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Women's Brick Initiative

Comparison of 2020 $20 sets

Published October 29, 2021 By WBI | 0 Comments

WBI Decided to look at sets from the $20 price range to see the similarities and disparities between themes. The sets examined here range from princesses to super heroes  The set examined first was a Disney, Frozen II set. The minifigures included in this set are Princess Anna, her snowman friend, Olaf, and a bunny. Anna is wearing a long sleeve dress with a cape, which is the outfit she wears in the movie; however, it is still fairly impractical for the adventures she has. The set also includes a stationary hut for the bunny, a stationary area of woods and stone, which includes a seesaw and a slide, and a river boat. The only moving functions of the set are the seesaw, and the pink leaf that can be moved towards and away from the ending of the slide. Otherwise, the set is incredibly stagnant. The boat is a dynamic piece, having interesting details all the way around; however, the other pieces in the set are rather plain from the back, and are fairly plain in general from any perspective due to the lack of small details and many moving pieces. Although the colors of the set as a whole are bright and dynamic, the physical pieces themselves do not draw much attention. 

The set itself, and the story it tells, is one of action and adventure. Anna is not a passive character and is the focus of the set. However, the seesaw and the slide slightly take away from her adventure and the seriousness of a female character by making the atmosphere more about fun and less about heroic deeds. Similarly, the addition of the cartoon-like bunny, which is both unrelated to Frozen II and a common addition to many sets catered towards young girls, has a similar effect on the intensity of the adventure Anna is on. This set is clearly geared towards girls, which is clear from the stereotypical “girly” nature of the pink and purple bricks, as well as the lack of anything stereotypically “masculine” such as weapons or vehicles. Although young boys have not traditionally gravitated towards Disney princesses, it would have been nice to see more action involved in the set, not only for boys who may want to build and play with it, but for girls who want more of an adventure than going down a slide. 

Building wise, the set is very simple. The pieces are all fairly large and the set itself is not a complex one with hardly any moving parts. I would recommend this set, for young children especially, because it is simple with bright colors and interesting patterns; however, it is not a wildy interesting and dynamic set. For these reasons, and for the very few pieces it includes as a whole, I would not say the set is worth the price at which it is sold. 

Next, I looked at Andrea’s Car & Stage. The minifigures included in the set are Andrea and Stehpanie. Also included is a pink bird. Andrea wears a blue and purple tank top with a large, frilly skirt while Stephanie wears a coral tank top and a yellow skirt. The set includes a stage with lights and a microphone, speakers, and a car, all of which are yellow, pink, blue, and black.

The types of stories that could be told by this set are ones of performance and music, but also ones of the lives of average, young and teen girls, seen by the ice cream cone and the phone that Stephanie holds. The set is fairly active, with a car that moves and the idea of performing; however, the stage and the speakers have no moving parts. It is also very dynamic in appearance with interesting aspects at almost all sides. 

The set is most definitely marketed toward girls due to the stereotypical “girly” colors used in the set as well as the lack of male minifigures and the “girly” appearance of the clothing Andrea and Stephanie are wearing. These clothes fit the pop star environment that they inhabit; however, they do limit Andrea and Stephanie to performing and driving in their car rather than doing anything intensely active. 

Overall, the building techniques are not overly complex, even though the car has moving parts involved. The stage and speaker are very easy to construct and the car had more pieces and details involved, but was still fairly simple to build. I would recommend this set. It is very attractive to the eye and has enough intricacy and moving parts to make it fun and interesting. Although it is quite obviously geared towards young girls, it has a dimension of movement and action with the addition of the car that could appeal to a wider audience; however, because of the stereotypical “girly” colors, unfortunately, it is hard to imagine many young boys feeling as though it is okay to play with a set such as this one. I would say this set is worth the price because of the details involved and the car, which I believe makes it more exciting for a child. 

Next, I reviewed the Avengers Speeder Bike Attack. There are three male minifigs in the set and 0 female minifgs: Black Panther, Thor, and an AIM Agent, wearing their classic Avengers outfits. This set could tell a lot of stories. With the Black Panther’s moving bike with rockets and the AIM Agent’s weapons and shooters, the set has a lot of moving and working pieces that give the set a lot of ways to imagine while playing.

