‘Lego Movie’ builds on gender stereotypes, pieces together sexist cliches

Though my kids and I saw “The Lego Movie” last week, I’ve been avoiding blogging about it.

the-lego-movie-poster-full-photo

Contrary to what some commenters claim, I don’t relish seeing yet another movie for kids with the same old sexist pattern that’s been done so many times my head spins. I’m so fucking sick of the Minority Feisty, I could scream. I cannot believe Hollywood keeps churning out this shit. And, yet…

The last line of the movie, the finale, is all you really need to know to understand the sexist stereotyping throughout. Batman (a major character, while Wonder Woman gets two lines) urges his girlfriend, Lucy, to go off with, the movie’s protagonist, saying: “No, Lucy. He’s the hero you deserve.” The girl– and she is the girl– is the prize to be won. Literally. Why can’t a girl be the fucking hero? Really, LEGO, why?

Here’s what drives me crazy about this film. “The Lego Movie” is all about prizing creativity above all, yet,  when it comes to gender, innovation flies right out the window and cliche dominates the imaginary world. It’s just like how in “Turbo” the movie’s message is that a snail can win the Indy 500, follow your dreams, be anything you want to be…unless you happen to be a girl. Same with “Planes:” anyone can become a champion, even a crop duster, except for…females. What are children supposed to think about possibility and potential when in narrative after narrative girls are stuck in supporting roles if they get to exist at all?

The bad guy (yes, bad guy) in “The Lego Movie,” Mr. Business, is evil because he wants all the LEGO sets to stay only with their intended pieces. He wants to build impenetrable boundaries to make sure nothing too creative goes on. His deadly weapon, the kragle, is superglue. To Mr. Business, LEGO is not about process and creativity, but a static, finished, perfect product.

This is a brilliant message to teach kids. Art is about process (not to mention, life.) LEGO’s self-awareness about its toy surprised and impressed me. The movie’s narrative illustrates the problem I have with LEGO sets (besides their sexism, of course.) Every time I struggle through yet another 1,000 piece project with my kids, I wonder: What is the point here? What are we learning, how to follow directions?

Near the end of the movie, Will Ferrell, who voices Mr. Business appears in human form. He’s angry with his son (yep, his son) who’s in the basement, playing with Ferrell’s completed LEGO sets. The kid has put a dragon on top of a building, where it’s not supposed to be. Ferrell gets mad, and the kid says, “But it’s a toy! See the box? For 8 to 14 year olds.” Ferrell says, “That’s just a suggestion!”

At this point, like so many other times in the movie, I cracked up. The villain is my husband. While I lie there wondering what the point of LEGO is, he’s snatching up pieces, trying to finish the set himself, do it all perfectly, and once it’s done, he puts it somewhere high up where no one can reach it. So, this is what I want to know: LEGO, how can you be so creative, smart, and funny but then fall into tropes when it comes to gender roles? Why can’t you break through the impenetrable boundary of your own sexism?

There’s one Minority Feisty gleam of hope that comes at the end of the father son scene. After an epiphany, Farrell lets his kid enjoy the LEGO and says, “Now that you’re allowed down here, we’ll have to let your sister play too.” Cue the scary music. Could this be the next movie? Girls are allowed to play, front and center? And what if those girls are actually seen having an adventure, not shopping or eating at a cafe or taking care of sick puppies or whatever LEGO Friends allows them to do? LEGO’s world would change. Not to mention ours. That would be an adventure.

Reel Girl rates “The Lego Movie” ***H***

Update: For those of you who don’t know about LEGO’s history of sexism, here are some posts you should read:

A father recently wrote about the sexism his son is learning from LEGO http://taasa.org/blog/prevention-2/building-a-new-kind-of-lego-city-2/

There is a lot I’ve written here on Reel Girl, here’s one on shopping with my daughter http://reelgirl.com/2013/11/if-a-stormtrooper-had-no-epic-would-he-exist/

If you want to see how male protagonists dominate children’s movies while female characters are continually sidelines or go missing all together, check out Reel Girl’s Galleries:

Here are the children’s movies from 2011 http://reelgirl.com/2011/07/heres-a-visual/

2012 http://reelgirl.com/2012/12/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2012/

2013 http://reelgirl.com/2013/01/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2013/

2014 http://reelgirl.com/2014/01/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2014/

78 thoughts on “‘Lego Movie’ builds on gender stereotypes, pieces together sexist cliches

  1. Thank you for this post. I just watched the film and my uncomfortableness with it was well articulated in your post and some of the follow up comments. Please keep up this important work.

