A scientific study released earlier this month indicates that the faces of Lego action figures have gotten angrier over the last 30 years. Amy Graff of The Mommy Files noted in a recent post on SFGate that Christoph Bartneck, a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and the study’s lead author, wrote, “We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts how children play.” Graff added, “This afternoon I decided to sort through my son’s Legos and take a look at the figurine faces. In his neatly arranged tackle box, I found 50 faces. Three of them were happy; the rest looked at me scornfully.” 47 out of 50 angry faces! That’s quite a disturbing ratio of malcontent.
Graff says the Legos her son plays with at his grandparents’ house “are the plastic blocks my brother and I snapped together as kids in the 70s,” which her son says “don’t have a lot of fighting so the people are happier” than in the Lego sets sold to boys today. Graff writes, “The sets my brother and I played with were gender-neutral and meant to build houses, hotels, fire stations, shops, cafés.” Legos marketed to boys today feature lots of battle themes, as does the Cartoon Network Lego series, Ninjago, which is filled with scary and angry Lego faces. My daughter watched it once with a friend – a boy – and I couldn’t believe how much fighting was shown on screen. Meanwhile, Lego’s marketing to girls has gotten much softer and more pink. None of the Lego Friends have angry faces. I should also tell you that when I went to Target recently to buy my daughter a plain set of multi-colored gender-neutral Lego bricks, they didn’t have any. My only choices were battle-driven sets and a pastel-colored set that came with instructions about how to build a house, so I went with the house.
After reading the results of the study and reflecting on Graff’s take on it combined with my own experience with children’s toys, I decided to comb through the web to determine if toys looked angrier across brands and gender marketing lines than they have in the past. What I discovered was that though there are still plenty of happy toys out there, like anything Disney- or Pixar-branded (Toy Story and Cars figurines, Disney Princesses), there are also lots of intense, angry looking toys – and not just weapons-related stuff marketed to boys. Take a look:
Angry Lego Knight 1 of 10
So let's start with Lego characters. This guy's gritting his teeth. His brow is furrowed. He's wearing armor. This guy is angry, alright! And there are much angrier Lego faces than this one out there. But I want to start you off easy.
Photo credit: Flickr user ansik
Angry Rabbit 2 of 10
This is also a Lego figurine. It's a serial killer Easter Bunny. Fun!
Photo credit: Flickr user Pedro Vezini
Angry Birds 3 of 10
Who doesn't love Angry Birds? You probably have it on your phone even if you don't have kids. My daughter and I went as Angry Birds for Halloween last year. We have Angry Birds plush toys in our house that were part of the costume. I don't think we even think about them being angry! And isn't that part of the point? That so much anger and violence has seeped into the culture without anyone really realizing it?
Anger is an emotion like happiness and sadness and so it should be a part of everyone's feeling vocabulary, but now that we've finally accepted that people are angry (and with good reason), aren't we just glorifying the anger rather than trying to soothe its root causes?
Photo credit: Flickr user Nukamari
Monster High Headless Headmistress Bloodgood Doll 4 of 10
The headless headmaster's face is perfectly serene oddly enough, but you'll notice that the horse's eyes are red and she's got a skull on her saddle. A cute skull, with a bow.
Via Toys R Us, where this doll is sold for $42.99.
Domo Plush 5 of 10
Domo is a pretty popular figure, sold at various stores across the country. He's the official mascot of Japan's NHK television station. According to the author of the Domo comic books, "Domo's expression is a sort of cheery wonderment. Like when a kid wakes to a room full of presents on Christmas day." Looks more like an growling scowl to me. I'd even buy that he's frightened. But not full of wonderment. Must be the teeth. Domo is part of the trend of scary/ugly/angry plush toys that includes Ugly Dolls, which are not as angry as the toys featured here, but aren't exactly cuddly and cute, either.
Via Journeys Kidz, where this toy is available for $6.99.
Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story for Nintendo DS 6 of 10
Mario and Luigi are beloved characters from my own youth, and I recently started playing the original Mario Bros. Nintendo game with my daughter, so I'm familiar with Bowser and his fiery fury. But just as Disney Princesses have gotten sexier over the years, this depiction of Bowser is much angrier and more ominous than the way video game villains were depicted in the 90s.
Via Toys R Us, where this game is sold for $34.99.
Mario Kart 7 for Nintendo 3DS 7 of 10
Just to give you another look for comparison's sake, here's Mario angrily glaring on the cover of Mario Kart 7. From saving the princess to road rage? What happened, Mario? And Bowser looks super intense behind him. Luigi is thankfully still happy-go-lucky/clueless flying his kart in the sky.
Via Toys R Us, where this game is sold for $39.99.
LEGO Ninjago Samurai Mech 8 of 10
This is a toy from the Lego cartoon I was talking about above. Crazy, right? Of course these types of robotic monsters have been around since the 80s (think Star Wars toys, Gobots, Transformers - which have also gotten more intense in their recent incarnations and films), but this one looks particularly frightening to me. Could be the fact that he's got a rocket launcher, lazer gun, samurai sword and giant claws? I dunno.
Via Toys R Us, where this toy is available for $44.99.
Hulk Action Figure 9 of 10
Yes, we all know the Hulk has anger issues. But the veins, the teeth, the glowing eyes? Is this toy too detailed? Do we need this much anger?
Photo credit: Flickr user Denis Giles
Saw Head Knocker – Puppet Extreme 10 of 10
Okay, right off the bat I'm going to tell you that Toys R Us only recommends this toy for adults (age 18 and up), but still, I can't believe this exists. I can't believe the movies it's based on exist. Ugh. Makes Peewee Herman seem a lot less (or more) creepy, though, doesn't it?
Via Toys R Us, where this doll is available for $18.99.
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