The set is interesting and complex on all sides and has a lot more pieces to add significant detail to the appearance. The set is also incredibly active, which is seen by the moving bike, the

guns that shoot actual LEGO pieces, and the moving chain that the AIM Agent holds, making it far more active and exciting than the two sets largely catered towards girls (Friends and Frozen 2), which have far fewer moving, dynamic aspects. This also made it more difficult to assemble with more complex parts and complicated techniques. 

The set is very much geared towards boys with a fairly dark and neutral color palette as well as a large amount of weapons involved in the set. Avengers is also largely geared towards boys, so the set reflects the same, stereotypically “masculine” appearance and aspects. Despite this, it was very fun to build. I would say that this is worth the price because of how active it is, which allows for a lot of movement and imagination. 

Next, I reviewed the Avengers, Iron Man vs. Thanos set. The set only includes two men: Thanos and Iron Man. They are both wearing armor that seems practical for their situation. This set could have different stories and it would, I expect, involve a significant amount of fighting as it is a hero versus villain story that includes weapons and ships.

The set is fairly dynamic with interesting views of the set from all angles. Both the weapon Thanos sits inside and the ship Iron Man pilots are detailed and interesting to look at; however, there are not as many moving functions in this set as in the other sets that I reviewed except for the big gun that Thanos shoots.

This set is very active, which is not only seen in the theme of the set (action movie and super heroes), but also based on the ship and weapon included in the set. It is most definitely catered towards boys. The Marvel universe in itself does this as well, but the set does this through the use of stereotypical “masculine” colors and the action movie type story it tries to tell. The building techniques were fairly simple and the set itself did not have a lot of moving parts, making it easier to assemble quickly. 

I would not recommend this set. This set would be good for young children, most likely boys, who are fans of Marvel but do not want to build a complex set. I am a fan of Marvel but did not find it very entertaining to build due to the lack of moving parts. The set is also quite simplistic and small for the price, which is why I would not recommend it. 

I also looked at Jack’s Beach Buggy from the Hidden Side theme. The set included a man, a boy, and a girl. The man wears denim overalls while the boy and girl wear casual, street style that seems fitting and practical for their situation and age. The set seems very versatile and appears quite active based on the style and the moving truck.

The set is quite dynamic from all sides even though it is quite simple. The “buggy” has an interesting appearance with moving pieces and stickers that add to the detail. Because of this, the set is very active and could tell a diverse array of stories. I would like to say that this set is marketed towards both girls and boys; however, the color palette and general appearance of the set would lead me to believe that it is largely meant to be for boys based on common trends of sets catered towards boys. The building techniques were slightly more complex than other vehicles that I built in the same price range; however, the instructions were just as straightforward as all of the other sets. 

I would recommend this set because it was entertaining to build and the detail makes it more interesting as a whole. Despite the simplicity of the set itself, it includes three minifgures and has a fairly complex vehicle that makes it worth the price in my opinion. If it were not for the female minifigure in the set, I am unsure if it would appeal to a female audience because of the lack of female representation within the set as well as the general appearance of the set. 

Overall, the process of examining and building children’s LEGO sets was incredibly eye opening. As a young woman who grew up with very similar toys, I have come to realize how many of these toys were blatantly biased and stereotypical. In a way, all of the sets were biased in their own ways. I did not build a set catered towards girls that did not have an excessive amount of pink and purple; however, I also did not build a set catered towards boys that did not have an excessive amount of dark colors and weapons. The appearance of each of the sets and the stories they all tell are steeped in gender stereotypes that reinforce traditional and narrow understandings of gender, femininity, and masculinity. The sets catered towards girls were fairly stagnant while the sets catered towards boys were all active. Building these sets and the detail, complexity, and entertainment enjoyed while in that process followed the same trend: building the sets for girls was less fun and simpler while the sets for boys were more entertaining and complex. As a young woman who desires the destruction of traditional and stereotypical ideas of womanhood and femininity, this is incredibly disturbing. I do not hate the color pink, I do not hate skirts or dresses, and I do not hate princess movies; however, I do hate the idea that these things are the foundation of every toy for every girl. Toys are influential in children’s lives. They provide a creative outlet to imagine and dream. Toys based on stereotypical gender norms leave the imagination dry and dreams limited. 

Gretchen loves LEGO as much as she loves building websites, which makes being part of the WBI Team as fitting as two perfectly aligned bricks.

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