  2. Can anyone ever be happy? Literally i guarantee that if Will Ferrels role was filled by a successful working woman, many of you would have been pissed of her being the bad guy. ITS A MOVIE.. chill out.

  3. I had much of the same negative aftertaste you did. Not so much that I worry about the conditioning of our future generations, but more so that these kinds of films just become boring.

    Casting of big budget animated features shows the problem: dozens of actors vs a couple actresses. Things seem to be getting better, and then something like the Lego Movie comes and and makes me shake my head again. It is such an otherwise smart and enjoyable movie, and purports to be both progressive and have mass appeal. That makes the gender imbalance all the worse in my opinion. Witty mass appeal = mostly boy characters, whereas equal numbers of boy and girl characters = a girl movie? Are we still in the dark ages? Why the hell does gender have to matter so much that animated films need to hug the male side of the spectrum so closely?

    Nearly every micro decision of a character’s gender defaults to the “safe” male, because to choose female would be to make some kind of statement that would cloud the humor. (“Oh wait, this scene has twelve male characters, shit we better make one female or people will give use negative press!”). But when all these little choices results in such an overall lopsided cast, this “safe” bet ends up being glaring and franky weird, and really just shows an accumulation of directing decisions based on fear.

    There is a lot of money riding on these films, and producers need the decisions to be as safe as possible to ensure the highest box office return. So it’s really only us and our growing distaste for their safe metrics that will sway things. I think it will happen eventually, audiences will want more complexity and nuance and riskier, more interesting, more inclusive choices across the board… it will just take more and more studios making gambles that unexpectedly pay off.

    Other than that, great movie.

  4. People like you are an embarrassment to the feminist cause. Instead of focusing on real issues, you nitpick at silly observations in pop culture–and then demand to be taken seriously? Frankly, it makes you look pathetic and shines poorly on other women, so thanks for that.

    Some people don’t need to share thoughts online; you’re one of them. I hope your children are critical thinkers that are not poisoned by your vitriol.

  5. Can I just say, I don’t think kids give a crap about who the hero is. When I was a kid, I watched movies with boys and girls as leads, and I never thought, “Well, okay, that lead is a girl so I can do whatever she does. That one’s a boy, so I guess I can’t do that.” People overestimate kids, really. They don’t care about tokenism, they don’t care about sexism, they don’t care about racism. THEY DON’T EVEN NOTICE.

    • And can I just add, I agree with what someone else said. Lucy wasn’t a prize to be won, she wanted to be with Emmett and was struggling to find a way to tell Batman, and he was just letting her know it was okay.

      And one more, kind of off-topic point…Women are facing bigger struggles than how they’re portrayed in media. Seriously, people. They get paid WAY less than men, still, even though it’s 2015! I don’t see a lot of self-proclaimed “feminists” fighting that. Instead, they’re bashing homemakers and literary characters (LITERARY CHARACTERS, for Christ’s sake! They’re not even real! Jesus!) because of how they act. Basically, they’re telling women how they can and can’t behave, which is ANTI-feminist, in my opinion.

      • Molly, Margot, all through her blog, repeatedly explains why she considers gender depictions in books and movies to be important. If you disagree with her reasoning can you be specific about that?

        Also, I think you’ve got some straw feminists there. Lots of feminists do work for equal pay, and there’s plenty of issues to go around. Lots of front to fight on!

    • My friend, a successful businesswoman, was told “mommies don’t work, that’s for men” by her little boy after he saw this movie. Not joking. I think you are wrong about what kids learn and pick up. I’m glad that you’re not dealing with a son or daughter learning sexist tropes as normal behavior, but I hope you would understand that not everyone is having your experience.

  6. I was shocked when my friend told me this movie was sexist. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… IT IS OBVIOUSLY SATIRE!

    Seriously people… I hate sexism just as much as you do, but did it never occur to you that the incredibly blatant bits of the movie were satirical? The movie was FULL of in-jokes, references to characters’ backstories, clever jabs at movie cliches and outdated societal norms. It should be PRAISED for mocking sexist behaviour.

