The XX Factor

I Miss Legos

I’m so glad Feministing put this old Lego ad up. They’re absolutely right-advertising and toys for girls have become a “pink explosion,” and gender stereotyping in the toy store is pretty nearly as bad as it’s ever been, with whole aisles and sections clearly created to draw in only one sex or the other.

But Lego hasn’t just fallen down on its advertising. Worse, they’ve fallen down on the building-toy job completely. The Lego section of any toy store is packed with kits to build one thing and one thing only-a Millenium Falcon , perhaps, or more neutrally, a train-and then you’re done. There’s no suggestion on most of their products that a kid might ever want to deconstruct the Power Miners Titanium Command Rig and build, say, a car. Or a house. Or anything, as that ad suggests, “beautiful.”

One result is either a shelf full of Lego creations too delicate to play with or a big pile of pieces with specialized purposes that clearly aren’t intended to “build” anything creative at all, and that’s not much fun. Another, for both boys and girls, is an expensive toy that only comes out of the box once. You can get a box of ordinary Lego bricks, but you may have to check a few stores first, and you’ll find there’s not much in the box any more. It’s pretty clear where the collective corporate energies have gone. Looking at this ad makes me nostalgic not just for those halcyon days of the ‘80s (ahem), when little girls in braids and overalls were a commercial ideal, but for the days when Legos came without a 40-page instruction manual that would make Ikea proud.