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Children haven’t changed, but adults who market to them have.
February 11, 2014 7:10 PM   Subscribe

The Little Girl from the 1981 LEGO Ad is All Grown Up, and She’s Got Something to Say
posted by flapjax at midnite (51 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Word of caution parents of the world. LEGOs will turn your daughters into naturopaths.

Best go with GoldieBlox so that they will be real doctors.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:41 PM on February 11 [17 favorites]


I don't know that adults have changed as much as is suggested. The cartoons of the era (and the commercials that ran with them) were heavily targeted.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:43 PM on February 11


Gender-segmented toys may double corporate profits, but always seem to result in for-girls versions that are somehow just a little bit less. I say, let’s give girls more. Any reason not to??

"LEGO Friends" does offer more. (Give me "inventor" over "fireman" any day!)
But it comes in a purple box so kill it with fire, or something?
posted by anonymisc at 7:45 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]


To give some context for older Lego targeted toward girls: The Lego Girl Graveyard. Friends is the latest iteration.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:46 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


I don't know that adults have changed as much as is suggested. The cartoons of the era (and the commercials that ran with them) were heavily targeted.

Not She-Ra: Princess of Power, the girl version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:48 PM on February 11


"I say, let’s give girls more. Any reason not to??" - If you can find the investors, then go for it.
posted by Ardiril at 7:53 PM on February 11


While we're on Lego-grognard cultural critique:
Oddly, The Lego Movie features ramshackle designs intended to invoke the free spirit of individual play and imagination. [...] But the bulk of the tie-in sets feature these supposedly spontaneous and unplanned designs. What was shown as individual and unique is now mass produced for your consumption.
James Orbesen: Legoland Lost
posted by RogerB at 7:53 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


My only problem with the Friends line is that the figures aren't the same size as the minfigs. I get the reasons for that, of course, but I do think it separates it out from the rest of the Lego line.

Looking at the sets, they seem to advocate independence and compassion. They seem to be about women running businesses or pursuing their passions (such as caring for animals or performing -- like magic or karate!). I'm failing to see how those are bad things.

I completely understand that gender segmentation with toys absolutely puts both girls and boys into specific segments, but I do get so tired of "if it's pink, it's BAD!" I do feel like there's this tendency to treat typical "male" qualities as the superior ones -- and even worse, treat typical "female" qualities as inferior.

I read through the piece linked a couple of times and I kind of felt like the writer was trying to shape Rachel Giordano's experiences into what she wanted them to be (after all, she picked the Lego set she's featured with). I think it may have been more interesting if Giordano was allowed to make what she wanted with the pieces in the set. After all, no one is saying kids only have to make those specific models with their Legos. Or maybe the journalist character can go report on more about cake if the girl wants her to.
posted by darksong at 8:03 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]


From the James Orbeson link: No kid buys a Lego set of the Batcave to build and rebuild whatever they can conceive — they build it for the Batcave.

Has the author seen kids playing with Lego? My son has a small number of vehicles he doesn't disassemble (the red getaway car, because it's "Daddy's car" - the minifig that looks like me is usually driving it, and the big police vehicle and fire truck, because he likes them as they are) but nothing else is sacred. Even the ones he doesn't disassemble get modified - extra lights and other bits - but pretty much anything he builds or that we build together has a limited lifespan before he takes it apart and builds something new. My nephews are the same way. The only people I know who buy massive kits and build exactly what it says on the box are adults: As cool as I think the X-Wing and Tie Fighter kits are, they wouldn't be toys if I bought them, they'd be models. My kid? He'd build the X-Wing and then turn it into something else.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:04 PM on February 11 [15 favorites]


Not She-Ra: Princess of Power, the girl version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe?

