I’m sure most of you are already aware of the “NEW LEGO sets for girls!” to quote the email announcement that arrived yesterday in my inbox. My initial reaction was annoyance.
As far as the advertising goes, that hasn’t faded. To explicitly say these sets are for girls both implies that other sets are for boys and that boys shouldn’t play with these sets. I have a girl who has played for years with all those supposed boy sets, and I know a few boys who would probably thoroughly enjoy these new playsets. So I’m peeved by this, and nothing LEGO has done has alleviated that.
I love the old ad that’s been circulating—when was this approach lost? (As an interesting side note, one of my students used this ad for his ad analysis paper a few years back—he didn’t even mention that the child pictured was a girl until I pointed out that this was unusual. Was that an oversight on his part or an insight into how maybe it doesn’t matter as much to kids—he was 18 and therefore still mostly a kid—who’s pictured in an ad as long as the toys look cool?)
OK, so the ad campaign bugs the crap out of me. And unless they back completely off the “for girls” bit and ideally apologize for it, that’s not going to change. (Do they really think they have to label these sets or we won’t know who should be playing with them? So many issues on so very many levels…)
But what about the toys? I’ll admit that I’ve only looked at pictures on the website, so I don’t have a lot to go on. At first, totally biased against them before even looking at them, I was in fact annoyed by them. I assumed this was one of the rare LEGO missteps. But then I started looking closer and a bit more objectively, and I asked my 11 year old daughter what her opinions were. I’m not saying these are great toys, and we certainly won’t be buying any of them, but I do now have a more nuanced view, assuming I can ignore the advertising campaign.
Some thoughts, based primarily on my daughter’s observations (for context, she’s an avid LEGO fan, spending hours building intricate buildings and sculptures of her own design; she got one of the 3 in 1 house sets for Christmas, which she built immediately; she squee’d for days after she learned that LEGO got the Lord of the Rings license, especially since she’d just said a few weeks before that she wished they would make Lord of the Rings LEGO sets; she and her brother set up Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and Hogsmeade—i.e., the village set repurposed—under our Christmas tree):
- While she would definitely choose Harry Potter and the upcoming Lord of the Rings LEGO sets over any of these, she does find them interesting. She’s likely too old for them, really, so I doubt we’ll ever own any unless someone gives them to us, but they did grab her attention.
- Stories came to her mind when she looked over the toy sets, and honestly the same thing happened for me. She mentioned that these were more appealing to her than the City sets, and I have to agree with her. Not surprising to LEGO, I’m sure, my son and husband are more inspired by the City sets than by the new sets.
- Back in the days when she was getting Polly Pockets and Playmobil sets, we very well might have purchased these instead (probably instead of Polly Pockets—I adore Playmobil). She would spend hours playing with little dolls, setting up houses and scenes. These sets would have fit in perfectly, and they’d have the added benefit of combining with toys we already had in the house, unlike Polly Pockets.
- As Clark pointed out, with most of these sets costing between $6-$20, these are targeted directly at gifts for birthday parties. And if I was getting a present for a 6 or 7 year old girl I didn’t know very well, these would be appealing. Even if you ended up with double sets, it’s LEGO—you can combine them and create something new.
So, I’m still annoyed with LEGO for how they’re talking about and advertising these new sets. To appeal more explicitly to girls, I don’t think they needed to change anything except perhaps their advertising, and I continue to be offended by the implication that girls weren’t and shouldn’t have been playing with other LEGO sets. I’m sure there are stereotypes I could get all worked up about, and I might if I thought my daughter would be playing with these a lot (on the other hand, I do like the inventor’s workshop!).
However, the toys themselves don’t seem like the misstep I assumed they were. These new sets would have fit in well with how my daughter played when she was younger and I don’t have a problem with LEGO trying to fulfill that aspect of her interests as well—they’ll likely do it better than many. Maybe it does fit the stereotypes, but my girl spent probably hundreds of hours playing with toys similar to these, and there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what she chooses to play with.
I just wish LEGO didn’t feel the need to explicitly tell us which kids should and shouldn’t be playing with certain LEGO sets.
(Along those lines, maybe they could add some more heroes without facial hair to the Heroica games? It bugs me that nearly all the heroes are explicitly male, even though it hasn’t stopped my daughter from having a blast with the game.)