Recently, Franklin has become fixated on a particular lego theme that has come out – Lego Ninjago. Seeing as how he still had a few presents from Christmas and his birthday (in OCTOBER) to explore, we weren’t in any rush to find an excuse for him to receive a set. We left it up to him and his allowance and figured the parting of his own money would be the deciding factor that made sure he truly wanted it.
His solution was not to save the money. Instead, he built one of his own. Now Lego is a smart company and the users of their products are all about creation so it figures that much of this new spinning ninja product, the real draw for Franklin, was custom built and not available with previous parts from other sets. There are screws, even! Screws! Silly Lego. Screws are not what legos are about!
Regardless, Franklin made one. He went through some frustrating design challenges but in the end, he figured it out. He’s tested it against his friend’s store bought ninjagos and it works well. The sense of accomplishment in making the toy is a lot better in our eyes than the sense of accomplishment in saving up his money for it. Either way would have been good though.
The funny thing is that most of his friends thought it was odd of Franklin to make his own. In fact, many of his lego buddies don’t really “play” with lego. They are more collectors of the toys and lose interest quickly due to how fragile the sets are. For Franklin, the sets are to be taken apart and built again complete with sound effects and 5 minute long narration of how he’s built it and why over skype with his grandparents – patient souls, they are.
The whole ninjago creation reminded me of a time in grade school where I drew a picture of Cinderella in my class. My Cinderella had a big multicoloured dress make of iridescent feathers. It was from a few different books I had at home and I amalgamated the different Cinderellas to make one of my own. I loved my drawing. I had painstakingly drawn those feathers so that it had just the right amount of different colours. My teacher put it up on the art board and I was pretty proud of it.
Again, my friends were not as impressed. It wasn’t my drawing ability that was at question but instead, my deviation from the norm. My Cinderella didn’t look like Disney’s Cinderella. She didn’t have blonde hair in a bun with a tiara. She didn’t have a blue dress. She didn’t have a headband. She was my kind of gorgeous and she certainly looked like a fairy godmother had conjured up a ballgown of magical proportions! Wasn’t that the point?
Similarly, isn’t the point of Franklin’s lego creation that it spins fast enough to knock another ninja off it’s own spinner?
For Christmas, Dickson and I bought Eliza a fairy tale book with Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Swan Princess, The Nightingale, and many other fairy tales. I wanted to make sure it was a book that had different ways to represent Cinderella or Beauty. Cinderella is a little more paper bag princess than Disney and Beauty is beautiful, but definitely not Disney’s Belle. It’s a beautiful book and she loves it. In fact, the page she likes the best is an illustration of the Beast baring his teeth at Beauty’s father after he stole her rose. Forget the princesses, bring on the fangs.
It’s not that I have a problem with Lego or Disney in this regard (although I still have to question Disney’s storylines – wtf with Bambi’s Mum?) but that more and more representations of a story falls to the primary producers of an image. Cinderella does not belong to Disney. Ninja’s or the concept of spinning warriors were not invented by Lego. It’s okay to make our own narratives and our own representations.