ActingTheGoat, no, but ABC's Saturday morning lineup (fall '81) did include "Laverne & Shirley in the Army." See the networks' schedules here.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:05 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Beyond the gender stuff, I think something has really been lost by the switch from "box of bricks you can use to build whatever" to "box of PREDETERMINED TOY!, broken up into little pieces for you to assemble". The before-and-after pics in the article tell something of that story, too. Most of the so-called boy's Legos don't look like much fun either. The girl's Lego branding just seems like an attempt to make the Lego experience even more prescribed and rote. Instead of just being something for kids to create with, it's pre-made STAR WARS for boys over here, pre-made girly-ass stuff for girls over there. Lego shouldn't have detailed instructions. Jeez, it's like Ikea for kids!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:05 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Back in my day there was Fabuland, which managed to have adorable characters and still be non-gendered. That Lego cat carrying baguettes home from the bakery in its little backpack was the shit, I tell you what.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:07 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I miss the 1970's lego kits, which were flat trays with cardboard lids that could be lifted in the store to reveal the bricks under cellophane in their trays, neatly sorted by type. They came with little hint manuals for things that could be made but the name of the kit itself was something like LEGO 360 for the number of pieces.
posted by localroger at 8:08 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]


The sets of general basic bricks still exist. That's what we tend to buy for our kids, and the grandparents get the fancy sets. (Most of which, as live frogs said, eventually get broken up too. Everything but Star Wars sets. You DO NOT DISASSEMBLE the Star Wars spaceships, on pain of death, apparently.)
posted by gerstle at 8:16 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


I have 2 daughters. I grew up with 3 sisters. I am male. I played with dolls...and the Legos we had were about enough to make a rectangular house that was impossible to break apart without a little blood. My sisters played with Legos, and a cool Winnebago camper. We played board games. And cards. Once, I put nail polish on, but my neighborhood friend told me that the other kids would pick on me because they'd call me a sissy, so I took it off. It was purple and glittery.

I played football, baseball, basketball, tennis, hide and seek, cops and robbers, dodgeball, four square...all of these games, except for basketball, I played with my sisters.

My kids like Friends, pink, dolls, etc.. It sucks, but they also get out and about. They get to play with computers, binoculars and my guitars. They tend towards dance vs. sport...but they both swim.

Ever since I was a boy, I have picked up on the gender-based biases, marketing and general weirdness. It is virtually inescapable. All I can say is, I enjoyed my army men. Some things are good for a boy or a girl to have as their own. I can't stand walking through the Toys 'R Us...most of the boy toys are about killing, fighting and racing. At least the girls get magic, fairies, dolls, families, houses, horses, dress up, make up...and to a large extent, the Arts. I am more against the marketing towards boys than towards girls...just came to that conclusion writing this comment.
posted by Chuffy at 8:17 PM on February 11 [7 favorites]


Here's the LEGO Friends kid featured in the current-day remake - it's a news van to "break the big story of the world’s best cake," with a make-up table in the news van, and as the article points out, real news vans don't have make-up tables (though I will say that it appears to my untrained eye that on-the-spot newscasters are made up to some degree, so there is some styling of hair done before getting on camera, I would assume).

It's a sight betterh than the soft pink and blue of the Paradisa gated community, but still unnecessarily gendered. I guess it's to off-set the sheer number of male minifig heads LEGO now includes in kits. Yes, some can be gender neutral, but there are a number of heads with facial hair or stubble, and very few with the trademark LEGO lady pouty red lips.

And if you're looking for the generic box of bricks, check out Craigslist for folks selling off their kids' bins of bricks, or official LEGO brick boxes (link to a 2007 Brick Box).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:20 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


My only experience with Lego was a set for girls where you constructed a house. Although I only built it once or twice, I actually really loved it. It was pink (my favorite color) and I was proud of myself for being able to recreate it by sight from the picture on the front of the tab.

I was very girly, I enjoyed makeup and was obsessed with the color pink, I loved playing alone and with friends. Sometimes I feel dismayed reading articles and opinion pieces saying if your daughters play with those things, it's very likely to create a negative future for her, ie. she won't grow up to be a feminist or have non-stereotypical careers or pursuits. As if it's a guarantee.

I truly understand the predicament, the issues with associating toys with gender and why that's problematic but I also feel like we don't give young kids credit with how they play and what they imagine.

In all the ways my parents made political statements I'm glad they didn't do it with my toys.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:30 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


If you've ever had kids playing with Legos for years and years, you know that the kits rarely stay intact for long, and will eventually be integrated into something imaginitive. The author got that wrong too I think.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:35 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Ten years ago, I worked for Lego. The number of parents who came in looking for, at a minimum, the Belville line (or preferably another older line that I don't remember the name of)...and got Clikits? Really, really high.

