Adults attempt to control children's imaginative worlds, and unsupervised, free-form play is harder to come by than ever, warns author Michael Chabon. But even the most corporate-branded, marketing-controlled playthings can become wild and untrammeled, as Star Wars lego prove.
Discussing his new book, Manhood for Amateurs: the Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son, Chabon explains:
JC: In a couple of the early pieces, you express a concern for the lack of mystery in the lives of children.
MC: I'm not sure it's so much a lack of mystery. I think there's still plenty of mystery. It's a lack of freedom, it's a lack of unsupervised play.
JC: Both physically, and through the proscriptive, highly specialized Legos …
The thing with Legos — I hope it's an example of how I recognize the possibility that I might be overstating my objections. Not everything that at first glance seems to be a further illustration of the kind of cultural imperialism I see at work in the adult world over the world of childhood — not everything is necessarily an example of that. Certainly kids retain their love of subversion, and I think it's just innate to a child's mind to want to subvert authority. I think it's unfortunate that the adult world figured out a way to take over that impulse and package it and retail it and sell it back to children, and to their parents.
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.