I have to start this with an up-front admission: I'm a grown man and I have retained my LEGO fascination from my childhood. As an adult fan of LEGO (AFOL, it's a thing, look it up!), one of my hobbies is to design, build, and propogate ideas through the near-endless realm of possiblities provided by LEGO bricks, and I look forward to sharing this with my kids someday.
An article I discovered while researching my topic for the first paper in this class definitely gave me pause and has caused me to reflect on LEGO's iconic products as well as other toys. In “Polluting our kids’ imagination”? Exploring the power of Lego in the discourse on sustainable mobility", Nils Stockmann and Antonia Graf dig into the links between the LEGO products and the connections they build in childrens' minds with regard to forms of transportation. In their study, they find that the automobile is by far the dominant form represented in terms of how LEGO minifigures get around their world. For example, among 83 sets that were marketed in 2019 in Germany for their study which represented real-world objects or places (as opposed to fictional ones), there were 19 cars, 13 trucks or other heavy vehicles, 6 motorcycles, and 10 other vehicles, while only two sets incorporated a bicycle or forms of public transportation like buses or trains. They further break down this study to assert that amongst LEGO sets, in addition to being the dominant form of transportation, cars and their drivers consistently play the role of heroes, many real-world auto companies have sets representing their vehicles, and more sustainable forms of human mobility are barely represented at all. They conclude with inferences on the real-world impacts of children playing with toys that are essentially biased in this way, stating that "toy (and related) companies and the performative act of playing have the potential to not only hinder and re-signify unsustainable forms of mobility, they also can contribute to the production of future-orientated imaginaries of sustainable mobility and other sectors as well." There's at least a silver lining in that even though unsustainble transportation methods are over-represented currently, a shift in this can be a vessel for change.
Taking their study and conclusions beyond just LEGO seems, at least anecdotally, to also accurately represent toys as a whole in the modern world. A walk through any toy aisle would show very strong automobile presence, and this seems to span ages from babies to teenagers. This emphasis on cars, which permates so much of this space that it seems unavoidable, leaves sustainable forms of transportation relegated to the role of “the boring and unnormal other," as put by Stockmann and Graf. While I find it hard to envision sweeping changes happening to address something like this, I think it's certainly worthwhile to study more and find ways to subtly influence; with the path the world seems to be on, every lever for change must be found and implemented for us to make overarching strides towards sustainble living as a species.