Consider this a follow-up to my earlier comments on The LEGO Movie. As you may recall, I had some unkind things to say regarding the movie’s portrayal of gender roles, particularly with regard to Wyldstyle. Would you be surprised to hear that similar complaints have been directed at LEGO in general? I didn’t think so.
People have been complaining for years about the gender imbalance in LEGO’s minifigures and the sexism expressed in the girl-centric “Friends” and the boy-centric “City” product lines. To their credit, Lego has taken note of the complaints and taken some steps to improve matters. In particular, they’ve begun introducing more female minifigs in the City sets. I did an informal survey at a well-known national toy store yesterday and found that roughly 10% of the City minifigs were female*. Not great, but certainly better than the 0% when City was launched.
* Your Mileage May Vary. I was just looking at the sets that this particular store happened to have in stock; the numbers may well differ across the entire product line.
That’s not to say that LEGO can be let off the hook. They clearly have some work to do, as a quick glance at the Fire Chief Car set shows. The mini-movie on the LEGO website is bad enough, showing the male fire chief arriving to rescue the anonymous woman’s cat from a tree. The box for the set pushes the cliché even further: I half-expected a drawing on the back showing the chief claiming the hero’s traditional reward from the hapless maiden.
So kudos to LEGO for making the effort, and I hope they’ll continue to do so, but in the meantime, there is something that every LEGO purchaser can do to improve the situation. Many people seem to treat the concept of a “set” as sacrosanct; let us not forget that the core of the LEGO concept is interchangeable parts.
If you feel that your LEGO world needs more female characters, then make them. In most cases, the only real difference between a male and a female character is the hairstyle; in some cases there may also be facial differences. That makes it easy to swap gender in your minifigs. Observe:
From male construction worker to female with a swap of head and hair.
Heck, you don’t even need the hair in this case. Just changing the face is enough to signal “female”, and her proper use of safety equipment isn’t compromised:
Pushing the envelope a little further, our former Emmet head looks pretty good in Wyldstyle’s western outfit.
And consider how great this technique would be for introducing your child to the concepts of gender identity and body image:
I’d suggest not pushing it too far, however. Wild West Princess Unikitty is… well… just a little scary.