The worst part about Clikits was that they were flimsy bits of plastic lines with plastic beads and the occasional fabric flower. There was absolutely nothing Lego-like about them and they were boring. Just about their only saving grace was that they came in orange and blue as well as pink and purple but, given the clientele who did buy Clikits, that just meant we were always out of the pink and often out of the purple, and orange languished in a corner.

It was not a good time to be a young Lego-loving girl once said girl aged out of Dora duplo.
posted by librarylis at 9:47 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall an article that came out when Lego Friends were introduced where Lego was asked why girls were being targeted differently than boys. Their answer was that they had found out in play test studies over the years and analyzing the successes and failures of their old Belleville and Clikits lines that most girls played with Legos differently than boys; that girls tended to be more interested in the role play aspect while boys tended to be more interested in the construction aspect.

That wasn't to say that they thought ALL girls tended towards role play or that ALL boys tended towards construction; just that in terms of opportunities for sales growth, they wanted to find a way to engage MORE girls with Lego products, seeing as that between their licensed toys and their core business (bricks & Legoland sets), they had penetrated pretty much as far as they were ever going to get among boys in terms of construction and role play. (Yes, horrible,I know-- Lego is business that exists to make money. Oh, the humanity).

That's why the Lego Friends aren't in minifig scale and are more realistic looking; they found that most girls wanted a figure they could identify with and then would build vehicles/buildings & environments to act out stories around their figue(s); whereas most boys would build vehicles and buildings first and then create stories and characters to use them. I honestly don't know if any of their research was valid or if that was all corporate PR hokum but that was what they were saying.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:57 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


My only problem with the Friends line is that the figures aren't the same size as the minfigs. I get the reasons for that, of course, but I do think it separates it out from the rest of the Lego line.
And even that's not quite true. The Friends minifigs are a few millimeters taller than the regular minifig and they don't have the indentations on the butt and leg that let them sit down on tabbed surfaces, but they fit everything else. Heads, claw hands, and feet are of the same specs as regular minifigs.

Here's a pic I just took of "Danielle" (Friends) and my Star Wars AT-AT pilot; after I disassembled his ride and mixed up the pieces with my daughter's stash, "Stan" the pilot was quickly re-employed as the security guard of the new Heartlake City bakery.

"Stan", by the way, is also wearing "Emma's" hairpiece. I think he's thinking of taking over the salon next door.
posted by micketymoc at 10:26 PM on February 11 [9 favorites]


When I see all the variety in mini-fig* options and accessories I get all "kids these days!" and "I used to have to walk 8 miles in the snow..." I don't recall having enough mini-figs in my collection of Legos and having to use those roofing pieces (red wedge shapes) as ersatz heads on small box bodies.

*My first thought when I see the word "mini-fig" is to think of teeny tiny delicious figs.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:40 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I was dismayed by the new Lego sets — especially the ones "for girls" — while I was Christmas shopping last year.

What I found is that, if what you want is a lot of generic blocks for less than the cost of one of the licensed sets, try searching Amazon for "Lego" under the "Industrial and Scientific" sub-site. There you'll find things like 884 blocks of various sizes and colors for about $50, i.e. about the same price as the 405 piece "Ultimate Building Set".

If you're into something a little more structured, there's an entire 1,907 piece town for $200 or the Rescue services set with '70s-style Lego ambulance, fire, and police vehicles for $140.

Point being, the Lego y'all remember is still out there. It's just that the marketing people at Lego North America HQ in Connecticut have fallen for the focus group fallacy.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:57 PM on February 11 [10 favorites]


Except they're making money hand over fist, kids still love Legos.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:22 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


while I was Christmas shopping last year.

NEVER EVER buy toys during Christmas season. Oh yeah, and Bricklink.
posted by FJT at 11:53 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I'm in my forties. Growing up in the UK, my impression culturally was that girls who played with "boys" toys were a bit of a tomboy and that was alright, but boys playing with "girls" toys was a bit cissy, and not really.

I'm not sure how it is today, but my hope has always been that one day it will be normatively ok for kids to play with whatever toys they want to pick up. In my opinion the bigger problem isn't that there is a range of toys available but that they are considered socially to be specific to a particular gender role.

