Since the launch of Lego Friends, there has been a lot of (well deserved) noise on the internet. Why? Well… that’s a great question, and when i posted the following videos on my facebook page I was met with a WHO CARES from someone on my friends list. Who indeed. One of the biggest arguments is that this is purely a capitalist move – and no-one is saying that it isnt. However, the CEO of Lego has based his decisions on research that follows a model of biological determinism which claims there are inherent differences between Males and Females present from birth. This is the research which claims that boys are better at math and girls prefer faces. Girls like to nurture, and boys like to beat things up. There isnt really any basis for these claims and more research has refuted them than actually backed them up which makes one wonder WHY Lego is basing their new products off this and supposed years of market research.
As Sarkeesian highlights in the first video, Lego has tried the girl centred sets before in various guises, and each has failed to capture the market – which is a stark contrast to earlier Lego and marketing campaigns pre 1985, when Lego was marketed as a gender neutral toy which fostered creativity, co-operation and play. A quick search on the internet indicates that parents are crying out for more girls lego sets – which shows that Girls DO WANT to play with Lego but due to the current branding, they feel locked out of the Lego Universe. Yet, the furore over the new Lego Friends range suggests that girls and parents alike don’t feel that the pink polly pocket-esque playsets really fill the gender void that girls wish it did.
The Lego Friends sets as you will see do little to promote the key draw cards of Lego which are building and constructing and playing – rather they focus on play from a very gendered perspective – and while (as Sarkeesian states) the focus on friendship and in extension female business owners and so forth is actually a positive aspect of the new playsets, the bad really outweighs the good. The buildings of Heartlake City certainly don’t have the complexity of those seen in the Lego City playsets – or even the Harry Potter playsets (which are a lot more gender inclusive). The Lego Friends girls are bigger than the original mini figs and sport ruffled skirts, capris and tank tops in a myriad of female and pastel colours. Stephanie, a blonde haired mini fig likes to plan parties! and she likes Bunnies and Dogs. Emma – who owns the butterfly beauty shop likes to give her friends makeovers. The two positive girls in the Friends Universe are Mia (who loves sports) and Olivia who likes to invent things and build things and hang out with her friends (possibly in her incredible tree house!). Both these characters have probably the more complex sets to build, however they dont allow the rebuild features which are offered in many male centered sets. Possibly the saddest thing about Heartlake city however is that it is meant to sit seperate from Lego City which is identified as a Male Centred universe. Lego could have made Heartlake city more inclusive had they A/ allowed the girls sets to be integrated into the already existing City sets, and B/ not changed the mini figs to the horrible things they are now. The new sets re-enforce pre-existing limiting gender stereotypes, completely ignoring an opportunity to instead create something exciting and new.
But now, I will pass it over to Anita.
Lego and Gender Part 1
Lego and Gender Part 2
Beauty and the New Lego Line For Girls – Ms. Magazine