Am I dreaming? Were there really some halcyon days of Lego playing when you could just buy a tub — two tubs, three! — of multi-colored blocks and create anything you damn well pleased? Was there a time when Legos weren’t packaged in ready-made kits meant to build only one or two things — a time when, say, if you wanted to build a bridge, you didn’t need to buy a Millennium Falcon kit and a police station kit to have enough parts?
It seems like there was. But it seems so, so long ago that I’m having trouble remembering.
But that seemingly new-age gripe sounds so innocent now, so wholesome. Lego is moving on to bigger issues — issues that are making me second guess ever buying them again.
Business Week had a remarkable write-up of the history of Legos and how the company was saved a few years ago by marketing specifically to boys. As the new year approaches, Lego will unveil a new line of Easter egg-colored kits and figures aimed specifically at girls. Now there are basically going to be two schools of Lego engineering: boys sets and girls sets. And never the twain shall meet? You tell me.
My beef probably has less to do with Lego than the current era of toy marketing in general. Lego is just following a trend that I think is dangerous, this idea that boys should get one set of playthings and girls should get another completely. Will parents really start snapping up two different sets of Legos — one for Jimmy and one for Jane? Economically, it seems like a nightmare. But that is precisely Lego’s intent. And you know, I ain’t buying it. And not just for the economics.
Michelle over at the Princess Free Zone has an elegant response to this latest missive in the child gender playthings wars, arguing that this ever-increasing boy toy vs. girl toy reinforces stereotypes. Girls value appearance. Boys value function and fun.
“But this is the new lay of the land in which companies, like mad scientists, have created and produced a monster that continues to benefit them in terms of their profit margin. It has become such a no-brainer that nobody wants to think about what it all actually means for girls.”
I feel conflicted about this Lego war. I think of my daughter and how she loves Legos. We we have a giant tub of them in her playroom. At her grammy’s house, there are several kits of space Legos and Indiana Jones Legos and mummy Legos and she plays with them all for hours at a time. But I think of the girl who maybe doesn’t love Legos, who thinks they are “boy toys” and is missing out on the great good they can actually do for her brain. Would a pretty pink set with storyline figures be good — a gateway to brain-enriching play? Then I just get pissed off at Lego because the company made this happen — it engineered this division that turned the blocks into toys for boys. Now it’s looking to profit off girls by turning Legos into a miniature set of dolls.
I’m not buying it. And I mean that literally. I’m out. Done. I’m already thoroughly annoyed at having to buy multiple sets just to have enough parts to build big things that don’t fit into a specific mold. I’ll be damned if I start buying sets that reinforce a notion that girls should focus on the appearance of things while just get to build and have fun. If Lego wants to profit off that idea, fine by me. But not on my dime.
Where did my giant tub of rainbow-colored mini blocks go?