    If you never appreciated that, I wonder how many other brilliant things you missed. Hundreds of really smart and wonderful people worked on this movie, and to shame them all by failing to see the obvious satire is very cruel.

    That said, I believe all of that would have been lost on most of the kids watching (and clearly a lot of the commenters on this site) which makes me wonder whether this was ever supposed to be a kids movie; after all, there was so much nostalgia material. I do appreciate that many films, like those by Pixar, are designed to provide both entertainment for kids and more subtle in-jokes for the parents, but perhaps the Lego Movie failed to dumb itself down enough for kids?

  7. Pingback: New Woman Lego Set: The Research Institute «

  8. I just watched the movie, and despite the sexism I still loved the movie, particularly for its very anarchist message. Additionally, one can hope that the line about the sister is a message from Lego about the future of their products… We can hope… What I actually wanted to comment for though was not so hopeful. The blu ray came with the first episode of Ninjago, which is kind of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Avatar knock-off, and unfortunately one with a chosen-one theme about four ninjas, all male with one female character in the opening sequence of the show, their sister/sidekick. Maybe that just comes from ripping off TMNT so directly and obviously, but with all of the flack that Lego’s been getting about this stuff for years, it’s just sad.

  9. i don’t think you realize that there can be more than one protagonist in a story. there was more than one antagonist (lord business, bad cop, arguably the man upstairs) so why not more than one protagonist? wyldstyle would absolutely qualify for being a protagonist. she has almost as much screen time as emmet (considering his earlier introduction makes up for his disappearance later in the movie) (i’m also recognizing that he probably had more during his encounter with the humans.) she was way more badass and intelligent and opinionated than emmet. she protected him and did not want to be with him at first as he longed after her (two things that don’t typically happen in movies nowadays). i understand that you would definitely want more females in this amazing movie and i would too. but honestly, even if the entire thing was genderswapped, i still don’t think you’d be satisfied. batman would be an arrogant lady there for mostly comic relief. emmet
    would be completely unopinionated and uncreative girl in need of being protected by a badass guy who does all the thinking. is that… really what you want?

    i also cannot stress this enough. while it is kinda exhausting to watch the same trope of the hero getting the girl at the end of every movie, i quite like how this one played out much better. wyldstyle chose to be with emmet because she obviously felt more connected with him than batman. she was about to tell batman that she wanted to move on when he knew what was going on and told her that emmet deserves her more than he does and that she should not feel guilty about it. nobody considered her a victory prize. she is a person and she made her own choices and was supported by the people around her. batman did not “””hand her off””””, he let her go so that she could be happy with someone that she really liked. how is that so hard to understand?

    also the lego movie did not seem to be made directly by lego. it was made by people who wanted to use the legos to tell a story about creativity and how everyone has the ability to do amazing things. also if you’re looking for more female characters and less “sexism” from the writers, i invite you to give this a look: http://m.hitfix.com/news/lego-movie-2-will-have-more-female-characters-according-to-the-director

    sorry if this is way too late for a response or whatever, but i just needed to express my opinion about this.

    • My thoughts exactly!

      I think some people are so quick to announce “sexism!” that they fail to pick up on the important details. Wyldstyle was the amazing kickass character in order for emmet’s successes to be so ridiculous. She was obviously far better than him and yet emmet seemed to get all the credit – that was the running joke throughout the movie. The joke isn’t about ignoring a woman’s contributions, it’s about how ridiculous doing that would be. This is what happens when people confuse the subject of a joke with the target of a joke – the reason many people don’t understand Ricky Gervais’ humour.

      Just because you are offended, it doesn’t mean you’re right; some people are offended by equality, for example.

  10. Yup so sexist. Would have been much better if the roles were reversed and Lucy was the empty headed, uncreative dummy and Emmet was the intelligent ass-kicker. That wouldn’t have been sexist at all. Oh yeah and Wonder Woman would have been a better choice over Batman to be the arrogant comic relief. They really dropped the ball on this one.

    • Wait, so you wanted the movie to have an empty headed girl and a smart guy? If they did that, then every “anti-Sexism” person would say why the hell did they make the girl stupid.

  11. I am so glad I live in a sane household, unlike the rest of you. My fiance loves this movie. You people will read into anything. Sounds like it’s therapy time.

