Should LEGO release modern military sets? [Editorial]

Warning: This is an opinion piece, and may not reflect the opinions of my co-bloggers, The LEGO Company, or custom-accessory producers (whose products appear here for illustration purposes only). This post may also include external links to opinions and facts you may not agree with, so read the whole post and share your own thoughts in a comment.

We feature so many LEGO military creations here on The Brothers Brick that all those fighters, battle dioramas, and tanks have their own category. There’s also a lively discussion going on among commenters in the LEGO City 2010 post. Between Independence Day last Friday here in the United States, my own pacifist upbringing, and this recent discussion, I’ve been giving some serious thought to the convergence of LEGO bricks and the military, and the differences between realistic and fantasy violence.

Desert Soldiers on FlickrI myself have built plenty of LEGO military creations, most frequently to illustrate the most accurate historical use for custom accessories I’m reviewing. I’ll also admit that like many males, I have a strong fascination with things that go “Boom!

In responses to questions from Gizmodo readers, here’s what a LEGO Company representative said recently:

Q: Are there any chances that Lego will ever start producing modern day warfare Lego, with tanks and helicopters and what not?
A: We have a strict policy regarding military models, and therefore, we do not produce tanks, helicopters, etc. While we always support the men and women who serve their country, we prefer to keep the play experiences we provide for children in the realm of fantasy.

Some LEGO fans argue that LEGO has, in fact, released military-themed sets in the past:

And of course, there have been elements of conflict throughout many of LEGO’s themes, going all the way back to the earliest police and castle sets of the 1970s. More recently, LEGO has even included realistic-looking guns in Wild West, Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones, and other themes.

This leads to the obvious question from another Gizmodo reader:

Q: Why did they changed the founders rule to never make gun like elements?
A: The company still has a no gun policy when it comes to realistic or military play scenarios. However, in order to stay true to the strong licensed properties we incorporate to the Lego portfolio, we need to stay true to those properties and sometimes that involves including weapons. In our own play themes, some element of good vs. bad conflict is typically considered to provide for role play opportunities. In those instances, the setting is very clearly a fantasy world.

The distinction makes sense to me. Most 10-year-olds aren’t going to mistake a set that includes dinosaurs and a four-wheeler with a lightly-armored Humvee avoiding improvised explosive devices. Similarly, dwarves fighting goblins, the undead, or even each other are unlikely to evoke images of coalition forces putting down the insurgency in Fallujah.

If LEGO were to create sets based on the military, that begs the question, “Which military?” LEGO is a global company. If they were to design military sets, which countries should be represented? Royal Danish J√¶gerkorpset (special forces) or HDMS Absalon? American A-10 Thunderbolt (with depleted uranium flick-fire action!) and M1 Abrams tank? Russian R-36 ICBM (with pop-out MIRV warhead action!) and Sukhoi Su-27?

Extraordinary RenditionOr perhaps LEGO could take its inspiration from the military history of the past 100 years. Would you buy an Allied flamethrower set, with Okinawan civilian minifigs in caves ($29.99), or a Dresden Firebombing playset with limited-edition Kurt Vonnegut minifig ($49.99)? Modular Hanoi Hilton and Ho Chi Minh’s bunker? Something from the War on Terror, perhaps: An Al-Quada training camp set with Osama bin Laden minifig, camouflaged Navy SEAL, and inbound cruise missile ($19.99) or extraordinary rendition set with unmarked CIA jet, compliant third-world diplomat, and abducted French-Algerian shopkeeper ($39.99)?

How about a LEGO Third Reich theme, with an impulse-purchase Adolph Hitler for $2.99 and a LEGO Auschwitz for $89.99?

“An Osama bin Laden minifig?! LEGO Auschwitz?! That’s going too far. Andrew, that’s patently offensive!” Exactly. War is not fun. War is not play.

Ultimately, the job of every military is to conduct war (whether defensive or offensive), and I believe that war is wrong. There are those in every government who would have its citizens believe that the lives of people who don’t look like us, live somewhere outside our borders, or don’t believe the same things we do are somehow less valuable than our own. And therefore, it’s okay to kill our fellow human beings to achieve the political goals of these leaders.

Applying this philosophy to my LEGO hobby, I don’t believe LEGO sets that depict realistic or modern military themes — including soldiers, military vehicles, and historical conflicts — are appropriate for children ages 5 to 12. Other toy companies certainly don’t agree, taking advantage of patriotic fervor and every boy’s fascination with guns. And yet, this is one of the very reasons I respect LEGO and their no-military policy. They stand apart from the rest.

On a more practical level, LEGO’s largest market is Germany, a country whose 20th-century history has left many modern Germans without much of a taste for war. LEGO is also a global company. As my somewhat outlandish list of potential military sets illustrated, how could LEGO possibly choose which countries to represent?

