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Trouble in Heartlake City

LEGO's new line for girls sparks controversy.

The fictional town of Heartlake City is the center of the story for LEGO brands new line LEGO Friends.

The town looks like it was made with girls in mind. The construction sets are made of bright pink and pastel colors. They consist of different parts of the town where the new female mini figures live and play such as a splash pool, a beauty shop, a cafe, and even a dream house.

Yet, it isn't all sunshine and roses for the five new LEGO friends, Olivia, Mia, Andrea, Stephanie and Emma. Many parents are calling LEGO out on being overtly sexist and promoting gender-based toy marketing.

The issue has even moved offended consumers to start an on-line petition to push LEGO to commit to gender equity in marketing. The petition was launched over at change.org by SPARK activists Bailey Shoemaker Richards and Stephanie Cole.

The issue at hand seems to be that mini figures themselves are no longer the box shape characters that children have played with for so long but are thin and curvy. Many parents and health groups fear that little girls will  start to form a poor body image form playing with the characters.

Others are angry that the sets come already-assembled and are not as complex to build as the gender neutral sets that have been on the market prior to the arrival of the LEGO Friends toys.

However, the Denmark-based Lego Group claims that the Friends line was a response to consumer demand and tailored to girls’ requests from years of research. The executive vice president of the privately held firm, Mads Dipper, had this to say in a statement

"We heard very clear requests from moms and girls for more details and interior building, a brighter color palette, a more realistic figure, role play opportunities and a story line that they would find interesting, we want to correct any misinterpretation that Lego Friends is our only offering for girls. This is by no means the case. We know that many girls love to build and play with the wide variety of Lego products already available."

Many parents are not buying what LEGO is selling in this statement and have taken to LEGO's Facebook page to voice their concerns. Comments on the Friends line range from excitement and support to downright anger. One female writes:

"Girls like to build, too, and this set seems to have very little building actually involved. If that is the case, what's the point of making it Lego? The dollhouse theme is good for younger girls, but why not make them as complex as the classic sets?"

She raises some reasonable questions, as do many of the concerned activists, but I'm not sure that I'm mad about the state of things in Heartlake City. I feel that if a little girl is drawn to a pink beauty salon, then, by all means, she deserves a chance to pretend to fix Mia's hair in the Butterfly Beauty Shop.

Not every girl is destined to play in the beauty shop, though, and LEGO offers plenty primary-colored gender-neutral City sets with every kid in mind. I say, if you don't like the new Friends line, then no one is forcing you to come out and play.

Do you feel that LEGO is building gender stereotypes with their new line designed for girls? Please leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


Grant January 26, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I think the idea is to build "Heartlake City" and then have "Tattoo'ed Barbie" wade through it like a giant ,breasty ,blond Godzilla (mini explosives and pyrotechnics sold separately ) Or maybe not. I'm firmly with the "dont like it, dont buy it and quitcher whining crowd...
KTW January 26, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I love the new color options. And I like new theme options. It's nice to see more sets that aren't war or blockbuster movie related. And I've always wished there were more girl Lego people. That being said - preassembled???????? LAME. I agree with a previous commenter - that should be on the basis of age, not that it's a new line or aimed at girls. If I can't get a preassembled Millenium Falcon, why a preassembled beauty shop? I'm the one who's always assembling the new Lego sets at Christmas, not my husband. And I'm not sure I like the new "more realistic" figures. That's part of the charm of Lego figures, that they are all interchangeable blocks, just with different "clothes."
Sarah Cook January 26, 2012 at 04:20 PM
The only part that leaves a bad taste in my mouth is the fact that little assembly is required - did they learn nothing from Barbie who endured years of ridicule for "Math is tough, let's go shopping?" Why assume girls don't want to build? Plus, isn't a LEGO set you don't have to assemble really just Playmobil? That's who should be most ticked off at this move by LEGO.
Erin Lashley January 27, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Some people have very good lives, if this is what counts as a call to arms. I could see making a snarky comment to a shopping companion if I noticed the Lego people looking different, but calling out the company as being sexist? Seems like there are other gender based problems in the world that are ahead of this one in line.
JCE December 10, 2012 at 04:41 AM
I love these legos for my daughter. Lego spent five years researching how girls play and I think they came up with something great and appropriate for girls. When I was young, I played with the non-gender specific legos and often made them into houses. I would have loved this set when younger. While I am a feminist, I don't believe that boys and girls do everything the same, they are different and I think it's great that lego took that into account when they designed this line specifically for girls based upon research of watching girls play. While an argument can be made that some of the gender-stereotypes may be in this toys (pink/purple and hair salon), I don't believe lego relied on these when creating these legos -- this is our world and girls go to hair salons because their mothers do. If they had a lego village for boys with a barber shop would everyone be up in arms? These sets are NOT pre-built -- you have to follow the instructions to build each one of these sets.

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