  12. Pingback: 6 Horrible Things About the Lego Movie | socio-politico

  13. Hello Margot! I recently flew to NY to visit a friend and this was the movie on my flight there AND back. I came home and googled “lego movie sexism” because I could not believe what I was seeing! So glad to read this!

    I noticed right away that while all other lego characters had their typical, square lego bodies Lucy has breasts and a cinched waist on her top half. Early on we see Emmett being distracted by her looks and incapable of hearing what she’s trying to tell him. Even in a world of little square parts female characters still need to be sexualised?! In a kid’s movie?!?! I was so annoyed – I grew up in the 80’s with Ariel and Barbies and all kinds of toys that were designed to make girls aspire to tiny waists, big bosoms, and even bigger hair. I’d like to think that 30 years on we’re easing up on little girls and giving them opportunities to see female characters that are not so overtly sexualised, but no, even in lego world we need our girls to be reminded that if they want to get anywhere they need, first and foremost, a hot body.

    Your critique here furthers the discussion! Also, LOVED the ‘minority feisty’ link.

    • Hi Aimee,

      Thanks for your comment. It is so depressing that things are getting WORSE. I think it’s because merchandising drives toy sales now.

      Margot

    • Actually, Lego torso pieces are like that in the flesh, or plastic in this case. They used to have completely flat chests with no waist printing, but after complaints were made to lego about female mini figures not being feminine enough, they changed the design to the more curved one we see today. Fast forward a decade or so and people seem to want it reversed. Quite hypocritical if you ask me. Personally I find myself using mini figure heads on custom figures of both sexes, but people seem to refuse to accept that heads can be used on both male and female figs. However, when lego make heads with make up or long eyelashes, they receive grief.

      • If they would make a lot of female figures, all sorts, then the problem would solve itself. Women make up half of the human race. Lego should put female figures in most of the sets, or at least wigs. In the USA, women are doctors and astronauts and in the armed forces and scuba divers and so on. My girls like Lego but want more active women. They like Star Wars and Harry Potter. Despite many Star Wars sets in the online store, I can’t locate a single reasonably priced set containing Princess Leia wearing a Jedi outfit (or any woman figure).

        • You have completely missed my point. The vast majority of Lego heads are just a mouth and eyes, and both genders have these. I’m interested to know how you would like the femininity of said figures to be more obvious? Also, the ratio of males to females in Star Wars films is staggeringly unbalanced, so the reason so few female minifigures are produced is that there are none TO produce. Princess Leia also never wore a ‘Jedi outfit’ in any of the film canon as she is not a Jedi, so there will never be a mini figure of her wearing the robes.

  14. Thanks for this post. I just saw the Lego movie and I am mortified at how blatant the sexism was, especially in light of recent criticisms made about it and its advertising. The most upsetting thing for me is that there are so many positive responses to the movie that it’s obvious the patriarchy is still alive and strong.

  15. Thanks for this post, I felt exactly the same about the movie.
    However the sexism seemed so overt and old-school, especially for a kids film, I later wondered if it was actually a deliberate pastiche of action movie cliches? A good example of movie writers trying to be too clever and losing the point of a kids film being for kids. I really would have liked a better female character for my 6 year old daughter to relate to. Even just to change the ending such that it’s Lucy that states she wants to be with Emmet, rather than Batman “handing her over”, would have been a big improvement!

  16. I super agree with your analysis. I just saw the movie today and found that I couldn’t truly enjoy it because of all the gender bias. I honestly think this might be an awareness problem and I wish others could see what I saw. My own thoughts here: https://medium.com/p/4dbbb61dc7fb
    Thanks for writing this post! It made me feel better about my own reaction to the film!

    • Hi Denzil,

      Great post, but please make sure to credit/ link to ideas, some of this writings are identical to Reel Girl: “On the verge of the credits, Wyldstyle’s boyfriend Batman tells her, “He [Emmet] is the hero you deserve,” as if Wyldstyle is a prize to be won. As if it is universally accepted that if you are the (male) protagonist who finishes your quest successfully, then you will get the woman.”

      Also this: “It honestly disappoints me that children, again and again, learn that males star while females support or do not exist.”

      If this is coincidental, ignore, otherwise please credit.

      Thank you and keep blogging.

      Margot

      • Hi Margot! Thank you for the feedback! I apologize if it seemed identical :/ I had already listed your article as a source (at the bottom), but I went back and added a specific comment linking your article at the “prize to be won” spot! Please let me know if you have any more feedback as I really appreciate it!

