Thursday, June 7, 2012

No girls allowed in LEGO Middle Earth

There has been quite a lot of talk lately about how LEGO went from a gender-neutral building toy to a series of highly-gendered play sets for boys and girls.

Well, Casey recently alerted me to the latest in the "boy" play sets: LEGO Lord of The Rings.

Clearly based on the movies, rather than the books, it features a number of scanarios from Galdalf's arrival in Hobbiton to Sauron's subterranean orc factory.

What it doesn't feature is any female characters. No Arwen, no Galadriel, no Éowyn. Not even female Hobbits. The only female in the entire set, apparently, is Shelob the horrible giant spider.

The sets focus on battle and brutality, but the complete lack of female characters is striking. In the Peter Jackson movie franchise, some effort was made to give some appeal to female viewers, apart from all Tolkien's old-school unattainable princessy characters, by making the character of Éowyn more prominent as a warrior. But even the crusty old author, with his medieval worldview, gave the "shield-maiden" a front-line role in killing the Witch-King. Why miss the opportunity for at least a token kick-ass woman?

This just goes to show how increasingly ut-of-touch the LEGO designers are getting. They may claim to be appealing to boys' demands for gross and violent battle toys. But even my vintage Star Wars action figures had a kickass Leia. Not the gold bikini one, the "Someone has to save our skins!" bun-headed Rebel spy from the original film. (You know, the one LEGO put into its classic Star Wars collection?"

LEGO is entirely within its rights to tell girls to forget about fantasy and adventure and get back to the kitchen, I suppose. But I also get to call them on it.

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