Do manufacturers not make many female toy soldiers or male toy nurses because they want to enforce a stereotype or is it more that they don't think they'll sell? I think society at large plays a bigger role than the toy makers in those decisions.
posted by walrus at 4:01 AM on February 12


Oo, I hadn't seen Bricklink--that looks promising. We found some nice sets second hand, yard sales and such. There are often some pieces missing, but it turns out that's even more fun. You can go to the lego.com site, where there are two options: Bricks and Pieces has replacement parts and instructions organized by sets, and Pick-a-Brick has lots more individual pieces by part serial number.

We managed to request all the tiny but crucial pieces we were missing from a nice vintage x-wing fighter. Best of all, for several requests, the lego company sent them to us completely free! I guess since the shipping was going to cost more than the parts themselves they decided to just be nice and make the whole thing a present. That was just as fun as building the x-wing, in my opinion.
posted by TreeRooster at 5:30 AM on February 12


it's a news van to "break the big story of the world’s best cake," with a make-up table in the news van, and as the article points out, real news vans don't have make-up tables (though I will say that it appears to my untrained eye that on-the-spot newscasters are made up to some degree, so there is some styling of hair done before getting on camera, I would assume).

I was just thinking about this. It seems pretty lame at first glance, and from an adult perspective. But the author of the article is omitting the video production table and computer work station that's also in the van.

I've been involved in designing a couple of LEGO sets. The design process is tricky. It's not just about creating something cool. There are certain criteria for marketing that factor into the set design. The set must be identifiable on the front of the box. The play features must be apparent and understandable at first glance. Given these requirements, let's consider what you can do with a $25 set budget.

The bulk of the bricks are going to the news van. So that leaves you a few extra for your accessories and news story play feature. They have a news desk, and a weather map. Ok, those are news-y things to have. What else do you see on local news? You're not going to have anything tragic like a murder scene, or complex like national politics that's going to work for a LEGO playset. The cake is easy to understand. It's a huge cake with a "#1" sign on it. Obviously it won a contest. Kids love cake, too, so you've got that. Also, there's a LEGO Friends Bakery set, so there's a marketing tie-in bonus.

Its easy to scoff at the cake as being a "women belong in the kitchen" idea, but a big cake like that is usually made by a bakery shop. There's nothing shameful about a woman who owns her own bakery and makes big awesome cakes.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:44 AM on February 12 [14 favorites]


It's irritating that the cameraperson is a guy though! It also implies he's the one using the editing suite while the girl uses the giant lipstick... And the description reads weirdly controlling to me, not only forcing a single news story (there's pictures of the cake glued to the inside of the van), but laying out the order of play (cake, then weather).

Its easy to scoff at the cake as being a "women belong in the kitchen" idea

It's easy to scoff at it because, I mean, seriously? It's like a parody of women newscasters getting non-stories. When I played News as a rosy-cheeked innocent it was wall-to-wall rescues and natural disasters.
posted by Erasmouse at 6:05 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Call me a traditionalist, but where I come from, Legos are for boys only. Girls get Fischertechnik.
posted by miyabo at 6:09 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


you can still buy the same damn legos for girls! but now if your daughter didn't like the colors or whatever of the action-oriented lines, there are more options. how is this not a good thing
posted by MangyCarface at 6:24 AM on February 12


I still remember when Lego didn't have guns, because the founder didn't think they were appropriate for toys. I miss those days.
posted by scruss at 6:45 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


It's easy to scoff at it because, I mean, seriously? It's like a parody of women newscasters getting non-stories. When I played News as a rosy-cheeked innocent it was wall-to-wall rescues and natural disasters.

Design challenge: depict a rescue or natural disaster using ~20 pieces and no minifigures. Go.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:45 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I still remember when Lego didn't have guns, because the founder didn't think they were appropriate for toys. I miss those days.

I remember the pirate sets in the late 80s having incorporated muskets and pistols alongside the cutlasses. Plus the cannons. They're not modern weapons, but they're definitely guns.

A search for "guns" at the brickipedia has the earliest gun showing up in 1982 in the space sets as a blaster/bazooka.

