Eavesdropping Media

Month: July, 2012

LEGO: Creative, Educational and … Gender Segregated?

While I have found some more great Lego content this week, like this :

Image via Funny or Die

I have also discovered a less flattering side to Lego.

Lego, it seems, has a problem with girls.

Over the last 20 years, Lego has become a gender segregated toy, offering different products for each gender, and seemingly discouraging girls and boys from playing together.

The most popular Lego products have been predominantly marketed as a boy’s toy, while additional product lines are developed every few years specifically for girls. Unfortunately, the company’s attitude towards gender seems to be increasingly backward, relying on very old stereotypes to dictate its product line, marketing and packaging strategies. As a result, girls are increasingly disinterested in this once gender-neutral product. And every time Lego tries to create these girl-centric products, they fail to attract their desired customers. Girls are simply not buying it.

Earlier this year, Lego released its latest “girl-friendly” lego product called Lego Friends. It is so pastel and girly, your eyes will burn. And it gets worse. In these sets the building aspect is totally de-emphasized, in favor of more dollhouse-style gameplay. The sets activities are really very domestic and stereotypically “female” (Locations include the hair salon, the cafe, the bunny house, the beach, and the home). And they have introduced new minifigs, that when compared with the traditional minifigs are dramatically thinner and taller, so much so that they appear to be a separate species.  For more see this complete list of difference.

The introduction of the Friends Lego set marketed exclusively to girls has all made a lot of people very annoyed, and rightly so.

But this seems to be only the latest in a series of strangely out-of-touch moves by Lego. Over the last 20 years, the company has been releasing increasingly gender segregated products; blue Lego city/castle/space for boys, pink Lego home/princess stuff for girls. The problem is that the girl-centric sets repeatedly fail to make an impression. This is probably because the themes are totally uncreative (ex. princesses & beauty salons), the sets are frequently incompatible with the larger Lego universe and the gameplay is often centered around superficial storylines instead of around the act of building.

At the same time, the more central sets to the Lego universe are increasingly marketed as a boy’s toy. For example, products like Lego City, which could easily be gender-neutral, instead highlights predominantly male-centeric stories (ex. male cop chasing male robber), only feature boys in the commercials and on the box, and focus their sets mainly on traditional male occupation such as firefighting, construction, and police.

As a result of these marketing choices, many girls are avoiding Lego all together.

This 2 part video series from Anita Sarkeesian (She of Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter Fame) explores the history of Lego marketing and their current attitude regarding gender. It is a great watch if you are looking to better understand the current problem with girls and Lego.  Take a look:

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYLpuWwC?p=1 width=”780″ height=”438″]

I believe that Lego is such a gender neutral product in its core, and that if Lego would drop some its old stereotypes about “what girls want”, it would absolutely be a toy that could appeal to both genders equally. Introduce more gender neutral sets into pre-existing product lines, let girls play with boys in some of the ads, and include more female minifigs in the current sets. Instead of constantly highlighting the difference between gender, why not start looking at the similarities. Both girls and boys love to build, to create and to play around with quality toys. Given the right balance, Lego can be all things to all kids.

Believe me their are tons of Lego fangirl just waiting to start building.


Loving LEGO Creations

This week, I decided to do some research into the world of Lego Creations. Yes, this will be another nerd post. Lego Creations are exactly what they sound like: Lego-based sculpture, pictures, objects, video games, video and other web content.

Is this the geekiest stuff I have ever encountered? Absolutely.

Do I love it? Kinda, yes.

Especially this one:

Resistance Is Futile

You saw right folks. That’s the enterprise hovering in front of the Borg ship. All in Lego-style! (Look closely, that the body of the spaceship is in fact a lego minifigure torso… so cool). Image by: halfbreak

Andrew Lipson’s work entitled “Relativity”

Now, lego ‘art’ has actually been around for years. Traditionally it would take the form of lego sculpturefunctional lego houses, lego models of famous landmarkslego replicas of famous paintings and lego cars. Some of these creations were endorsed directly by the company itself. Not to mention the many “Lego Lands” found all over the world. While moderately impressive, I find most of these earlier creations slightly generic and a bit obvious. Like kid’s stuff or marketing ploys.

More recently, however, I have started to see some truly inspired Lego creations – like this Lego typewriter. At the same time, there has been an increase in exposure for this medium, with articles being written about Lego creations in somewhat unexpected places.  Huffington Post has written about it. So has the New York Times. It may not be so niche anymore.

The entry of homemade Lego creations into the mainstream has no doubt been helped by the fact that Lego is a hugely recognizable brand and that the medium itself, consisting of simple building blocks, is so easy to use. It is proving to be a great medium to reference pop culture, to build machinery, build demos, and to shoot movies. Just take a look at the thousands of amateur Lego videos online (warning: many of these are actually quite terrible). Brickfilms, a form of stop-motion filmmaking using lego pieces, has spawned a whole community of Brick-filmmakers.

The cool thing is that the best Lego creations are almost all independently made and are not coming from the Lego company itself. Sometimes these creations take the form of hacked Lego. But most often, the creations are cool simply because they utilize Lego in new ways or for unusual purposes – like this Manhattan Apartment Staircase, made out of 20,000 pieces of Lego.

These creations can be anything from independent sci-fi/fantasy lego webseries, NES retro game recreation using lego, movies, photo contests, to flicker groups (such as the “Mi-Fi” – Microscale Sci-Fi group), websites, forums, or wikis. I personally love the custom Firefly Lego Minifigs.

And I bet you wouldn’t suspect it, but many of these sites, videos and photos are actually clocking millions of views.

Independence Day: White House Scene

Independence Day
by: halfbreak

So you have to wonder, what is it about these little bricks that we so love?

I know that when I first saw some of these images and videos, I felt the following: giddy, amazed, light, inspired, and a little baffled at their popularity.

Does this popularity stem from the recognizable shapes, our nostalgia, the fusions of cultural references, the act of building and the ridiculousness of it all? The stories often take the form of grown-up kids stories, in the vein of Robot Chicken. But I think the key to its popularity may in fact lie in how participatory the medium is. All you really need is some basic Lego pieces and a camera, and you are ready to go.

Here are some more neat-0 Lego creations:

Lego Star Trek Tricoder

The Lego Batman, Spider-Man, & Superman Movie (7.3 million view)

The Story of a Lego Picnic (2.5 million views)

Minimalist Futurama


Amazingly, even some legitimate companies have gotten into the lego game. Below is a very recent video of Rolls Royce‘s airplane turbine replica made out of Lego.

For more on this project, check out this article all about it.

And the award for the weirdest project in the genre goes to Cargo Collectors Lego Star Wars Organ. It is a giant street organ, made out of Star Wars themed Lego that plays a high pitched and somewhat distorted version of the Star Wars title song.

It is amazingly ridiculous. Yet this may be precisely where the magic comes from.

For more pics and news about the world of Lego creations, check out this very complete resource: Brothers-Brick.com.

Happy building.

UPDATE: The Guardian is currently recreating many of the Olympic races using only Lego! Check it out here

Old-Fashioned Ads for the Social Media Giants

Found these cool old fashioned ads on another wordpress blog. I tried out the wordpress reblogging function, but I got to say, I am not a fan! So I decided to simply create a quick post with the images here.

According to laughingsquid.com, these come from Sao Paulo ad agency Moma Propaganda as part of the “Everything Ages Fast” ad campaign for Maximidia Seminars.

I sorta love the twitter bird. Hope we start seeing logos like that in the future!