LEGO Friends

That's What "Grinds My Gears" template. Annoyance level: 2.

That’s What “Grinds My Gears” template. Annoyance level: 2. Image: FOX.

There have been numerous children (and adults) who have stepped on a tiny LEGO brick and cursed the world since the corporation’s inception in 1932. Throughout decades, LEGO has become a household name for families and are easily recognizable with their yellow figurines. Basic sets allow people to unleash their imagination and create whatever they like. Specific sets, such as sets based on Harry Potter or sets based on “The Hobbit,” enable fans to have another way to obsess over the franchises.

Now, LEGO has introduced a new set of LEGO bricks to the scene in the form of LEGO Friends. This set of “bricks” (I use that term loosely), was introduced in 2012, and has become so successful, there are now animated shorts. Yet, the fact LEGO has created a specific theme of bricks that are clearly girl oriented, grinds my gears.

LEGO System Paradisa beach set.

LEGO System Paradisa beach set. Image: LEGO.

Sure, when I was younger, my sister and I had what were considered the “girlie” LEGO bricks with the Sunset Stable set and the Paradisa beach set. Did I enjoy playing with these? You bet — well, that’s when my sister allowed me to play with them, that is. But as I grew older, I got into the more neutral LEGO sets such as Harry Potter, pirate sets and even an Indiana Jones set. We even had a Star Wars set, if I recall correctly. Partially because I enjoyed playing with these sets, partially because it was what LEGO offered at the time.

I took horseback riding lessons while in middle school and junior high, so the stables LEGO sets were always a favorite of mine. But to me, that doesn’t mean that is all LEGO needs to create in the girl-oriented themes. Throughout the almost 100 year-run of the LEGO corporation, there have been multiple themes specifically targets toward girls including: Homemaker, Scala, Paradisa and now Friends. Each of these themes is very much so a product of its time. So why do I have all this grief toward LEGO Friends? Well, to me it seems like this new “girlie” theme hasn’t done anything different than its predecessors.

LEGO Friends Heartlake Stables set.

LEGO Friends Heartlake Stables set. Image: LEGO.

LEGO Friends thus far as 23 sets, which include similar ideas as the predecessors, such as a horse stable, a hotel, different houses, a high school, a tree house, a pet show, a pool and oddly enough, the Dolphin Cruiser, which is a yacht.

I do commend the marketing at LEGO for some of the differences in Friends than in the previous “girl” sets. Friends gives way for more of a variety of sets as it has a city-styled theme whereas the others had each set with a separate theme. Also, Friends isn’t making pink the primary color in these brick sets. Purple is the main color on the boxes and has a rainbow selection of brick colors along with colors incorporated into the figurines.

Another thing I do commend LEGO on with this new creation is that each character included in the theme has a distinct personality. Each girl likes and dislikes different things and the individuals all have dreams unique to them. But, some of the dreams of the girls seem a little too stereotypical to me. One girl wants to be a singer/songwriter and another one wants to a fashion designer. But, there is a girl who wants to be a scientist and another wants to be a vet. It’s a step in the right direction, I feel.

The design studio set for the character of Emma who wants to be a fashion designer.

The design studio set for the character of Emma who wants to be a fashion designer. Image: LEGO.

But, my main problem is why do we have to have a specific theme of LEGO bricks targeted toward girls? There are plenty of primary-colored bricks with multiple themes — movie themes, comic book themes, LEGO architecture, etc. — children and adults enjoy, so why is a girl-oriented theme necessary? Critics and parents both have questioned the motive of the Friends theme being more like dolls than being like LEGO bricks.

However much I dislike the current state of girlie LEGOs, this theme — even though it is only a little over one year old — has had massive success raking in $4.2 billion in 2012. This success did bring in negative reviews (such as myself), as well. Many people feel the creation of LEGO Friends is more about playing with LEGO-shaped dolls rather than the building-block concept of other LEGO sets.

In the end, there have been mixed reviews about LEGO Friends. Many people feel these bricks are sexist, while other feel if it makes more girls play with LEGO, what is the harm? LEGO Friends only receives an annoyance level of two on my scale as although the concept irks me to no end, it is still a successful marketing idea. I’m not defending the notion behind these bricks, but the theme has brought in a lot of revenue to LEGO along with many new fans. Just in my mind, the necessity to create gender-specific LEGO bricks absolutely grinds my gears.

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