As you might know, Lego recently released a new 'Friends' range that is being toted as 'lego for girls.' It features a whole new style of minifig, and 'girly' pink and purple coloured blocks. This isn't Lego's first foray into a 'girly' range, though it is the one with the most exposure and, well, criticism. There are plenty of people rather annoyed at Lego's decision to launch a girl-centric range, for completely understandable reasons, which I won't go into.
Now, me? I'm an adult toy collector without kids. I don't tend to buy toys based on their appropriateness for children, or anything like that. I can coo over Monster High without worrying about whether they are too "made up" or skinny or inappropriately proportioned. So, I see this new Lego range, and I do a happy squeal! I worked in a toy shop last summer, and fell instantly in love with Lego after a childhood of parent-enforced Lego-deprivation, and came across Belville for the first time - which is Lego's rather lacklustre previous attempt at enticing the stereotypical girl market. It's very horse-y and the minfigs are weirdly massive - give it a google. I don't remember selling one set the entire four months I worked there! (Just in case you're interested, the best selling range was probably Ninjago, after the minifig blind packs.)
I think Lego friends, by comparison to Belville, is awesome - and I say this as a toy collector with a penchant for pretty colours and cute little plastic faces, not as someone considering the social implications and whatnot. I just like cute/awesome things! So, I bought a set. ;)
This is Olivia, and she's kind of the 'token science geek' of the Lego friends set of characters. She called to my inner Firefly fan, and for some reason reminded me so much of Kaylee, I just had to have her! :)
I bought Olivia's Inventor's Workshop set (3933) which is the least 'girly' set currently available, and it's definitely my favourite. It comes with plenty of tools and scientific-looking bits and pieces, including a blackboard with some very mathsy scribbles.
There are lots of exciting bottles of chemicals and a wonderful little microscope.
The colours are mostly 'girly', but the lego blocks are the typical size and would be compatible with all the usual Lego pieces from other ranges. I'm rather fond of the nice turquoise coloured blocks, myself.
The little set of drawers for the tools is just too cute for words.
The robot (which comes with a remote control for Oliva to hold) is also adorable, and reminds me of Short Circuit/Wall-E. Love it!
Now, onto the actual Friends minifig itself. I personally really like the new style - even though I do love the traditional minifig look, both as an adult and a kid, I always preferred toys which were more 'human shaped', and the Friends minifigs lean more towards a Playmobil kind of look - which, FYI, I love! I do suspect that Lego is trying to elbow in on the Playmobil market with this range. I think I'm right in saying that Playmobil is their main competitor right now...
As you can see above, with Olivia in-between two typical female minifigs, the Lego Friends are slightly taller. They have big, clumpy feet (which I've noticed a lot of people complain about - but I LOVE them, I am a fan of big, over-sized feet on toys. I think it's really cute.) which still slot into regular lego bricks just the same, despite their different look. Their eyes are bigger, and they have adorable little button noses I can't help but love. Their faces are shaped a bit more like faces, and they have a tapered chin, though still no ears. The hands are the same - they can still grip and interact with all regular Lego sized things the same as normal minifigs.
Also, unlike the regular minifigs, who have their boobs drawn on (which is a look that always kind of bugged me, iconic as it is) they have some subtle boob-ish-ly shaped chests.
Due to their different shape, their arms/legs/heads can't mix and match with the regular minifigs. However, their hair is swappable, much to my delight! I've since swapped Olivia's hair for a ponytail to add to the Kaylee look.
Overall, I can't help but like them. :) It's a shame that there's still such a divide between girl's and boy's toys - I was weirdly pleased to find these in the 'boys' section of Hamley's rather than across in the 'girls' section with Barbies and LalaLoopsy, etc. Sure, they're pink and purple - but I can't say I mind if they get more girls playing with construction toys, because at the end of the day, this is still Lego, and there are still instructions to follow and pieces to put together! Maybe a lot of kids, like I did, will prefer the more human-shaped minifigs.
I don't want to get all up on my ol' soapbox or anything, but it frustrates me a bit that there are so many people being vocal about girls being allowed boy's toys, and not the other way around, which I think has actually become the bigger issue. A girl playing with Ninjago, or action figures, isn't seen as that weird at all. A little boy playing with Disney Princesses... now that's a bigger deal in most people's eyes. When I have wee 'uns of my own, I am going to bombard both genders with the hugest range of 'girl' and 'boy' toys imaginable. (And not just because it'll give me an excuse to buy even MORE toys, heheh. Although I am cool with that.) I don't want an end to 'girly' toys or 'boy' toys! I don't want everything to be aggressively 'gender neutral' and for certain types of toys to disappear as a result, I just everything to be acceptable for every child.
I don't think the Lego Friends range is necessarily a step in the right direction... but they're cute, and I like them, and let's leave it at that. ;)