Lego for …Robots
I feel pretty lukewarm about the controversial Lego Friends line (Legos for girls). While I think it’s awesome that many of the pieces out of the sets can be used with other Legos to make very cool things, I’m still not thrilled with the company’s presentation of the new line. I think some of their marketing research regarding how girls tend to play makes sense (gee, girls like to see themselves in their toys, who knew?), but there were choices made in how to pursue the findings that I wish had been made differently.
It feels like Lego is playing into standardized “girl” marketing instead of subverting it, and that’s disappointing.
The “Friendfigs” with the mild sexiness (and poor articulation, why?) make my eyes want to roll around out of their sockets. Don’t make special dolls for the girls; make it easier to specifically buy some female minifigs without spending $50+ on a set! Add new hairstyles, I love it. More varied accessories? Hooray! Special “mini-dolls“, though? Gah!
Also, I find that the loudest arguments excusing Lego – that Lego did research and this is what girls want, and that hey look we can make cool things with the sets so clearly there’s no problem – are both disingenuous. Lego’s answer to a low female market-base was to make a separate line for girls, essentially princess (or socialite) Lego, instead of adding inclusive elements to the normal line (like more female minifigures). That you can combine the line with other sets to make something that’s not princess Lego (duh, of course you can, it’s Lego) doesn’t salvage it from heightened scrutiny.
What might salvage it for me is that ultimately, these are still Legos. They appear to be mostly the same bricks you get in other sets. I do enjoy the new colors (it’s not just pinks and purples), and I like the expansion of accessories, and of flower and insect micro-pieces. I’ll vote with my dollars by supporting the Lego sets, including the Friends ones, that I can get behind. And Olivia’s Invention Workshop is one that I like (even while it makes me sad that Lego has a token “smart” girl).
I may be wrong, but after opening this up I think it will be a while before Lana will be able to play with real Legos. I’d forgotten how small they are compared to Duplos! This wasn’t for her though, this was for me, and this is a big part of why I wanted it:
Isn’t the little robot adorable?! Sure, the set has a microscope and little flasks and minifig tools, all awesome, but I’m geeking out over the wee robot. I had a little robot my uncle got me growing up that I still have. If I switch out the green disc on this one’s chest for a red one they’d even look a bit alike. See?
I hope the Friends line comes out with more sets like the workshop and the treehouse. And I hope the regular Lego sets come out with more female minifigs. Despite my conflicted feelings, I hope this new line gets Lego a bigger female market-base, and that the Friends sets work like a gateway to other Lego sets: I think it’s a great toy.
It’ll be a while before I have to concern myself in earnest with the regular Lego sets, though, because most of the time these days I’m not buying for me – and we’ve got a lot of Duplos to play with. But maybe I’ve done some good, spending $10 reinforcing the direction I’d prefer the line go.
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