Friday, March 23, 2012

Bats, Legos, and perception

Recently I got a letter from Bat Conservation International ( concerning a new Lego game, Heroica and its portrayal of bats as monsters.

As BCI stated in their e-mail: "It is unfortunate that Lego, a leader in children's toys, chose to perpetuate this outdated myth and reinforce baseless fears of such beneficial animals. For centuries, myths and misinformation have led to declines in bat populations. Without bats, humans would be in serious trouble."

BCI requested that people contact Lego in protest. Unfortunately, I didn't save the message I sent. But the gist was that I felt they were perpetuating bad information and encouraging children to be afraid of bats.

Here is part of the Lego response: "There is a long tradition for using animals as icons when creating stories that trigger the imagination of children. Children are able to distinguish between fantasy and real life, and we believe that playing this board game will not encourage them to harm living animals."

That's ridiculous. Yes, I expect children to understand that unicorns, werewolves, ogres, and orcs are fantasy. (And if you are not, I apologize.)

But bats are not fantasy creatures. Bats are living animals with a public relations problem. They don't need to be cast as monsters in a game.

I'll tell you why I joined Bat Conservation International in the first place. Because I was irrationally terrified of bats.

I lived in a house out in the Iowa countryside where critters tended to get inside. I had a plethora of mice, a couple birds, a squirrel, and even a snake enter the house. Not one of them bothered me as much as it did when a bat got into the house.

I was freaking terrified.

Lego expects a child to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. At that same age, I was exposed to the Dracula and vampire mythology. I was told that bats will get tangled into your hair. That they will bite you, and drink your blood.

None of it true. All of it fantasy.

And it didn't matter. As an adult, I was still terrified.

I researched bats and found these misunderstood creatures are beneficial to human society. Some of them are even cute. I assuage the guilt I felt over my fear by donating money every year to BCI.

Casting bats as monsters will instill that same fear into another generation of children.

I protest.

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