Susan's Blog

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Poignancy of Legos

It took me a long time to appreciate Legos. Growing up, there was just my sister Laura and me, and even though Laura was a non-traditional kind of girl (a bit of a tomboy and a real brainy type), she did not have Legos. I was a real girly-girl; I owned four Barbies (one semi-original with reddish hair, who later got a buzz cut and was the designated man; Malibu Barbie; Walk-Lively Barbie; and my favorite: Quick Curl Barbie). I had a huge case of clothing for them, with a bar to hang tiny pink hangers, pockets for little earrings, shelves of matching stillettos, and which was stuffed with ballgowns of tulle, ruffles, lamé in every color — you name it, I had it. I also had the Carnaby Street Townhouse. I played with the Barbies into adolescence, and things got a little strange, needless to say, but I digress only to give you the picture of where I am coming from, as an inveterate pink-lover, and a hopeless fan of the painfully proportioned perky plastic princess.

So for a long time, I did not see the appeal of Legos, which to me were the quintessential Boy Toy (I don’t mean the type that Madonna favors). Not until Max and then Ben started playing with them. We acquired a couple of bins of Legos from a yard sale when Max was around three, and that’s how it started. (Nat had no interest in them and still views them as something he kind of has to do, rather than wants to do.) Max first drew me in, asking me to help him construct first houses, castles, and space ships, and then as he grew older, scenes like frozen wastelands that were all white and gray, or the ocean with real waves, or the island of Myst, from the computer game he loved at age 5 and at almost 14, is still obsessed with.

Ben has come at Legos in much the same way as Max, but his interest then spun off towards the people of Lego. Last year we bought him a collection of people and accessories: characters, hats, weapons and other accoutrements. He was delighted.

I could truly understand his delight with the characters. There is a kind of poignancy, a naivete, to Legos. It springs, I believe, from their simplicty. The people are simple plastic block figures, with the most basic expressions on their faces: there are either frowning bad guys or dot-eyed simply smiling guys. No matter who they are, no matter how dark a personage, the worst they can have is frowning eyebrows and a spotty beard. Lego Harry Potter is distinguishable from Lego Luke Skywalker mainly by the context of having come in his properly designated box, and by virtue of his round glasses, but almost nothing else. Lego Voldemort has the same evil expression as Lego Darth Vader, give or take a mask or coloring of the face, and probably the same expression as a Lego pirate. The Lego skeletons have the death’s head grin, but there is also something kind of sweet and innocent and antithetical to the skeleton thing, because of their rounded block heads, just like all other Lego heads.

Ben has since created a kingdom of mermaids and Trident; our family as Legos; and recently, Lego Bible characters. I think this last was inspired by The Brick Testament which, when I found it, blew my mind. Bible stories illustrated with Legos! I wanted to laugh and sigh at the same time. There we could finally look upon the face of God, made by using a Lego head with a white beard, and as Ben pointed out, a broken white helmet as the hair. We could see the tragedy of Noah and the Ark, which used flat blue Lego pieces for the ocean, and detached heads bobbing, to illustrate how so many drowned in that great flood. We could witness the terrible death of Abel, whose red plastic neon blood trickled out on the ground. And yet, through it all, every face of every famous Biblical character bears the same innocent expression.

The ability to create worlds from something so basic and pure has converted me from Barbie fan to Lego fan. With Barbie, sure, it’s beautiful in a very easy, overt way. It’s too easy, though: everything is already right there. All you can really do is change the clothing or the hair or shoes. Fun, but after a while, it’s just dressing and undressing. We do it all the time. But with Legos, you can switch a head, pull the middle out, and you have a dwarf! Add a beard and a midsection, and you may have created God! With enough hair pieces, you can create your whole family. In a small, adorable way, Legos give us the first lesson about how we are all intricately related and important to each other; how we all have interchangable parts that add and detract from who we are; and how we all have good and bad in ourselves — it all depends on how we use it. What could be better than that?


<(^.^<)(>^.^)> Great! I think the description of the faces is great, and I had no idea there was more Lego Bible online!

— added by Zib Redlektab on Sunday, January 22, 2006 at 9:17 pm

once again susan you hit the nail on the head…god you are so philisophical.

— added by Kristen on Monday, January 23, 2006 at 10:35 pm