A screen grab from the official website for the new line.
By: Victoria Kuglin
Lego recently stirred up controversy when the company announced a launch of Lego Friends, toy sets geared specifically for young girls.
The series of sets exist in the imaginary city of Heartlake, where girls, according to the official website, can “chill with best friends Mia, Emma, Andrea, Stephanie and Olivia.”
Heartlake City is a pastel-coloured, dreamy place, where the buildings you can create are shops, splash pools, and dog show arenas.
When I was ten years old, all I wanted for Christmas was the Lego Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle set. I spent all of Christmas Day putting it together. My dad wanted me to follow the design plan included with the set, but I had other ideas.
I wanted to be creative. I wanted to go crazy. I built secret passageways and trapdoors, I dressed all the Lego figurines, including Snape in his impressive black wig, and spent hours making up adventures for Harry and his magical cohorts.
The last thing on my mind was what colour the Hogwarts blocks were. Really, who cares? They were a nondescript grey colour, the colour you would normally associate with stone. The roofing tiles were black. The “wooden” doors were brown. Those aren’t “boy” colours and they’re not “girl” colours. They’re just real colours.
Kattie Laur, a radio and television arts student at Ryerson University recalls her first Lego set fondly.
“I got a car set when I was about nine or 10,” she said. “You could make helicopters with it too. I made the car and I thought it was sick.”
Laur admits to not only still having the set, but also recently playing with it with her friends. She received a beach resort set a few years later, but said she was fonder of making helicopters than designing ideal vacation residences for her Lego citizens. This raises an overlooked, but important, question. What if the girl simply doesn’t want pink Lego?
The company prefaced this argument by saying they did over four years of research to find out exactly what girls “want.” Nevertheless, the main issue being raised with Lego Friends is that it propagates gender stereotypes.
But the toy industry is no stranger to gender-specific toys. In fact, the new Lego Friends sets bear a striking resemblance to Polly Pocket by Mattel. Hot Wheels showcase boys playing with their cool race cars in commercials. And who could forget the “Friends” episode where Ross tries to convince his son Ben to play with G.I Joe, instead of Barbie?
For years, Lego has been touted as a learning tool for kids, and a chance for them to be imaginative.
“You could do so many different things and you were so proud of it,” said Jessica Walker, an architecture student at Ryerson.
“You just wanted to show your parents every little thing you built.”
She inherited her first Lego set from her older brother. Following the design plan wasn’t high on the list of priorities: her favourite part was how interactive Lego was, and seeing just what cool things you could build on your own.
For target demographics of Lego (ranging from five to eight), block colour probably isn’t all that important either.
“People at our age can see the difference,” said Walker. “But as a kid, I didn’t see the difference between pink and brown blocks. They were all just Lego to me.”
After I had spent about two weeks with my Hogwarts castle, I dismantled it and rearranged it again. I recall missing mealtimes because I was so engrossed in creating my own world, one that could be endlessly altered and forever entertaining. I gave Harry Snape’s wig, which caused much hilarity to my parents. I traded Hermione’s face for Harry’s body.
At this point, the colour of the blocks didn’t matter; it didn’t even matter what the original intent of design was for the set. My only concern was what kind of world I could create next with it.