Or going back even further, there's the Halvautomatisk Legetöjspistol sold in 1945, which was the subject of Lego's first patent, and which predates the plastic bricks by four years.
posted by talitha_kumi at 8:09 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Your earliest gun, talitha_kumi, is from about 5 years after my regular Lego brick years.
posted by scruss at 8:29 AM on February 12


Design challenge: depict a rescue or natural disaster using ~20 pieces and no minifigures. Go.

Natural disaster? Easy. Dump those 20 pieces in a pile on the floor: tornado!
posted by asperity at 8:30 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


The thing about pink Legos is that a little girl in a less forward-thinking family might end up getting Legos she might not have otherwise had. In my family it was just me and my girly older sister and we had girly toys. At some point during my childhood, I got a gift from some relative of two buckets of (one pink, one lavender) SCENTED Logos. (Does anyone else remember these? Google is failing me.) Anyway, I think one was a flower shop or something, hence the scent. The other one was something similarly girly, maybe a bake shop or a beauty salon. But if they hadn't existed in this way of being marketed to girls- if the only Legos in existence had been the regular kind- would my relative have been similarly inspired to get them for me? I have no idea but somehow I doubt it since these are the only Legos I ever got as a kid.

As a data point, I also mostly used the bricks to just build whatever while the 'special' pieces and accessories stayed in the bucket. Being pink and scented was a little weird but did not prevent them from serving the essential function of Lego, which is building stuff=fun. And their pinkness is not preventing me from graduating medical school and entering a male-dominated, procedure-heavy specialty.

So yeah, pink Legos may be irritating to parents who don't want gender roles forced on their kids. But for all the families out there who still do mindlessly adhere to gender roles, at least their daughters have a shot at playing with Legos too. Mine were among my favorite toys. I doubt my parents would have ever just agreed to buy me a set of regular Lego, or thought to do it on their own.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:36 AM on February 12


. . . pink . . .

Straight Dope
In the 1800s most infants were dressed in white, and gender differences weren't highlighted until well after the kids were able to walk. . . . By mid [19th] century baby clothing in colors other than white had begun to appear . . . gender-based distinctions were slow to emerge . . . But from the 1890s onward, boys' and girls' clothing styles started to diverge . . . for reasons that remain obscure.
A 1905 Times article said [pink for boys, blue for girls], and Parents magazine was still saying it as late as 1939. Some argued that pink was a close relative of red, which was seen as a fiery, manly color. Others traced the association of blue with girls to the frequent depiction of the Virgin Mary in blue.
After [WWII] the tide shifted permanently in favor of blue as a boy's color.
William Gainesborough’s “Pink Boy”
Painted in 1783. Gainsborough’s more famous “Blue Boy” (1770) is paired in the public imagination and in California with “Pinky”, which is not Gainsborough’s, but Thomas Lawrence. (None of these are the names given the work by the artists.)

18th Century “court dress for men” in pink
You can find lots of other examples.

Jay Gatsby’s pink suit
"And you found that he was an Oxford man."
“An Oxford man!” He was incredulous. “Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.”
“Nevertheless he’s an Oxford man.”
[Later]
I hadn’t gone twenty yards when I heard my name and Gatsby stepped from between two bushes into the path. I must have felt pretty weird by that time, because I could think of nothing except the luminosity of his pink suit under the moon. . . .
[Later still]
His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps, and I thought of the night when I first came to his ancestral home, three months before.
Time magazine, 1927
In Belgium, Princess Astrid, consort of the Crown Prince, gave birth a fortnight ago to a 7-lb. daughter. Said despatches: "The cradle . . . had been optimistically oufitted in pink, the color for boys, that for a girl being blue."

Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America -- Jo B. Paoletti (upcoming)
It's really a story of what happened to neutral clothing.' . . . While pink and blue and other pastel colors were introduced as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, it wasn't until just before World War I that they had any gender specificity. And not until much later that they were set in stone like today.
[I]t easily could have gone the other way - with pink being for boys, and blue for girls. According to a June 1918 article in Earnshaw's Infants' Department, a trade publication: 'The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.'
Pink and blue became the gender norms in [the 1940s] with the rise of manufacturers and retailers. Baby boomers girls wore pink, and boys wore blue. But then following generations rebelled against that definition.
Consumerism was a large driver in solidifying the gendered colors. Retailers found that the more they honed in on the gender, the more they sold. . . . 'All of a sudden it wasn't just a blue overall; it was a blue overall with a teddy bear holding a football.'
posted by Herodios at 8:42 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Design challenge: depict a rescue or natural disaster using ~20 pieces and no minifigures. Go.