        Thank you again for your blog post! I’m quite appalled at some of the hatred in some of the comments below and I want you to know that I agree with many of your points! Best,
        Denzil

  17. Wow, this review is incredibly stupid.

    Let’s see if Lucy fails your little ‘Minority Feisty’ test.

    ‘Is the female the protagonist in this film?’

    She has as much screen time and lines as Emmett, so yes.

    ‘Does the narrative revolve around her quest?’

    She wanted to defeat Lord Business, yes.

    But even if Lucy wasn’t a protagonist, it wouldn’t make this film sexist or stereotypical, considering you gave Wreck-It-Ralph HH. Although you haven’t rated this film yet. Hmmm….

    “It’s Emmett’s actions, his heroics, that determine him to be the Hero she deserves.”

    Right, because sitting around doing nothing makes you a hero, and she should be dating Emmett for no reason.

    You’re just a pathetic fool who doesn’t even follow her rules and is only looking for things to complain about which aren’t there.

    • Hi Violet,

      Do you know what a protagonist is? The main character in a movie. Lucy does not have equal screen time and lines.

      The quest of the movie is Emmet’s quest. Lucy shares his quest as a supporting character. This is the typical role of the Minority Feisty.

      I forgot to post my rating, hanks for the reminder, I’ll do that now, its one H.

      If I’m so pathetic, why are you wasting you time reading my blog?

      Margot

  18. You’re missing the point, the Lego Movie was satirical. It does cast a critical eye at the cliches in our entertainment industry, even the sexist ones. It could have done better, but it did have a relatively high number of female minor and extra characters. Seriously, pay attention to that in comparison to most other movies that aren’t aimed specifically at females. And they made the awesome animal character (unikitty, one of the best characters imo) female, how often does that happen?

    • Doctor Jay,

      YES Great point, that really bugges me. Imagine a gender swap, mom and daughter doing LEGO, Dad upstairs cooking. Shoew how backwards we are.

      Margot

  19. Thanks for this post. I found the movie to be poorly gender balanced also. The first time you see Lucy she’s shown as a “babe”, in slow motion and making Emmett stutter. There’s even a scene where she’s explaining the details of the Master Builders and Emmett just hears “blah blah blah.” It’s played for laughs that what she says is unimportant and that she’s just a pretty face.

    I found it disappointing that in the end she was reduced to just being Emmett’s girlfriend.

  20. Thank you for posting this review. Besides the gender issues I was also struck by the cultural stereotypes of the Mexican Taco Tuesday mini figures and the Native American with the feather headdress and tomahawk hitting someone in the head. Our kids learn from these movies and it does affect their thinking and their view of the world. I don’t want my son seeing other cultures represented in this way. There is always a moment in every kid’s movie where I find myself cringing at something (violence, potty jokes, etc) and although the Lego movie does have a positive message of innovation, working together, thinking outside the box, it has cringe-worthy moments too.

  21. While I agree that there aren’t a lot of female characters in the world, I don’t know I agree that the ending of Lego is as sexist as you say. The line you used as an example sort of needs to be taken in context. Lucy CHOOSES Emitt, she’s not passed around by Batman. And that line is more of a clever Batman reference then it was a chance for Batman to hand Emitt his trophy. But regardless of what Batman said, Lucy was going to end up with Emitt. That relationship was better for her than the one with Bats, she saw that. With Emitt she could be herself, and she could realize her true potential.

    NOW, would have been better for Emitt and Lucy NOT to be together? For Lucy to be single? Maybe. I don’t know. But I think it’s pretty great that she was able to recognize what the healthier relationship is, rather than stay with Batman just cuz they were already together.

    Further more, I think that yes, Emitt was the main character, and will largely be viewed as the hero… But the point of the end of the movie was that EVERYONE was the hero. Emitt. Lucy. Unikitty. The Astronaut. Iron Beard or whatever. Even President Business. All heroes.

