Lego Friends – Why I Am Trying To Like the New “Girls” Theme

Lego FriendsLego Friends have caused quite the controversy in the Lego world – both from fans of the traditional Lego minifigure and from female fans who argue that the unique figures for girls are not necessary.

While I can understand all arguments and was quite prepared to boycot the theme based on first impressions, as I look more and more into the figures and sets I find myself interested, if not completely impressed.

Lego Friends minifigures

Lego Friends MinifiuresIt is the minifigures that cause the major heat amongst fans. There are very powerful and convincing arguments to the effect that girls do not need different styles of minifigures and that deviating from the traditional figure size and style is sexist and damaging for girls’ identity and also the Lego brand.

To some, the larger figures, unique to the Friends theme, will mean that girls will not continue with Lego as they get older. It restricts their ability to play with “the boys” who play with normal sized figures and will limit their choices if they wish to expand into other themes.

There is also the argument that girls don’t need the different, more “feminine” figures and to suggest otherwise is to demean girls.

Those arguments have a point – I have often wondered why Lego chose to persist with a larger figure size for girls, rather than just focussing on making more of their sets “gender-neutral”.

While I continue to hope that Lego will make their sets/marketing/business model more inclusive, I think Friends is a small step forward for the brand, certainly an improvement from the very “pink and fluffy” Bellville which was Lego’s previous attempt to “market to girls”.

Hermione Lego

As a mother I have often felt felt restricted in the selection of Lego sets I could buy for my daughter. As a card-carrying “pink-ophile”, the Belville theme made both myself and my daughter raise our collective fists at the misogynistic segregation of male/female toys…or maybe that was just me. My daughter just said “Ooh yuk!” and went off to play with Calico Critters.

While she likes to play Ninjago, Star Wars, etc with her brother it is really only the Harry Potter theme that attracts her enough to play happily by herself.

I am sure I am not alone when I say that the character of Hermione is a big drawcard for my daughter and her friends-something Lego could probably learn from?

There has been an opening for a new Lego theme, one more appealing to girls for some time and when Lego announced the Friends theme I was secretly hopeful. But as the first images came through of the larger figures I became despondent.

“Not again!” I heard myself saying. “Do we really need this separation/segregation?”

I was completely prepared to buy every other Lego set on the shelf except Friends – my way of protesting :-) But then I looked more and read more, about why Lego designed these sets the way they did. I found myself slowly, grudgingly converting, and I wasn’t the only one.

Contrary to my original resistance, my daughter seems to like the larger figures. She likes the fact that she can role play and interact with them. The larger figures and more emotive faces allow girls to play more intimately with the characters – interacting with them and using them to enact stories, something my daughter loves to do. The sets and the boxes aren’t raging pink and she is drawn to the vet, the workshop and the designer studio while the beauty salon leaves her cold.

My son has already requested a large proportion of the individual pieces in the fancy new colors and he thinks they would make wonderful highlights for his dioramas (good luck with that kiddo!). He likes some of the sets and can see that his figures wouldn’t be out of place in the new environments.

As for me, I really like the style and color of the sets as a whole. I’m not interested in the beauty salon or the “cool car” but the treehouse looks awesome, as does the vet.

And the figures aren’t as bad as I thought – though I can see they may still be sidelined for regular figures over time.

Take a look at a size comparison chart released by Lego. The accessories distributed with Friends sets can be used by the traditional Lego minifigure and really the two are of a similar size that they can co-exist in peace.

Lego Friends Minifigure

So I will be buying some of the the Lego Friends theme for myself and my daughter and I’m sure my son can’t wait to share them with us. Still, I do hope for a return to the 1970’s and 80’s era of Lego play where there were girls and boys featured in regular Lego set advertisements – sharing the joy of their own Lego creations.

This is my favorite Lego advertisement – It says so much about what we have lost for our girls, our kids and our society as a whole, but also shows what we can claim back if we are strong as parents.

Lego What It Is Is Beautiful

You can find out more at our Lego Friends Guide or at the official Lego Friends site.

