Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are Legos your Friends?

I love Legos. They're awesome. Legos are whatever you want them to be from houses to trains to monsters to machines. The best thing about them is that there's no limit to what you can make. A big pile of Lego bricks and you're good to go. That being said, a lot of their sets with instructions are pretty awesome.

I have fond memories of the pirate sets from when I was a kid. My husband and I had a castle set when we first got married that was pretty cool. There's a huge Star Wars line and now a new Hobbit line which both make my geeky side grin.

Max has been fond of Legos for quite a while. He has been playing with the Duplo ones for years. His favorites were the zoo sets, the Thomas the Train sets (sadly discontinued), and the Winnie the Pooh sets. Over the last year or so he's been migrating over to the standard little Legos. The flood of Legos into our house exploded over Christmas and his recent birthday, so now he has a quite impressive collection going. His favorite line is the City line. It's all about vehicles; recycling trucks, fire engines, police cars, construction vehicles, etc.
Max's Lego display.

So. Yay Legos. If we ignore the fact that stepping on one in bare feet can make you cry and the fact that when they're a mess they're really a mess, they're almost a perfect toy. But that's not to say that Lego is a perfect company. You may have heard they came out with a new line a while ago, called Friends. Basically, this is Lego's "for girls" line. The internet went nuts over this and I joined them. Michele Yulo over at Princess Free Zone wrote an article about it that I really liked: "Lego and Disney Are Lazy."

What it boils down to is that all existing Legos were fine for girls; why did we need a color-coded set dumbed down and marketed to girls? There were so many other ways to go! If Lego wanted to reach out to the girls' market they could have added girls to their advertising or added some more color variety to all of their sets. Instead, we got something that's basically Lego-does-dollhouse. It's mostly pinks and purples, is centered around very "girly" figures and interests, and the building is pretty elementary. The sets are things like a bakery, a pet salon, and a treehouse. Don't worry about saving the day or building the town, girls; worry about curling Fluffy's hair. Also, there's a lot less challenging building in these sets. They tend to have fewer pieces and make me think more of dollhouse furniture than complicated build projects. Finally, there's the figures themselves. For years little girls (me included) have been playing with Lego minifigs (the Lego people), but with the launch of the Friends line, Lego let us know that these weren't good enough; girls wanted something more like a doll. So the Friends line comes with doll-like figures in mini-skirts. Why?
Stephanie's Outdoor Bakery. Why? A mini-skirt and almost no actual building. Why?!?

I must admit the whole thing made me lose a lot of respect for Lego as a company. That being said, there are some arguments on the pro-Friends side that I agree with. From a strictly Lego-builder point of view, the introduction of the Friends line has meant a bunch of new colored bricks to play with. Pinks, purples, and more blues are all now available for all builders. The same for new shapes; the Friends line has meant some cool new plant shapes and minifig accessories which can then be used in any kind of build project. 

There are also plenty of folks that say that any toys that make building and STEM skills more approachable and acceptable to girls are good, no matter what color they are. I get that, I just think they went to a bad place with the content. The newer Friends sets may have been Lego's first attempt at addressing that. For example, one new set is Emma's Karate Class, featuring a girl minifig in her dojo. So, points for picking a less-stereotypically-girly topic, but they still made it building-lite and more like a couple pieces of dollhouse furniture. Boo. 

So I've been happily mad at Lego and especially the Friends line since they came out. Last night we went to our local Lego store for the free monthly build. (If you didn't know, the first Tuesday of the month Lego stores give a free little set to kids starting at 5pm. Sweet!) It was a little sea turtle last night and Max was really excited. He built it all by himself. 
Max building a mommy sea turtle.

When he finished he wandered around the store drooling over all the Lego sets, and wandered over to the Friends display. He stopped, looked a bit, and said "Are those girl Legos?" 
I winced, but said "Nope, all Legos are for everyone, those just happen to have a pink box."

He moved on, but circled back after a bit. Then he spotted the camper and fell in love with it. He begged, he pleaded, he demanded this cute pink camper van with picnic table. I may hate the whole idea of the Friends line, but if all Legos are for everyone, then I certainly can't protest my son wanting them. So I gritted my teeth and told him that would be a great set to save his allowance for. Dad even decided to spoil him a little for having waited patiently in the very long line to get our free Legos and got him a little Friends mini-set. It's a tiny little turtle in a little turtle-hut, so Max promptly decided the free set was its Mommy turtle, and that was that. I even have to admit that's it's crazy stinkin' cute. Drat! Foiled in my hatred by cuteness!
The Adventure Camper in question.

So, I still stand by my disgust with the ideas that prompted the Friends line, but I guess I'll have to grudgingly get on board with having them around. Hopefully, Lego will listen to the backlash and maybe either incorporate the Friends line into the rest, or expand the Friends line into something more real with challenging build sets and more empowered themes. 

Where do you come down on all this Lego madness? What toys get you riled up?



  1. Awesome Cady. I think you touched on some really important points. Apparently they also recently introduced an inventor to their friends line which is cool. Aria hasn't noticed them yet, but she has requested the Ninja Turtles Lego set for her birthday. :)

  2. I like this post, Cady. I think the new "girl" LEGO is ridiculous. Why can't they just play with the primary coloured ones like we did? The regular LEGO nowadays is very stereotypically boy-focused (Star Wars, Ninjago, vehicles etc.) too. They could have made more of a balance to include more girly girls, but I guess that is what they think they did. I agree with you that the sets are more like playmobil or something with how little building is required. The only thing I like about the Friends line is when we go to the LEGO time at the library (big boxes of LEGO dumped out on a table so the kids can build what they like), I like the mix of pink, purple and blue bricks in with the primary coloured bricks - just for variety.

    1. Thanks! I hate that someone at Lego thought the Friends line was a good idea. And I hate that a bunch of people agreed. And I hate that they're selling as well as they are.

      But Max loves that pink camper and the tiny sea turtle is adorable. Grr.