly believe this would result in a media hurricane that would cripple the company. The fact of the matter is LEGO don’t want to be seen prompting their core audience to watch films or series like Shaun of the Dead or Firefly while they’re underage. A mainstream company always has a responsibility to their consumer and, at least in the eyes of the public, that’s a pretty irresponsible thing to do.
Another issue that’s been raised is whether LEGO should produce these sets in an effort to expand their core audience. This is a very difficult question and there’s no right answer. LEGO is, by its own admission a toy that appeals to all ages, and pretty much everyone who reads or contributes to this site is over the age of 11. But the point that’s constantly made is that LEGO can be anything that you want it to be. The whole point of it is that if it breaks or falls apart you can turn it into something new. In an age where the adult fan can create their own custom LEGO moulds and sell them online, or the ultra savvy teenager can print his own custom decals, you have to ask whether an official LEGO line is needed at all. Just because it’s not officially licenced doesn’t mean it’s not fertile ground for your imagination, and personally, that’s a far more exciting concept for me than an announcement that LEGO Doctor Who is finally being produced. Also, considering that internet reviewers constantly slam LEGO for reusing old blaster moulds, or not giving Gandalf a decent staff which results in them buying an unofficial, custom produced mould, or just plain slamming a set for not being screen-accurate, I sometimes wonder why LEGO even bothers, and they must be wondering the same thing too.
So after reading this article, you still may not think LEGO have done the right thing, but they’ve surely done the smart thing.