Avoiding Fox News is my self-care. (Time is tight. You do what you can.)
But a friend recently shared an article about the network’s hosts losing their marbles over a new line of Legos, and I couldn’t resist. I clicked.
Legos were such a formative part of my kids’ childhood. Rainbow Loom and Orbeez and Play-Doh and slime (dear God, the slime) all came and went. But Legos? Legos stayed the course. Year after year after year.
I still find little bricks in a couple of my purses. My mom still puts Legos in my brother’s Christmas stocking. He’s 52.
Anyway, the new line of Legos includes characters that cover a wider spectrum of the human experience: limb difference, Down syndrome, anxiety, vitiligo, a wheelchair.
“The brand-new universe of authentic, interesting, passionate and diverse characters includes additions of multiple skin tones, cultures, physical and non-visible disabilities, and neurodiversity,” Lego said in a news release announcing the new line. “Because the Lego Group values children as its role models, this next generation of Lego Friends has implemented input from kid testing, research and feedback from letters sent to the company, which all found children had a desire to see themselves, their friends and their families better represented.”
Unless you’re allergic to humanity.
“Say it ain’t so,” Fox News host Harris Faulkner said, upon learning the latest Deep Toy affront. “Lego is going woke.”
“One will have a missing limb,” host Jimmy Failla sneered. “Another, Down syndrome. These are really important issues.”
They are, actually.
Unless you’re scared of anyone but the dominant culture having their lives and identities and experiences and joy affirmed.
Lego is unlikely to sweat the criticism — unlike M&Ms, which paused their new line of candy characters when Fox News went after them for being “woke.”
In recent years, Lego has released an “Everyone is Awesome” line to represent the LGBTQIA+ community and a “Queer Eye” set that re-creates the Atlanta loft from the reality show about five gay men who remake people’s lives.
In 2014, Lego created an all-female scientist kit designed by geoscientist Ellen Kooijman. Everyone knows there’s nothing more woke than a woman with a telescope.
The brand seems quite adept at ignoring the outrage loop — or at least allowing the outrage to remain contained to a specific ecosystem while they blithely count their money. (Lego was valued at approximately $9.1 billion in 2021.)
In other words, this too shall pass. Probably pretty quickly.
But one part of this tantrum feels noteworthy to me, like we ought to pause and examine it for a moment.
Failla, one of the Fox hosts, had this to say:
“It shouldn’t be going on the way it’s going on. But the reason they force identity into toys is because they think identity comes with a built-in political orientation. And that’s what they’re after here. I’m not having it.”
This is fascinating to me on a couple levels.
First, all toys have identity. Kids name their toys and personify their toys and carry on conversations with their toys and assign their toys whole inner and outer lives.
Accusing toys of having identity only when toys represent a wider swath of humanity betrays a tragic — and kind of embarrassing — blind spot. It’s a blind spot that lives at the heart of all the panic over woke-ism: the assumption that there’s one default way to be a human. That everything else is a deviation. An exception. An aberration. A statement. Virtue signaling.
When of course there are endless ways to be, to live, to look, to love during our time on this Earth. Acknowledging and celebrating that isn’t woke. It’s awake.
Children grasp this concept inherently and fully. Which is why it’s lovely that Lego values them as role models, and why these meltdowns that are supposedly on children’s behalf — panic over a genderless Mr. Potato Head, losing it over woke Legos, banning books from classrooms and school libraries — always strikes me as so odd.
The kids are alright — until the grown-ups corrupt them.
But that “built-in political orientation” comment is truly illuminating.
Apparently the fear is if kids grow up recognizing and respecting the full human experience, if they learn to walk in another person’s metaphorical shoes, if they see differences celebrated rather than demonized, if their worldview is expanded and expansive … they will grow up to vote in a way that’s not pleasing to these fearmongers.
It’s as simple — and sad — as that.
If your political survival relies on keeping people isolated, intolerant and angry, it’s probably time to rethink your politics.
And if your political survival (or workplace survival, or cultural survival) compels you to keep children isolated, intolerant and angry? It’s probably time to check your moral compass.
Heidi Stevens is a Tribune News Service columnist. You can reach her at email@example.com, find her on Twitter @heidistevens13 or join her Heidi Stevens’ Balancing Act Facebook group.