Thursday, December 17, 2009

So the kiddo got the aforementioned Nazi plane set for Hannukah from the grandparents:

It came with some nifty decals and all to put on the plane parts and make it look more camouflaged:

But, you know, something was missing.

Let's compare with the Raiders scene that inspired this set:

Granted, the little guy has seen Raiders. He knows there are no Generic Bad Guys that Indy is fighting - it's the Nazis, pure and simple, who see the Ark of the Covenant as their tool for world domination. The kid now loads the mini Aron Hakodesh into the cockpit, derides the Nazis as evil dudes for trying to use a ritual object of great importance for their own evil ends, and makes like the Generic Bad Guy flying wing is now going to take the Aron back to Israel.

But, see, I know what the reasoning is behind not throwing a swastika decal onto a Lego plane part.
  1. Who'd want to buy that for their kids? Lego couldn't sell those if they paid people to take 'em off their hands. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart! It's the National Socialist Party plane from Raiders, just for you!"
  2. Parents would have a lot of splainin' to do about world history...not to mention the nature of evil, the banality of it, how it can turn the mysteries of life into tools to serve that evil, how capable we all are of it, and what it takes to stop it. 'Cause, you know, this is the flip side of Indy's adventures:

If you're gonna fight evil, fight ignorance first, parents. At least give your kids a window into where things are coming from. For those of you who see the Indiana Jones Lego sets as mere toys, think about this: the Nazis seized and catalogued art, artifacts, and ritual objects belonging to the people they sent to the gas chambers, all in the name of their own profit, of course - and they also wanted to take the fact that Jews, homosexuals, Romanies (gypsies) and other - in their eyes - "degenerate" people existed, retell their history from the point of view of the Nazi annihilators as "saviors" of the German volk from some imagined plague dwelling within those same people who had to die, and enclose it in museums and warehouses, thus removing these people, who were deemed Other and thus could not live, from the everyday lives of ordinary Germans. The Nazis were ultimately unsuccessful, thank God, but not before they stole billions of dollars worth of art and stored thousands of Torahs, silver ritual objects from synagogues, and other items of value that once belonged to the millions they massacred.

What marketers and manufacturers do when they eliminate telling details such as the swastika from these toys is engage in a similar sort of denial in which people aren't seriously hurt, but the quest for the almighty greenback trumps the references in Raiders to what the Nazis were trying to do and the depths to which they were willing to dive. Without selling the toy, Lego doesn't have much of a business going, right? Sure, they don't. But they don't hold the ultimate sway over the context of the sets they put out on the market and the stories we can tell about them.

Besides, y'all, Raiders is a good action flick. Pop some popcorn and watch it with the kids. It's entertainment with a smidgen of basis in fact, which is more than I can say for the Lego sets it inspired.


mominem said...

Nazis make great all purpose villains. There is no legitimate question the they were evil and a threat to civilization, without parallel.

After the Great war people were horrified by the los of life and treasure. they discovered tha the enemy was not evil.

After the WWII people discovered that the allied propaganda was not bad enough to describe what really happened.

I beleive that in some countries in Europe any Nazi symbols are illegal. Lego being a European company may have had something to do with that.

Leigh C. said...

I'm not necessarily advocating drawing swastikas all over the plane. I'm just saying people ought to be aware of the historical facts behind the fiction.

G Bitch said...

It always gets funky when history meets toys. If it's too real, it's not very fun.

Too, you don't need the swastika to start the conversation with this piece. Sustain a conversation with your kid about the real Nazis--but that requires some knowledge which some folks don't have, which is the fault of education, not toys.

Stories, movies, etc. "teach" our kids to fear monsters, unreal things, over-the-top smash-bang-drool-slash Uber-villans. The real horror is other people.