Racist LEGOs? Please…

Jabba’s Palace or poorly-designed mosque? (courtesy of LEGO)

If you ask me, some people are far too sensitive.

Earlier this year, Time magazine ran an article about a LEGO toy and asked readers if it seemed racist. This particular toy comes from the Star Wars universe—Jabba’s Palace—and to me, it looks pretty cool.

Sadly, not everyone agrees.

One group that was offended by this toy was the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria (TCCA), who claimed the toy looked too much like mosques and other religious structures in Beirut and Istanbul. They also claimed that some of the figures included with the LEGO set—characters the company isn’t even responsible for creating—reflect negatively on different racial groups in Asia.

To them, Jabba’s palace reinforces “racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against… Orientals and Asians as sneaky and criminal personalities (slaveholders, leaders of criminal organizations, terrorists, criminals, murderers, human sacrifice)…” and so on, and so forth.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t most Asian people frown upon the term Orientals? From what I understand, this descriptor is just as offensive as calling a Spanish person a wetback or a Caucasian a honkie.

Either way, it doesn’t seem very politically correct.

At any rate, LEGO has elected to pull Jabba’s Palace from store shelves, but not because some people consider it racist. Here’s their official statement on the matter:

“A few media have reported that the product is being discontinued due to the mentioned criticism. This is, however, not correct … As a normal process products in the LEGO Star Wars assortment usually have a life-cycle of one to three years after which they leave the assortment and may be renewed after some years. The LEGO Star Wars product Jabba’s Palace 9516 was planned from the beginning to be in the assortment only until the end of 2013 as new exciting models from the Star Wars universe will follow.”

Of course, the TCCA views this move as some kind of victory or confirmation that their racial claims were warranted: “We are very grateful and congratulate LEGO on the decision to take Jabba’s Palace out of production.”

Give me a small break.

Have things deteriorated so much in our civilization that even harmless children’s toys can be accused of being racist?

I would understand if someone produced an Al-Qaeda Ken doll or Barbie with slanted eyes, but Star Wars? How can fictional characters from a movie released more than two decades ago suddenly become racist and offensive? And where were these complainers when the film was first released?

Now that’s offensive! (courtesy of LucasFilm/Disney)

It boggles the mind to think that in the age of technological enlightenment and increasing tolerance, people would still take offense to something so ridiculous. Sure, there are times when products do reinforce racial prejudices or insult particular groups, but this surely isn’t one of them.

Freaking Jar Jar Binks was more offensive than Jabba and his crew, for goodness sake.

If you ask me, it’s time for people to stop being so hypersensitive, to take more things at face value and to understand that when it comes to breaking down racial barriers—especially where children are concerned—good parenting will help more than criticizing some kids’ toy.

Why not focus your attention on that for a change?

Posted on April 5, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. It’s not even that serious though. This recent display of over sensitivity to some of these “issues” are disgustingly redundant.

    But awesome post anyway! I adore your views. xo

  2. Haha, definitely! I read all your posts! I was just feeling courageous and decided to comment. 🙂

  3. LOL, I’m sure. 🙂

  4. “If you ask me, it’s time for people to stop being so hypersensitive, to take more things at face value…”
    Sounds like you’re taking things at face value, at any rate.

    I agree, it’s not the Legos set that was so terribly racist– it was George Lucas and the Star Wars series, to begin with. I enjoy SW, but a lot of the taken-for-granted racist and sexist references, stereotypes, and so on really grate on my nerves.

    Most of the “hypersensitive”/”why do I need to be politically correct” comments I hear come from white people, white males in particular. We/they have been allowed to say whatever they want for so long that I’m sure it comes as a shock to them when someone tells them to stfu and keep their racist/sexist thoughts (and toys) to themselves.

    Also, I think criticizing (in a reflective, constructive way) toys is one excellent habit of good parents.

    • I agree with some of what you said, sky, primarily with regard to parenting. However, I certainly don’t feel whites dominate the hypersensitive conversation. Maybe they point it out faster, which I would also argue may not be the case, but I don’t see this as an indicator of some unfair privilege. If race must be tossed in again, could it be possible some non-whites simply say nothing because they feel they shouldn’t have to anymore? I guess what I’m saying is that people seem to criticize anything that can be interpreted different ways and normally focus on the negative. And they’re not always white, I assure you.

      As for Star Wars, it is possible that some of Lucas’ own race or gender biases came through, but couldn’t that be said of many creative people struggling to express themselves? And couldn’t we point that finger towards a society that seems to perpetuate stereotypes just as easily? The point I was hoping to make was that for once, I’d like to see all these “claims” ease off since not everything seems as offensive as people make them out to be. And it’s hard for me to imagine a SW toy like this one somehow influencing a child to be more racist anyway.

      I appreciate the comments and hope this made sense (I wrote it early in the morning & may have been half asleep). And thanks for making me think 🙂

      • Most definitely George Lucas is the productive of a society which is inherently unequal and seeks to perpetuate those inequalities through various normative expectations, discrimination, stereotypes, and so on– aren’t we all. George Lucas clearly was not out to stretch the bounds of our imagination beyond race or gender. These concepts of difference (and in other forms, too) provide the foundation for many of his alien races and characters: so fantastic and outlandish, yet so…human. Obviously Lucas is not the only guilty party.

        But Lucas is at a serious disadvantage. He is a rich white Western male. He grew up surrounded by media which reflected his own image, told him how to more closely conform to the ideal masculine image, and reinforced his superiority in the universe. All white guys do. So do white women, to an ever-so-slightly less degree. It’s a seriously difficult paradigm to break out of, but it must be done.

        I think one way you can start doing that is to stop telling [fill in name of minority party here] to stop being so sensitive when (rich, white, powerful) media depicts them in ways that are overgeneralizing, stereotyping, or straight-up discriminatory. After all, you are not them– you did not grow up in their body, you haven’t dialogued with them to get their perspective on the matter, and most importantly, you haven’t empathized with them in order to understand how they feel.

        Now, I’m not saying I’ve done all this, at least not always nor often. I still have serious hang-ups, myself. I still get called out for my racist notions, some of which I was not conscious of until pointed out to me. Sometimes I still get really defensive because I want to be “an ally” and feel like I’m just getting scolded like a child, instead. It’s a difficult but necessary process, and in this process I have discovered that telling people they’re making too much of something (this goes way, way beyond racism, even to a personal level) or being too sensitive does not make my opinion valid, it merely reveals my ignorance. Some preconceptions and assumptions are NOT safe to operate on. It takes very diligent critical thinking AND empathy to really obtain a deep understanding of these things. Well, this, at least, is as far as I’ve gotten in my understanding of “these things”.

        Sorry, that was quite long– but I like to converse in comments sections. ^_^ Thanks for conversing with me, I appreciate a two-way dialogue!

      • Same here, skyride! 🙂

  5. Also, about the Barbie thing: what would be wrong with a Barbie with “slanted” eyes? Or very dark skin? Or short hair? Or a trans Barbie? Sounds like progress, to me… 😉

  6. My biggest complaint about Star Wars is that the story was good enough to sell tickets and worth the time watching, however from the second movie on they were driven by commercialism plain and simple… The franchise still is. There was to that end no racial intent by creators of either the movies or the toys and other memorabilia, their only real interest is making money lots of it.

    • You’ve got a point there, my man. And I can’t say I disagree, especially since I’m still spending money on them and will be for years to come! LOL

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