A Study of Gender Bias in Animals in Friends sets

When examining the animals in varying LEGO sets, two different methods were used in comparing animals in sets made predominantly for girls and women and those made for predominantly boys and men. The first method is defining each animal as having “realistic” or “unrealistic” colors, based on the actual colors of the specific animal in nature. Compared here are the Friends sets, Belville sets, Disney sets, and other sets. Friends, Belville, and Disney sets are largely made for and catered towards girls, while the “other” section includes sets that are largely made for boys (such as City and Ninjago).

Animals in Disney sets are overwhelmingly unrealistic, while Belville and the “other” sets are largely realistic. Friends sets sit somewhere in the middle, with just under 50% of unrealistic animals. What is striking is the comparison between the Friends sets (seen in the first chart below), made predominantly for girls, and the “other” sets, includes sets predominantly made for boys. Friends sets have far more unrealistically colored animals than sets catered towards mainly boys.

Above is a side by side comparison of a few animals from the Friends sets (left) and animals from the sets included in the “other” category. Visually, there is a drastic difference in coloration and accurate likeness to the colors of real animals. Similarly, there is also a significant difference in the shape and features of the animals. Animals from the Friends sets have larger, cartoon-like eyes, and are anatomically shaped more like cartoon, baby animals, while the animals in the other sets look far more life-like.

The specific colors of the animals in each set give important insight into how realistic and unrealistic LEGO chooses to make their sets, depending on the gender it seems. The chart below displays 15 different colors of animals that are only featured in either Friends sets or “other” sets.

The colors that are exclusively featured in Friends sets are far brighter, more vibrant and stereotypically “girlier” than the colors in other sets, which feature more natural, earth tones. In this way, LEGO has created an alternate universe and world for girls to live and play in, limiting them to unrealistic animals and colors. Meanwhile, boys have the privilege of living and playing in the real world.

About WBI

We are dedicated to inspiring girls and women to build with LEGO. We want to demonstrate that the simple plastic brick can be used in a variety of creative ways beyond traditional building. Through bricks, photography and jewelry we transform bits of plastic into items of beauty and magical worlds.
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