    AND while I’m not 100% sure, I’m pretty certain the little boy built Cloud Cuckoo Land with the Legos that his dad “let” him have and, while he may have complained that they were for babies, he didn’t say they were for girls, which is a pretty cool thing.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, and I’m in no way saying Lego isn’t sexist (girl that grew up with Legos, right here), this is just what I took from the movie. Lucy was a great character. She got Emitt where he needed to be, protected him, fought with him and, when he was “dead” led the greatest Lego revolution in existence. She was the one that thought to get the “normal folk” to fight back, she hijacked the television station with minimal help. She was a character that was insecure and changed everything about herself, including her name, in an effort to find self worth and be seen as creative and interesting and in the end, she learned she was fine how she was, BUT also didn’t have to start wearing dresses or anything. Same as Unikitty didn’t change, she only learned to stop bottling up her emotions (and I feel like Unikitty was a pretty good jab at the manic pixie dream girl trope, but who knows).

    It needs more female characters, agreed. There were a lot of valid points in your post. This is just what I tok away from it all. 🙂

    • Hi Lauren,

      I agree with most everything you write. I think Lucy/ Wildstyle is a great character. I still want a female protagonist half the time in movies for kids.

      Margot

  22. Thanks for doing the hard yards on this Margot. I’ve seen the trailer and visually it looks so good but the gender crap in it is so bad I can’t bear to take my children. One movie after another, it’s so disheartening.

  23. This blog post is everything I hate about bloggers and geeks rolled into one ball of opinionated garbage. Your grievance, like most geek know-it-all’s, is founded in the belief that somehow that which you hold most dear should be the gravitational under which everyone else’s orbit rotates. Did it occur to you that maybe the filmmakers had a lot more areas to focus their attention on in making their child’s toy kid movie than resolving gender issues?That maybe a story is really just a series of metaphors meant to convey a lesson, and not a detailing of the sociological framework as we would like it to exist? That maybe in appeasing the studio, Lego, the people that hold the dozens of licenses they used, not to mention the distributors, and after all, the audience of children, nobody really had the time to say, “You know what? This movie really needs to handle gender equality. Somebody needs to do it, so it might as well start with a movie about talking plastic dolls.”

    Somewhere there’s a blogger who could say the same thing about the film’s lack of transgender characters, or lack of minority characters, it’s loose stance on gun rights, or the fact that Batman’s vast wealth as Bruce Wayne contributes to poverty in Gotham city because of income inequality and the lack of a living wage. But you know what? It’s a freakin’ kid’s movie. Nobody cares.

    • Hi K.G.

      If the male protag/ female sidekicks was just in “Lego Movie” or even half of the movies made for children, it wouldn’t be a problem. The sexist pattern is the problem, that it’s repeated and repeated and repeated, check the link at the bottom of the post.

      While I agree kids’ narratives should feature more minorities, especially more minority protags, contrary to popular belief, girls are not a minority or, like those with a “loose view on guns,” a special interest group. Girls are half of the kid population. You’d never know from watching movies made for children, because girls go missing, from crowd scenes, from heroes, to villains, females are marginalized or invisible.

      I get that you don’t care and this is not an issue important to you, and that’s part of the problem.

      Margot

      • I wholeheartedly agree the sexist pattern is a problem, don’t get me wrong.

        But please take a moment to consider that comments like your last sentence above are also ‘another side’ to the problem…

        At no point did he suggest that he didn’t care, or that this isn’t important to him, or that girls are a minority group. He was very clear about all the various stakeholders and people that needed pleasing. He made a good point. To simply dismiss his point by incorrectly saying he doesn’t care and “that’s part of the problem” makes it look like you’re not reading carefully.

        I support your mission here, I just think your comment comes across as ignorant, which is a shame since your comment was an accusation…

  24. Really….REALLY….is this womans life so mundane that her only source of excitement is purile accusations against a childs movie. Enjoy it for what it is…nonsense, children are not born, racist, sexist, fattist or whatever ‘ist’ this type of person can compartmentalise a person into, but by the actions of their parents. If I was to disect it I could also complain about stereotyping I.e. Why are we, as men, always portrayed as villainous, unscrupulous and deceitful (although possibly true :-o)? Lego sets teach ALL kids how to think, solve and adapt, show me a kid who isn’t allowed to play with Lego or similar TOYS (due to gender stereotyping :-/) and i’ll show you a kid who will grow to ne incompetant, dependant on others for help….or am I ‘stereotyping’? She doesn’t seem so concerned about using bad language

    • Hi Michael,

      I have three young daughters– ages 4, 7, and 10– and most of the movies we see show male protagonists.

