Michael Chabon ponders the dark side of … ‘Star Wars’ Legos?

Oct. 15, 2009 | 2:04 p.m.

Michael Chabon 

Jacket Copy is our more-adult sister blog about books (and by “more-adult” I don’t mean porn; I mean that it has fewer posts about, you know, zombie comedies and super-villains) and our newsroom pal Carolyn Kellogg has a new Q&A there with Michael Chabon, who is the F. Scott Fitzgerald of fanboys. Or is he more like the Saul Bellow of super-geeks? Hmm. The Martin Amis of comics nerds? Anyway, as the father of an 8-year-old who is obsessed with “Star Wars” Legos, I had to smile at Chabon’s knotty musings about that most structured of playthings.

Lego deathstar JC: In a couple of the early pieces in [the new nonfiction collection “Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son“], 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 …

MC: The thing with Legos — I hope it’s an example of how I recognize the possibility that I might be overstating my objections.

Lego tie fighterNot 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.

It’s a smartly done Q&A and, again, you can read it in its entirety right here.

— Geoff Boucher


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Top photo of Chabon by Randi Lynn Beach / For The Times. Bottom photo of Chabon by Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press. Credit for toy images: Lego and Lucasfilm.


More in: Uncategorized, Michael Chabon


One Response to Michael Chabon ponders the dark side of … ‘Star Wars’ Legos?

  1. Andy Kerr says:

    "Post-modern Lego stew. . ." I love it!! I guess I was a first-generation Lego avant-garde sculptor in the 1970's. I love watching my boys mash the old school Lego's they inherited from me with the neo-Legos bridging my work with their own, creating a multi-generational "stew." Chabon's right. . . they could care less if it's Harry Potter, Star Wars, or whatever all mixed up. It's all good!

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