It's a tricky business, creating characters and surroundings that don't resemble actual, real-life people or places. When the characters and settings in a film or television show do questionable things, it's especially important to make it clear that everything is original, from someone's imagination.
But sometimes, things slip through the cracks, and a Turkish group says that the Lego company has been marketing a highly offensive toy with racist undertones.
The toy in question--a Lego Star Wars set--is said to include a structure (well, pieces to build a structure) which closely resembles the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul as well as the Jami al-Kabir mosque in Beirut. The toy is Jabba the Hutt's Palace, and the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria says that character reinforces negative stereotypes of Middle-Eastern people.
“The terrorist Jabba the Hutt likes to smoke a hookah and have his victims killed,” said the statement posted on the organisation’s website. “It is clear that the ugly figure of Jabba and the whole scene smacks of racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against Asians and Orientals as people with deceitful and criminal personalities.”
The group has contacted Lego and has asked that the toys be removed from shelves, threatening legal action. However, Lego denies any intentional resemblance between the toy and a real landmark.
“The Lego Star Wars product Jabba´s Palace does not reflect any actually existing buildings, people, or the mentioned mosque,” a rep for the company said in a statement. “The Lego mini-figures are all modelled on characters from the movie.
“We regret that the product has caused the members of the Turkish cultural community to come to a wrong interpretation, but point out that when designing the product only the fictional content of the Star Wars saga were referred to.”
The Lego news comes around the same time eBay is having some difficulty of their own; the online auction site has banned the sale of "Django Unchained" dolls, due to an overwhelming response from users who say the toys are racist. However, that's not stopping motivated sellers, who are simply taking the ban as an opportunity to jack up the price under a "rare" label.
Image and lead image: Lego
Istanbul's great Hagia Sophia Mosque