      Here are the children’s movies from 2011 http://reelgirl.com/2011/07/heres-a-visual/

      Here are the movies from 2012 http://reelgirl.com/2012/12/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2012/

      2013 http://reelgirl.com/2013/01/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2013/

      2014 http://reelgirl.com/2014/01/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2014/

      To kids, these narratives are not “nonsense.” Experiencing stories and images is how they learn. The movies also lead to toys– obviously with LEGO– and clothing and games and apps. Again and again, kids learn that males star, females support.

      I agree that children are not born racist or sexist, but from the moment they come on the planet, they learn boys’ stories are important and for everyone while stories about girls are “just for girls.”

      LEGO toys feature very few female minifigs. Here’s what happened when my 4 year old and I went shopping http://reelgirl.com/2013/12/if-you-wont-buy-your-kids-racist-presents-dont-buy-them-sexist-ones/

      Friends LEGO, a much smaller, dumbed down selection with pre-assembled parts is “for girls” and sold separately, in the girl aisle.

      Here’s a great post a dad wrote recently about the sexism his son is learning from LEGO http://taasa.org/blog/prevention-2/building-a-new-kind-of-lego-city-2/

      Margot

      • To help re-dress the balance…get the fire extinguisher for your bra, ready…
        Elastigirl – the incredibles
        Ariel – little mermaid
        Esmerelda – hunchback of ND
        Alice – in wonderland
        Pocahontas
        Lisa Simpson – simpsons
        Mulan
        Leela – futurama
        Anna – frozen
        Angelica – rugrats
        Lois – family guy
        Velma – Scooby doo
        And the best of all… Princess Merida – Brave
        I was going to mention peppa pig but I think she is a TERRIBLE role model, bad manners abound…disgusting for kids…of either sex.

        • At 2and a half years old my now 6 yr old boy went to playgroup and picked up a handbag, which he proceeded to use as a garage for his cars. A bit older and his toy was a babies pushchair (another, larger car as far,as he was concerned) . Gender stereotyping is only visible/present to those pre-occupied with trying to mould/force their kids into a model of themselves. Let kids be kids, as they aren’t for very long, let them make the decisions which they feel are important to them, with the real/important decision making going on behind the scenes.

          • You don’t think, though, that when a child’s choices are
            1. Boy Legos, where the boy characters get to do everything from mundane jobs to SUPER AWESOME ADVENTURES and also WHOA BIONICLE!
            And
            2. Girl Legos, where the figs don’t really do anything exciting and are a step away from rolling something in glitter, slapping som rainbows on it, and saying “good enough”

            …you don’t think that’s going to even KIND OF have an impact on how kids view the roles of boys and girls?

        • I don’t understand – are you just listing female characters that exist? Or are these supposed to be good female characters that exist?

          Pointing to a few examples (some of which aren’t exactly shining examples of role models – “hey girls! give up your voice and charm your prince with your eyes, your looks and quirky gestures!”) doesn’t negate that there’s a problem. If anything, considering the number of television shows and movies that come out every year, the fact that it’s still notable when Mulan, Brave and Frozen come along only *highlights* that there’s a problem.

          Representation matters. It’s why Dr. Martin Luther King was so adamant that Nichelle Nichols stay on Star Trek back in the 60s. And clearly, since I can list one black woman who played a bridge officer on tv, it proves that television and media never again had a problem with the representation of minorities or women. (That’s sarcasm, by the way)

    • There is no such thing a gender equality. Men are the dominant gender in both intelligence and physical prowess. Any movie portraying the genders as equal is a farce.

  25. How many lego sets out there are fairytale princesses or my little pony come to think if it besides clothing for a girl i dont think i personally have ever seen a pink lego block.
    Its not about sexism its taking the imagination of a prepubesant boy (they usually dont like playing with girls yet) and making it fun take a 9 yr old boy there and its the best movie ever

      • As you have obviously been too quick to make assumptions, I will take it upon myself to set some things straight. Many of the parts in these so called ‘girl’s’ sets are not pre-assembled in any way. Yes, Lego often manufactures parts that are large and only good for one thing, but I have seen more of these parts used in themes like Star Wars and city than in these themes. Also, Lego have never marketed themes directly at a single sex. Just because a theme is pink, it does not mean it is specifically aimed at girls. This is an assumption that YOU have made. You see. To be a very stereotypical person yourself…

        • Actually Lego itself says that they created the Friends line to appeal to girls. Watch the video “Beyond the Brick.” On Netflix.