Done! Disaster to be played by My Room, as in, "Your room is a disaster area young lady!" "Doot doot doot doot doot doot..." *newsvan vrooom* "Reporting LIVE from the scene of the disaster, this is Lego News!" (I also splurged on a portable sat in a suitcase, for when they have to climb the laundry pile. And made the camera person/producer a girl for the love of pete).

I mean, I don't object to cake stories, I object to cake stories being BAKED IN (hah) as the news you're 'supposed' to do. Are you really meant to report the cake story over and over and over again? It's not just sexist (though, I mean, come on, it's totally sexist, in the official pictures of the toy in action it's the GUY doing the editing and driving while the girl puts on makeup), it's a weird way to do a 'news' toy. You have to physically peel off or cover up the cake pictures to do anything else.

The cake is easy to understand. It's a huge cake with a "#1" sign on it. Obviously it won a contest. Kids love cake

Of COURSE a 'boy' news toy would use a cake contest as the only possible thing anybody could come up with. At least in a world where everyone's imaginations are stunted by playing with these over-scripted toys.

So yeah, pink Legos may be irritating to parents who don't want gender roles forced on their kids. But for all the families out there who still do mindlessly adhere to gender roles, at least their daughters have a shot at playing with Legos too.

I actually think the Friends series is a neat idea, I just really don't like the way it's still leans sexist in really unnecessary ways. Would grandpa not give a girl a toy with a female cameraman in case it turned her into a lesbian? Well.. maybe they wouldn't and we still live in a society where it would feel uncomfortably 'political' to put a female camera operator on a toy. I just find it depressing is all.
posted by Erasmouse at 8:45 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


The cake is a lie.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:31 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


My daughter and sons all love Lego and we have an embarrassing number of them. A few are Friends sets. I find them odd in marketing and the fact that the Friends people don't work with regular minifigs, but once they're out of the box the pink and purple pieces mostly just become part of the next castle or car or modern art piece or spaceship. I don't think it's right the way they are marketed but I think some of the reaction is overblown. My daughter plays with the 'boy' sets a much as my son has an American Girl doll in his room (but it's a boy 'twin', so he calls it his American Boy doll). The issue seems to be much more about parents not having an open mind than the marketing. I can teach my kids to ignore the marketing.

Marketing confession though. I had interesting feelings when I first saw that ad in about '81 or '82 because Lego! and redhead pigtails! and she builds weird things that are not color coded or square like me! She's exactly my age, so I'm not that creepy...
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:07 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


You have to physically peel off or cover up the cake pictures to do anything else.

IIRC, most LEGO sets that have those sticker pieces, come with them still unadhered. So, if you don't want cake-vision, you don't have to have cake-vision. And that's just part of the customizability . If you don't want a male cameraman, pop his head off and put another head in. If you don't want to report on cake, well, that's not a cake anymore, it's a rocket. I think that's what a lot of kids end up doing, and I think LEGO is kind of aware of this. Sometimes I think the advertising is more for adult purchasers than kid users.

For me, a lot of the problems are with LEGO advertising, which needs to show boys and girls playing with ALL the sets.
posted by FJT at 11:55 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I have to say that the thing about the '81 ad that most struck me was the centrality of text. Find me a kids toy ad (or damn near any print ad) that has half so much text today.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:21 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I think the article is coming from good intentions, but wrong in so many ways.
However, thinking about Lego's product lineup, I do think girls could be better served if the technic line had more than vehicles in it. Technic is best suited for mechanisms and vehicles, and these sets are fantastic, but a lot of parents (and relatives) just skip over trucks when looking for a gift for a girl, so a lot of girls will not get much chance to play with Technic, and that is a real loss because Technic is (IMO) where the educational side of Lego really kicks into high gear.

Mindstorms (Technic robotics and programming) is designed for a broad audience, but "robot" is up there with "truck" on the list of things people won't buy as gifts for girls, and generally a kid gets to Mindstorms via regular Technic anyway. A lot of people won't splash out on a kit that expensive without already knowing the kid would use it.