Martin Luther King, Jr. minifig on FlickrI’m probably not going to convince many of you that pacifism or nonviolence is always the most appropriate political response, but I hope that I’ve made you think, and that perhaps some of you can understand why I personally hope that The LEGO Company never changes its no-military policy.

Thanks for reading. Without further ado, sound off in the comments and vote your conscience in the new poll.

[poll id=”9″]

122 comments on “Should LEGO release modern military sets? [Editorial]

  1. Sammy

    Lego allows people to be creative and achieve artistically what they want, but Lego has continually promoted Good winning over evil in most sets; and in other sets, they’ve even promoted the combination of opposed or estranged forces (Mars series).

    I think that they’re doing the right thing with a no-military policy, and are setting an example for kids that you can teach a lesson, make people happy, or just be creative, without having to display bias.

  2. Melfice

    I don’t think LEGO should produce items like tanks and other armoured vehicles, or war-like scenarios that are not firmly rooted in fantasy.

    HOWEVER, I don’t think there should be such a restriction on jets.
    As the 4953 Fast Flyers set shows, you can have military aircraft in a non-military fashion. This jet (though not extremely realistic) obviously resembles a fighter jet, but it carries no armaments and it is distinctly painted in an airshow livery.
    I would love a similar set in minifig-scale.

    The purchaser could, if he/she so desires, recreate or “improve” the model with military colours and/or weaponry later on.

  3. J

    why cant lego just make cool tanks and guns and stuff without all the political backround stuff. i like lego but it would be so much betta with cool guns and army men. just pleeeese make them, pleeese

  4. Helen Battye

    did you know that other building blocks like kazi, mega blocks and all that make military sets so why cant a big famous company like Lego make military sets.
    if you don’t make military sets more people are going to buy mega blocks and stuff like that.

    p.s tanks rule!!!!!!

  5. Christian

    I think it would be really cool for lego to release lego military sets frankly becuase I would really love to set up a military thing, all sets need brick companies need tanks, guns and military stuff, I am also an absolutely pathetic builder at lego so I really can’t make a tank without instructions. Apart from me being a huge matt reilly fan I am fascinated with the army and think lego should release some sets.

  6. Claus Schioldann von Eyben

    Stick to fantasy, I say!

    Military and violent MOC’s are awsome too, but for us builders to dream up and create.
    Maybe the communities should start to distribute instructions, for those of us who cannot think in 3D all the time…

  7. William

    First I cannot believe that I am replying, anyway here goes. It’s a toy!!! I repeat a toy!!!!! Got it. I’ve had Lego sets from the 70’s. I have play cowboys and indians, soldiers, etc, etc, etc,……..and partridge in a pear treeeeee. Children will continue to do this no matter what. let them be children and LEGO should go a head make the damn military sets and let the chips fall where they may!!!! A lot of adults will surely by these sets too!!! Good grief!!!!

  8. Brawl

    the LEGO company should definatly have modern warfare sets that
    would be AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!but i would also like WWII sets

  9. Mac 11 wielding maniac

    I agree, in that maybe a torture chamber would be going too far, however, if they did sell military sets, then they could make a lot of money methinks. anyway, there are already companies making military style accessories- Brickarms for one. I think there are many people that would enjoy seeing Lego humvees and so on on the shelves of their local toy retailer- Me included!

  10. Brawl

    I’d be OK with torture chamber sets and BrickArms has nearly all there
    minifigs are right about the $ LEGO would make,
    mean all my friends would said they’d rather have a tiger tank
    than a LEGO city set.=)

    (I’m getting all the BrickArms weapons 4 christmas)

  11. brandon

    we’re not talking about killing stuff.i just want to have military VEHICLE modles,like tanks,helis and doesn’t have to have politics in it.DUH:>

  12. Brawl

    yeah your totally right brandon.if they make “anti dino” choppers and tanks,why don’t they make crusaders and mcsomething?

    (but LEGO george bush would be funny)

  13. brandon

    i’d bet a million $$$ that people would buy them up like crazy.and whats with the lego companys geting sued for that.And just for putting those certan peices in there producs.are you kidding me?!?!

  14. Brawl

    whats really weird/annoying is thats with the lego castle and cowboy
    sets is that the minifigs inthose sets used weapons like swords daggers and maces which draw A LOT more blood than a M16 or a tank

  15. Andrew Post author

    This debate seems to be staying alive mainly between people arriving from search engines, not our regular readers, so I’m going to go ahead and lock comments. Nothin’ personal.

  16. Pingback: Lego Humvee with instructions | The Brothers Brick | LEGO Blog

  17. minininja

    Hmmm… this is an extemly tough question. I think they could do military sets if they where not really our modern day world or past type sets but more like Battalion Wars where it was kinda on a different planet.

  18. Andrew Post author

    I’d locked comments on this for good reasons (which haven’t changed), but it looks like an option somewhere got overwritten.

    There are more current discussions happening, so let’s close this one out again and keep the focus on the conversations happening today.

Comments are closed.