The cool space fighter above was created with bricks from Lego Friends' Butterfly Beauty Shop; Olivia's Invention Workshop; Stephanie's Cool Convertible, and Emma's Fashion Design Studio. It proves one thing: feminists criticising the new Lego Friends sets just don't get it.
When I first saw the new and controversial Lego Friends I hated it too. It wasn't the colours—I like the colours—but those stupid figurines and the branding. I found them as nauseating as the branding and styling of dolls like the Bratz. How could Lego argue that they spent millions in researching these? They were horrible and stereotyping.
Except they are not. Not really, after you play with them.
The pieces on the sets are fine. They are just Lego pieces. Interchangeable, functional, flexible. Neutral. They are not special for girls. The instructions are ok too. Sure, they are for making a beauty shop or a pastel convertible. But kids don't have to follow them.
In fact, they will break them and create new stuff, as it always has happened. That's the whole point of Lego.
I know because I've been building them since the late '70s, the golden era of Lego, when I was a little kid putting bricks together with my brothers and my sister.
But the branding and the figurines still suck. They are "girly". They are far from the Lego ideal, a toy that spans through genres and generations, treating everyone equally. This genius ad is a good proof of this ideal. Does Lego believe that there should be Lego for boys and Lego for girls?
No. Their most popular sets—Lego City, Pirates, Castle, etc.—are bought for both boys and girls. They are genre neutral. Parents buy them and kids are happy with them.
The way I see it, Lego Friends was created to fight the typical toys for girls, stupid and garish. The dreadful Bratz and Barbies of this world. Those are the toys that many girls are asking for. Parents, older siblings or family may try to steer them away from those brainless toys and fail. Just the same way they try to steer boys from other brainless toys and fail. At the end of the day, many girls want the Bratz or whatever is in fashion that year. And many boys want a beeping reproduction of the Millennium Falcon. At the end of the day, they are useless pieces of plastic.
But Lego Friends, as Lego Star Wars or Lego Harry Potter or Lego Sponge bob, are a way to sell Lego to a wider audience. To fight the stupid toys. To give tools to build anything to all those kids. All of a sudden, kids who would never consider neutral Lego themes, like Lego City or Lego Castle, want these Lego sets. They want the walls of Hogwarts and the cute pastel convertible.
And that's good.
Those branded themes are great cash cows for Lego, sure, but they are also the way kids get into Lego. They are a backdoor. Once the radioactive Lego brick bites them, they become hooked. The next time they will want one Lego set just because it seems cool or more complicated. The space shuttle. A Lego creator building. A Technic car. Both girls and boys would pick those and build whatever they want with them.
This Brothers Brick review of these new sets reminded me that it just doesn't matter what's on the box cover. What matters is what kids create with them.
So no, Lego Friends is not an attack or a way to impose roles on kids. It's precisely the contrary. They are the ally; not the enemy. Because, fortunately, building things using your imagination doesn't have anything to do with sex.