There's a new, complete translation of Roland Barthes' 1957 Mythologies out. Haven't seen it yet--the Times review is awesome in itself-- but Barthes' brief smackdown of French toys was in the earlier editions:
French toys always mean something, and this something is always entirely socialized, constituted by the myths or the techniques of modern adult life: the Army, Broadcasting, the Post Office, Medicine (miniature instrument-cases, operating theaters for dolls), School, Hair-Styling (driers for permanent-waving), the Air Force (Parachutists), Transport (trains, Citroens, Vedettes, Vespas, petrol-stations), Science (Martian toys).On the one hand, the toyscape's nowhere near as deterministic now as in Barthes' day. But on the other, rereading this 50+yo list reminded me of Alexandra Lange's recent look at the distorted urban socialization kids are getting from Lego playsets. I'm not sure we've come a long way, baby.
Living in Lego City [printmag]