We bestow our very first Vick — that is to say “Victim Mentality Award” — to a community of Turkish Muslims in Austria who accuse the Lego toy corporation of demeaning Turkish Muslims with their Star Wars Series Jabba’s Palace play kit (Star Wars Lego 9516).
The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria, an actual group with an actual website and everything, claims “the Jabba’s Palace from the Star Wars series is racist because it appears to closely resemble the Hagia Sophia (formerly a mosque) in Istanbul, the Jami al-Kabir mosque in Beirut and a minaret and therefore reinforces negative stereotypes about the Middle East, according to the Austrian Times” (Huffington Post). The group is threatening legal action against Lego if they do not withdraw the play set from worldwide store shelves.
“The terrorist Jabba the Hutt likes to smoke a hookah and have his victims killed,” the group’s website reportedly claims. The group also claims that the sinister nature of the characters occupying the palace, and the fact that they trade slaves and commit murder, are an intended misrepresentation of Muslims.
First of all, I would bet that the vast majority of Turkish Muslims would weigh the facts of this allegation and say, “You gotta be fucking kidding with this bullshit, right?” Now, I won’t hazard a guess whether or not these Austrian Turkish Muslims would be saying all this in Turkish, Arabic, or German.
Second, the Lego Palace Kit is based on how the fictional place appears in the film Return of the Jedi, a worldwide smash of a film that came out in 1984. That’s about 28 years ago, for those of you whose math might be a little slow at the moment. Let’s put that into perspective. 1984 was the year Van Halen released their album, 1984. Germany was still divided between East Germany (commie bastards) and West Germany (post-war soccer freaks). 1984 was when the Detroit Tigers won their most recent World Series championship. (If THAT doesn’t make 1984 sound like a long fucking time ago, I don’t know what I can do for ya.) The point is, the film has been out since 1984, and now the general design of this totally fictitious palace in a totally fictitious movie setting is suddenly a problem?
Third: You wanna know why the Hagia Sofia is so distinctive-looking? It’s because it used to be a Christian cathedral, built by Byzantine Christians in the Roman tradition in the 6th Century and serving as such until it was sacked by Turks in the 1540s and re-purposed into a mosque. So the original design of the Hagia Sofia isn’t really all that far-gone Turkish Muslim in its design origin, save for the minarets they planted there. It’s sort of like the architectural version of Saul Zaentz’s Fantasy Records v. John Fogerty plagiarism lawsuit in the 1980s.
And as far as the palace in the Lego kit looking like the Hagia Sofia? Yeah. It kinda does. It also looks like Seattle’s old Kingdome sports stadium from the 1970s, complete with a sort of Space Needle towering above. How do you think people from Seattle feel about being represented by a giant, hookah-smoking toad? None too groovy, I would wager. But it does beg the question: Does the artificial turf at Jabba’s Palace ever pull loose from the floor at inopportune times?
So since this whole complaint takes on the look of a group trying really, really hard to elevate themselves with outrage over something really, really stupid, we bestow our first Victim Mentality Award to The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria. C’mon, guys. It’s just a play set. Suck it up.