Comments

  1. I have a 7 year old boy and a 12 year old girl,they are both upset,1,they cant mix their sets and play,and 2 my daughter thinks they are polly rip offs,she feels that the girl colours are great,but the figures, she feels that lego is trying to put girls in a “doll” corner,she said it well,”if I wanted to play with dolls,I would play with dolls,I want to play with minifigs”

    • Yep it’s a fine line.
      I still think regular minifigs would feel quite at home in the Friends sets… but perhaps not vice versa.
      Cheer
      Inger

      • Your right,my kids and I agree, regular minifigs would go great, but I guess new ideas make the world go round, after all minifigs where a new thing once, as I grew up with lego made out of block people,
        Great info site too,why to go

  2. Darren Neave says:

    The last advert you posted on the ‘Friends’ post is amazing, a colleague of mine, had a son who had been invited to a Lego building day to discuss new products that were being released in the next few months.
    I asked him to ask the Lego reps why they don’t bother putting other pictures of other creations what can be built from the themed sets. this includes the City stuff too. They only portray what can be done with the existing set, either a trap door or firing missile. Please bring back some of the ideas that Lego can be built into so many things, despite the fact that the set may include Batman or Poison Ivy, they need to inspire creativity with the pieces that are available in the box!!
    Incidentally the rep who was at the building day dismissed my friend’s son. He was a bit upset!

    • Glad you like that advert Darren, it always makes me sigh a little with hope as I so identify with that little girl but also a little sad when I see both ads and toys directed at girls today.
      I agree Lego could do more with “original creation” ads. They had a few “father and son” tv ads in 2011 which were quite cute.
      The Lego Ideas book from DK is also a winner with my kids.
      cheers

  3. I am a 12 year old girl and enjoy playing Legos with my friends ( who also are girls) and my sister. I believe and my friends belive that the new Lego Friends are demeaning to girls because they seem like little dolls when this is Legos. I think that the colors are cool but all there is in the sets are pet places, a cafa, and girly places like a hair stor. And there is not enough girl minfigs or people. Plus Legos make it seem like they are for boys but I love to play with Legos. And in the Lego City there is a hole ton of buildings but mainly guy minfigs. I mean I love Lego City but that’s about all.

  4. As a father of daughters aged 7 and 4, I was really starting to dread trips to the Lego store for fear of being inundated with more Belleville stuff. I do find the Friends line more palatable. My daughters used their christmas money to each buy a set. I cannot rate the tree house highly enough. I have to resist disassembling it and playing with it myself. The petshow is also nice, but not really to my taste. some of the piece usage is very inventive.

    About the dolls. (I don’t know if I can call them mini-figs) The hair is awesome. I love that the hair is interchangeable with the minifigs. The Pirates of the Caribbean figures in particular look pretty damn awesome with Friends hair. On the other hand, I do not like the arms. Too emaciated with respect to the rest of the already overly thin body. I also was disappointed that the legs do not articulate independently and there is no provision for attaching a sitting doll to the bricks.

    The bodytyping I can understand (even if I still rail against it), the design of the legs is inexcusable, IMHO.

  5. Hi there! I enjoyed your article. My 5 year old plays interchangeably between Knex, lego duplo, and the Friends with no fuss and no complaining. She loves ‘em all.

    We are transitioning, however, from duplo to the smaller bricks and I’m not very well-informed on what is available. Can you please tell me if there is a “mat” or plate that will work for the Friends sets like there is for the duplo?

  6. Hmmm. I really didn’t like Friends when I first saw pictures of the new sets. But I’m gradually coming around. I’d absolutely love to see more female figures in the other Lego sets though, and perhaps there could be more than one Lego line aimed at females? A radical idea!

    • Radical indeed LOL!
      I agree with the concept of more female figures in sets.
      And perhaps more female figures as the center of Lego sets, rather than a token.
      For me, expanding the “City” theme beyond the three pillars of Emergency Services, Train and Airport would be a great start.
      There are so many other options out there; libraries, art galleries, restaurants, hotels, office blocks, etc.
      This would open up scope for a more diverse range of minifigures.
      On another tangent – Lego Fairies would also rock my work :-)
      Cheers
      Inger

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