by Yutong Zhang and Rose Porta
What’s in a minifigure?
Have a feeling you’ve seen a “new” minifigure before?
Chances are you probably have. LEGO has produced over 14,000 different minifigures over the years, and each new minifigure does not have new individual parts. Existing parts are often mixed and matched to create new minifigs. For example, there may be five different minifigs that all have the same head design, yet they are different because they have different torsos, legs, or hair. LEGO does this in order to cut down on the costs of producing new parts. Is the frequency and use of these minifigure parts gender-equitable?
When investigating professional representation in minifigures, we discovered that around the years 1998-2000, one particular female head (bricklink part id: 3626bp02) was present in 4 out of the 9 professions. This head was used in minifigs for almost 20 years (between 1992-2010), and it seems to have been used most often within the years 1998-2000.
We did some data analysis testing the hypothesis that female heads were reused more often than comparable male heads.
We restricted the scope of the analysis to the sets within the Town subcategory under the Minifigure category on the Bricklink website that contain head 3626bp02 (62 total sets). All of these sets were released between 1994-2006. We used these specific sets to compare the repetition of this female head to repetition of male heads that had been released in the same sets. It is important to note that since we only used sets containing this specific head, the number of times this head is repeated is more frequent than any other head.
Summary of statistics:
- Across all categories, 90 sets and 69 unique minifigs contain this female head
- Within the Town Category specifically, there are 62 sets containing this female head with a combined total of 143 minifigs in all the sets
- 48 of the 143 unique minifigs have this head
First, we scraped data from this Bricklink site ,which lists all the sets head 3626bp02 is present. We then filtered to the sets within the Town subcategory and to then the unique minifigs (there were 143 of them). Next, we classified the minifigs’ gender based on keywords in their descriptions:
- Female if description included “female”
- Male if description included ” male”, “beard”, “moustache”, “goatee”, “sideburns” or “stubble”
- Neutral otherwise
Out of 143 unique minifig heads, 54 are female, 42 are male, 47 are neutral. Notice that the number (count) of heads is quite even across genders.
Out of the 54 female heads, there are only 3 unique heads. Whereas out of the 42 male heads, there are 10 unique heads, and out of the 47 neutral heads, there are 7 unique heads. This result is shown graphically below.
Let’s take a closer look at how each head was represented in its gender.
The 3626bp02 female head was used in 48 out of 54 female minifigures. This, and the second most used female head both wear relatively extensive or exaggerated makeup.
More options of comparable male heads exist between the same data set. The most repetitive one – 3626bp03 – was used in half of the unique male minifigures, repeating 21 times out of 42 total.
Neutral heads had the most even distribution among all genders. The most repeated neutral head – 3626bp04 – was reused only 19 times, much fewer than 48 for the most repeated female head. It is interesting to note some of the heads were used for both female and male minifigures. Head 3626bp04 was used 18/19 times in male minifigs, and only once in a female minifigure in Town; an emergency medical technician (EMT) wearing a red ponytail was released in 1996.
Interestingly, we found one set – Coast Watch (6433-1) – containing 3 minifigures with the most repeated head from each category. Note that their torsos, legs and other accessories are almost identical with the only difference being the heads.
Although there are heads being reused in every gender, the 3626bp02 female head was repeated often, especially around the 2000s. We suspect the fact that LEGO almost went bankrupt in 2003-2004 is a possible explanation for the the timing of this repetition in the female head. The disparity between repetition of female versus male and neutral heads in this analysis seems extreme, yet it is important to acknowledge the limitations of this initial exploration. We only explored a small subset of minifig heads that is not representative of all heads, and the sets we included were all released roughly between 1992-2010. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will explore repetition of heads by gender for more recent minifigs within the Town category.