          So, yeah, you have no actual facts on your side, you just want to pretend that sexism doesn’t exist, because you are dumb enough to think that equality will ruin all your fun.

  26. Hi, we enjoyed The Lego Movie, and have been singing Everything is Awesome ever since, but I totally agree with you on the representation of women characters in it. Interestingly for me, the bit that really captured my children’s imagination was the bit at the end where the sister’s non-gendered characters appear and say ‘we are going to destroy you’. My youngest keeps repeating it (she’s 3, and she’s probably right).

  27. I essentially felt the same way, Margot. In spite of the things I found to enjoy about the movie, I couldn’t help being upset at the way they dealt with the female characters. Ultimately, talking about how the film is structured this way because it’s based on the imagination of a young boy is just an excuse. Why couldn’t we have seen this movie from his sister’s point of view? Why couldn’t Wyldstyle have been the hero? Technically Uni-kitty was another female character but now that I think about it, she wasn’t a human Lego-mini-fig unlike everyone else on the team.

    And don’t forget, Margot. Wonder Woman had two lines. A joke about the invisible jet and “Oh, no.” *eye roll*

    http://nooneispayingmeforthis.blogspot.com/2014/02/immediate-thoughts-on-lego-movie-gender.html

  28. You are so far off base, it’s not even funny. Lucy was every bit the hero that Emmitt was – THAT WAS THE POINT. And she wasn’t a prize, she chose Emmitt, and Batman just let her know she shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

    And they aren’t promoting static, unimaginative play. Did you miss the fact that is was the BAD GUY that wanted that? The imaginative people were the good guys!

    • Hi jm,

      Lucy is a Minority Feisty. She is strong, but not the protag of the movie. She is there to support the protag on HIS quest.

      Obviously, you didn’t read my post. My point is that the movies is promoting creativity and creative play, but then is mired in gender stereotypes. That is the irony.

      • I can’t see how the last line of the movie by Batman even comes close to saying the female protagonist is a prize. I am completely dumbfounded by that observation. If he said this to the other male, I could see it being interpreted that way, but saying it to HER makes her an active participant with CHOICE.

        • Hi Donna,

          Its’ the trope that at the end of the hero’s quest, he gets the girl. The men compete for the woman, the prize, and the real hero wins her. It’s Emmett’s actions, his heroics, that determine him to be the Hero she deserves.

          Margot

          • The line was actually just a parody of the line the movie “The Dark Knight” in which batman is told that he “is the hero that Gotham deserves”. The line wasn’t intended to reinforce any gender stereotypes; it was simply satire. In addition I think thier character choices for the primary protagonist(wild style could also be considered a protagonist) and antagonist were simply based off the father-son estrangement made evident later in the movie. It could be argued that this relationship could have been father-daughter however Legos primary audience is male and it honestly (speaking from expierence having both a daughter and a son) makes more sense with regards to typicality to have a male control the Legos. In summary while patriarchy was present in the lack of female characters on the movie, I think the allegations that the movie is an embodiment of patriarchy are absurd.

  29. I find it the height of irony that LEGO would make a movie deploring static, uncreative approaches to play, when their sets are becoming more static and uncreative every year.The sexism is hardly surprising given the popularity of the Friends line, with its “fashion design studio” and the Heartlake News Van , complete with a “makeup table” that is larger than the computer., http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Heartlake-News-Van-41056?fromListing=listing

    • First of all, the company of Lego had little to no creative control over the film. Second of all, Lego is a buisness whose primary demographic is males. Recently they have been asked to create sets for girls. Now thier original sets could have been ethier for girls or boys yet, because fundamentally boys and girls enjoy different toys, boys often like thier Legos more. Then they were faced with the issue: what constitutes as “toys for girls”. The majority of sales of Legos were by males, so obviously females wanted something else. Obviously not all girls are this way but, most are, and Lego, being a buisness which wants to produce as much profit as possible created a set “for girls” which would do so. However this is besides the point because the company and the movie are two, almost, entirely different enterprises.

  30. Thanks for the review – not 20 minutes ago, I was searching your site to see if you’d reviewed it yet! I have a six year old daughter who is keen to see the film… when you watch with your daughters do you find that you are “undoing” a lot of the sexist issues in the films, or are they fodder for discussion?

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