Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Parental Advice: LEGO inside.

Photo Credit: Fryd_Lego
The last few days my social network was buzzing with this great Parental Advice picture, popping up from all sides with a little thumbs up, big smile or just a simple so true ... focusing on the true positive message of creativity and imagination (at least that is how I read it) when we talk about doll houses and space ships alike.

When Fryd posted the image on red.it I am not sure he wanted to start the whole controversy about gender, just launched a hoax or genuinely wanted to share a picture from the 70's.

The buzz got quickly picked up in some other articles like this one here on IFL where the focus shifted really to the gender focus of the latest LEGO Friends series and includes a full featured video of Anita Sarkeesian giving a pink colored overview of the LEGO history since the early 70's including some great sets like Paradisa, Scala and Belleville.

If you have a few minutes to spare, the two video feeds are really worth while watching and reveals a world conspiracy of male domination in the sequel of the series (or just great selective editing skills of Anita ?) and turns LEGO into a dominating evil Big Inc. responsible for male domination.

I am not going to argue with Anita that LEGO has a male, testosterone filled side in some areas and there is a good amount of macho in some of the material shown (now who is the true heroine in The LEGO Movie ?) yet I never felt like LEGO was giving me an unbalanced world view dominated by male supremacy, merely giving me the opportunity to build spaceships and doll house alike.

Now, I may be biased, given that my gender is off the wrong side, but there are so many fantastic great female "legographers" out there that I am curious in your view points ?

Is it worth the discussion ?

Is LEGO crippling our future generation of scientists, astronauts and pirates alike ?

Have you ever considered not to purchase a LEGO set because the amount of male and female characters were not equal ?

Is LEGO stereotyping a whole generation, and we all should stop shooting with the bricks and move on to others like Hello Kitty to safeguard the next generations ?

Your Thoughts ?  

5 comments:

  1. I'm obviously a huge fan, and I don't think LEGO has ever done anything to stifle me - it's stretched me. I made women, they were dead easy, you took the legs off and added a sloping brick - which was always red because it would be a roof part. I was actually gutted when I got the first LEGO Family that there wasn't a Grandad, so I used to make one of those too. I don't see stereotyping in LEGO is any different to the rest of the world, in fact it's actually less restrictive than almost any other toy.
    My 4 and 6 year old boys are both green vision deficient,so their favourite bricks are red and pink, and in fact one of the most popular sets in our house is the Heartlake City Pool, which will feature in my Minifig post tomorrow, or the next day, or when I get chance to write it up!
    Parents and the public gender-stereotype by criticising free-thinking and personal preference, if we let the children be then they can be whoever they want, and with LEGO if they can't see it, they can make it. Women, Men, Aliens or Hobbits or anything else can rule the World. :)

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    1. So true. Spaceships and dollhouses alike :)

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  2. I believe that the Lego Group are also dealing with the same concern everyday, from a commercial point of view since their target sales heavily relies on the answer(s) to this question.

    Since Lego produced the ancestors of today’s modern minifigures back in 1978, they used almost no features to distinguish the characters, rather than those basic hats for the stereotype male and ponytail hair for his female counterpart. They had identically smiling faces with black button eyes, and their skin color was chosen yellow on purpose so that it does not reflect any racial difference. (Note that only a decade back, the people were being killed on streets of US depending on their skin color. –maybe not very different than today..) This may be considered a very clever move for the company for many coming years.

    But things started to change with the first Pirates theme (one of my all time favourites) released back in 1989. The figs were still those yellow guys (and a few gals) but since you could not think of any pirates without eyepatches and long beards (mascular reference, again), the faces began to change. The expression on their face was still that same euphoric smile, but now the men had beards and moustaches while the first female fig with lipsticks came into ranks. In a few years, they would start to differ in terms of facial expressions and this would spread in nearly all Lego themes, Castle and Town to just name a few.

    But the female population were still short in number according to men. Think of all those knights, henchmen, cavalary, pirates and soldiers.. This was not a world for cute ladies! Except of course, the unmistakable “Maiden” of Castle series, the female forest ranger and the female pirate. You will see that these are still amongst the highest priced figs on the web if you can find them in good shape.

    Even the Western series did not attempt to change the iconic yellow skin color in 1996 when they introduced the Indians (natives of America, not that of India) But in time, another iconic property of all figs would start to differ: Their age! Those tiny people were ageless for a long time, and now they started to show their experience of life with white hair and likes, while we were about to see the first children characters with shorter and unmovable leg parts in the coming years.

    Yet, as always, what changed the game was again the commercial concerns. In 2003, Lego Group decided to release the NBA star players theme, an officially licenced one. Now we had figs that resembled the real players, and they had to introduce new skin colors to manage that. (Btw, need one of those heads to make my Bob Marley fig!) After that, Lego Group spread into many officially licenced themes ranging from Super Heroes to the Lord of the Rings, and inevitably new tones of colors spread amongst the figs, reflecting the variety of humanbeings in real life.

    However, the subject was the gender inequality of minifigs, wasn’t it? The introduction of Collectable Series, which took many of us AFOLs back in the game, used the opportunity to fix the problem quite successfully. I did not personally count them but I’d guess at least 1/3 of them or more are females in each series. Add to that the female characters from licenced series (ah, the Wonder Woman!) and dedicated series such as Friends, now it seems a little more balanced, doesn’t it?

    So, let’s go back to the original question and finally finish this unlikely history lesson: Is Lego trying to stereotype the minifig nation and favoring the macho male against the outnumbered females? I believe not. Because I really do not think of them as male or female characters when I shuffle up in my collection. I see them as representatives of real people, and just like in real life, they are humanbeings for me first... Before being male or female, old or young, even hero or villain.

    p.s: Sorry for a comment that exceeds the original post twice in lenght! :)

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    1. Wauw.
      Impressive walkthrough of the history of the minifig.
      You mind if I move this from comments to a full blown post ?

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    2. Would be an honour, if you'd ever do...

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