Fun Design Challenge:
What would be a great Technic set that could play to the strengths of Technic (ie mechanics, electronics, pneumatics, programming) yet bypass that machines-are-for-boys mindset of buyers? My first thought was a Lego hamster-wheel that drives a motor as a generator to illuminate a light, but that's clearly a terrible product idea.

There was a NASA line of Technic, which was great, but I suspect that buyers put spaceships and rovers in the same category as trucks and robots.

People will buy Harry Potter sets for girls, but a technic Hogwarts Express would no doubt be dismissed as a boys toy. A playset based on the Hogwarts Grand Staircase might offer some use for Technic parts, but doesn't strike me as a good Technic set. Also, replacing magic with mechanics probably isn't something you can take too far with that IP.

I don't know, what are some highly mechanical things that aren't vehicles, things that buyers would be inspired to buy as a gift for a girl?
posted by anonymisc at 2:11 PM on February 12


Done!

That's a sketch of the reporter at the scene of... nothing. That wouldn't make it on the box.

I appreciate what you're trying to do, I really do.

I don't disagree that we should leave things unscripted. My beloved LEGO System Space sets from the early to mid 80s were unscripted.

But that's not how LEGO does things these days. Their claim is that kids now have a lot less time to play unscripted and need something to jump start them.

I don't know if I buy that, but that's their thought process. They have their focus groups and all that.

Well.. maybe they wouldn't and we still live in a society where it would feel uncomfortably 'political' to put a female camera operator on a toy.

It must be incredibly challenging for LEGO to design sets. They include a male camera guy and they get accused of implying that women can't use cameras or edit video.

Did you consider that the reporter job is the more senior of the two? He works for her. She gets to be on TV. She's his boss. She makes more money.

They have a male figure in the box because the Friends line is mostly female figures. It's a $25 set, so it includes a male figure for variety. One of the product shots shows him driving, the back of the box shows her in the driver's seat.
posted by Fleebnork at 2:16 PM on February 12


I don't know, what are some highly mechanical things that aren't vehicles, things that buyers would be inspired to buy as a gift for a girl?

Hotel- or restaurant-themed devices: elevators, escalators, lights, sound systems, shower/bath/pool/fountain, conveyor belt.

Passenger vehicles (vs the boy-branded construction trucks). Working train car or bus for stuffed animals? Yes, please.

Automated animals with approximately correct musculoskeleture.

Fiber arts equipment: automated loom, spinning machine, sewing machine. I was reading something recently by a woman who built herself a swift (used to position yarn while winding it into balls) out of her kids' Legos -- that's a low-tech example, but also: awesome!

Camera. Stand mixer. Pretzel-twisting machine. Swiss Family Robinson-style treehouse. One of those jewelry boxes that plays music and has a little twirling dancer inside. A player piano. A treasure chest/diary/something with an automated, programmable lock.

I would like kits for all of these, please. I cannot express how much ten-year-old me would have loved a kit with which to build a real working doll elevator.
posted by a fair but frozen maid at 3:27 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Of those ideas that work as stand-alone-toy products, several actually exist or existed. (Though I think passenger vehicles get just as skipped over by buyers for girls as trucks and planes do.) There have actually been multiple not-boy-branded treehouse sets, but it's hard to hold a candle to Lego's Ewok village :D )

I'm not aware of there having been a fibre arts machine set - that strikes me as a great Technic set!
There would also want to be a more advanced set - a mindstorms (computerized) loom or knitting machine that allows programmable patterns and messages.

That would so rock.
posted by anonymisc at 4:00 PM on February 12


Knitting machine hacks occasionally pop up on hackaday. Seems like a slower toy-grade version should be considerably cheaper and easier to create than a 3D printer.
posted by localroger at 4:04 PM on February 12


Lego Mindstorms loom weaving a scarf :)
posted by anonymisc at 4:10 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


That is the coolest thing ever. Clearly I need to become obsessed with LEGO.
posted by a fair but frozen maid at 7:19 PM on February 12


Clearly I need to become obsessed with LEGO.

Man, I don't want to discourage you...but it is a money sink. I spent 4 hours today hunting for discount sets.
posted by FJT at 6:14 PM on February 13


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