Leave LEGO-loving, YA-reading adults alone!
I joked recently that I was willing to borrow any available toddler who wanted to go to the Children’s Museum of Richmond because I was hot1 and heard the place has sprinklers. However, the very real truth is that if I wanted in on those sprinklers, going it alone wouldn’t be an option. Without a kid in tow, they would’ve turned me away at the door. And this doesn’t bother me. CMoR is a little-kid-centric place, and cool sprinklers aside, I don’t see much of an appeal there for anyone who’s not bringing a child. Fair enough, I say!
But when I heard about LEGOland’s similar no-admittance-without-a-child policy–and how last year 63-year-old John St-Onge was not allowed to visit because he didn’t bring a kid–I was taken aback.
In response to denying St-Onge admittance to LEGOland, a representative was quoted as saying, “it is a child attraction so we do have this in place to protect the families and children that visit.”
I think we can agree that a children’s museum is surely a “child attraction”…but LEGOland? LEGO has been around since 1949 and markets its products to a wide swath of people. They’re popular with adults who use them to build fantastic creations, just as they’re popular with little kids. And when adults can have job titles like LEGO Architectural Artists, is it really reasonable to bar them from LEGOland if they don’t have a child with them?
Think on that for a moment while we swivel over to a similar story…
Last month Slate published an article titled Against YA chastising adults for reading books categorized as “Young Adult lit.” It stated, in no uncertain terms, “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”
Librarians2 have a saying (nay, a LAW): Every book its reader. Young Adult novels straddle the line between teen stories and traditional adult stories, appealing to adolescent readers experiencing those “in-between feelings” right now, while also drawing in adult readers who remember what those feelings were like.
Presenting YA lit as embarrassing to non-YA readers ignores the changes in the publishing industry–an industry that needs to appeal to larger and larger audiences to stay afloat. But beyond that, these books have their range of readers for a reason: Young Adult literature is powerful stuff–it catches characters (and young readers) when they’re their most vulnerable and malleable, and those are stories that are interesting to read. Who’s interested in a static character? And who are the least static people ever? Young adults. Case in point: Jonas in The Giver3 wouldn’t be interesting if we met him in his mid-20s after he’s already gone through the changes that come with adolescence. It’s a good story in part because of his age.
So where is the line between eyebrow-raising adult attendance and acceptable adult participation in something that may be deemed a child attraction? At the heart of the matter, I’m troubled by a disconnect. Publishing houses and companies like LEGO market their products to adults. I balk at the idea of subtly accusing adults of pervery4 for wanting to enjoy the stuff they grew up with.
LEGOland claims that their policy exists to “protect families”, which suggests that they’re concerned about potential hoards of predatory adults attempting to use the park to their advantage. This feels both insulting and fear-mongering when you consider that the majority of kidnapping are done by people known to the child. Should parents be careful? Yes. Should parks and museums try to be safe places? Of course. But the reasoning behind LEGOland’s policy also stands in contrast to other statements made by the company in promoting its product and mission. LEGO’s Architecture set site boasts links to LEGOland, and on that same page, they say “Our ambition is to inspire minds of all ages [emphasis mine] as they learn about the world’s most iconic buildings and structures.”
Whether it’s LEGO or YA books, when adults are marketed products and activities that straddle the line between child-centric and adult-centric, let’s not ostracize them when they try to buy or enjoy those products. Either LEGO are for all ages, or they aren’t. The messages and the marketing need to match.
Photo by: Joe Shlabotnik