LEGO had a great year in 2022 for equity and inclusion. As part of WBI’s year end tradition, we’re pleased to share our 2022 Top Ten LEGO list for Equity and Inclusion. It’s been such a good year that some of our perennial suggestions (such as the Chinese New Year sets, which are still excellent), didn’t even make the list!
We took a look at all of LEGO product offerings for 2022, reviewed them through a lens of gender equity and diversity, and compiled a list of the best and worst of LEGO this year. If you’re looking to buy LEGO for anyone on your holiday list this year, you might want to consider some of the set selections.
WBI’s 2022 Top Ten (in no particular order)
The A to Z of Awesome Campaign
LEGO really did Pride Month right this year, and launched the A to Z of Awesome Campaign. If you’re interested, the press release is here, but the part we really love is that LEGO reached out to AFOLs from the LGBTQIA+ community and asked them to build creations based on one of the letters. More details, including some of the builds, can be found here.
2022 Friends sets
Friends took it to the next level this year on equity and inclusion. Normally we’d highlight one set such as 41704 Main Street Building (pictured), but they’re all terrific! Our personal favorite is 41703 Friendship Tree House, the homage to the tenth year of Friends. The theme continued with the school subtheme in the latter half of the year, which turned out to be the swan song for the original characters. The theme continued to be fresh by introducing many diverse new characters with varying skin tones and level of ability. Heartlake City was taken in a direction that we really like to see.
New minifigure skin tones
2023 was the year with new skin tones! They were first spotted in 76399 Hogwarts Magical Trunk and later spied in 75325 The Mandalorian’s N-1 Starfighter. We applaud LEGO for diversifying skin tones to allow more people to find a shade that represents them in LEGO.
Celebration of Black History Month
LEGO started the year off in the right direction by celebrating black creators on their website for Black History month. The link with more information can be found here. In particular, like the A to Z campaign, we love that LEGO took the time to feature individual creators. We can’t get enough of this.
21337 Table Football
It finally happened! AFOLs have been asking for years to get realistic skin tones on minifigures in a non-licensed set. That finally came true with 21337 Table Football. When asked why now, the designers explained that realistic skin tones were chosen to allow people to create themselves as a player in order to capture the spirit of football, and the inclusivity that goes with the sport. To that, we say: Yes, yes, and Yes! If only it wasn’t a $250 set…..
Wheelchair racer in CMF Series 22
CMFs have been a staple in the LEGO lineup for several years, but we have a favorite one this year: the wheelchair racer in CMF series 22. Kudos to the team who included this athlete to be among all the others that have been featured so far. More of this, please.
LEGO 90th Anniversary Video
If you haven’t seen LEGO’s 90th anniversary video, it’s a lovely tribute to fans of all kinds. We think of it as a love letter to LEGO fans. Go watch it. We’ll wait.
60347 Grocery Store
This year, we learned that the population of City goes beyond fire and police personnel! We like the direction the theme has gone this year with the farm sets, and more store settings, such as 60347 Grocery Store. This set has a minifigure with a modern prosthetic leg, as well as another minifigure wearing a shirt that has the trans flag colors. We particularly like that it doesn’t have an eye-watering price tag, either, making it more economically available..
40542 FC Barcelona Go Brick Me
Brickheadz leads the way again – they’ve had a history of offering options for skin tones, and 40542 FC Barcelona Go Brick Me is no exception. With three skin tones offered, builders have a choice on how to represent themselves in LEGO, and we continue to be here for it.
Just when you think Friends couldn’t get any better, they decide to reboot the whole theme! There’s a new set of characters, new branding, new colour scheme, new everything coming in 2023! There are lots of things to be excited about. One of the summaries of the changes (and new character bios) is this article by our friends at Brickset. One of the most welcome pieces of news from the relaunch was that LEGO is partnering with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, to ensure that the storylines used in the sets and the show resonate with all audiences.
We don’t want to be self-serving, but we do want to recognize LEGO for reaching out to women builders. WBI was thrilled to be interviewed by LEGO and be featured on their website, just in time for International Women’s Day. You can read the whole article here.
WBI’s 2022 Five Opportunities (in no particular order)
There are always opportunities for growth, and here are WBI’s Five LEGO Opportunities for 2022, in no particular order:
76215 Black Panther
What a great set to honor a fantastic character. However, with a $350 price tag, this set is out of reach for much of the target demographic. While we believe the intention was good, the delivery landed flat. We would recommend this excellent article on the subject, written by Corey Samuels for our friends at BrickNerd, as we can’t say it any better.
76218 Sanctum Sanctorum
The reception of Sanctum Sanctorum was good. The fact that it was modular compatible increased its appeal. Until we took a look at the minifigures. All those minifigures, and only one female minifigure? The last time we looked, there were more women in the the Marvel Universe than that. LEGO, you can do better.
40578 and 60328 Minifigure
Ugh, really LEGO? We haven’t seen a painted on waist in a while, and we hoped they were in the past. Unfortunately, we were mistaken.
21337 Table Football
This is a first for WBI – a set is on the best and the worst list of the year. We celebrate the designers’ decision to include realistic skin tones in this set to allow people to represent themselves in LEGO. Unfortunately, it also appears to be a one-time decision, and LEGO has no plans of including realistic skin tones in future non-licensed sets. They were included in 21337 because it “aligned with this specific set”. We find this frustrating. LEGO clearly knows that realistic skin tones are better for representation, and we don’t understand why they don’t move further in this direction.
Monkie Kid/Ninjago minifigures
LEGO now has two non-licensed themes that are set in Asia, Ninjago and Monkie Kid. WBI’s previous research has shown that Asian people struggle to find appropriate skin tones to represent themselves as minifigures. Why then, does LEGO continue to use yellow (a colour typically used for Caucasian characters) to represent these Asian characters?
Did we miss anything? Let us know!
Although Monkie Kid and Ninjago are set in a fictitious Asia rather than the real place, the yellow skin color of Monkie Kid was likely deliberately picked in order to be able to sell City and In-House Themed sets within China.
The idea that the yellow skin color would be neutral works less well for darker skin colors, but it’s still reasonably fitting for lighter skin colors such as for East Asians and some other Non-Caucasian ethnicities. (In Simpsons, yellow is used for about all lighter skinned characters, regardless of nationality and ethnicity.)
Me again. A few critiques I found:
1. When it comes to minifigures, LEGO may account for D&I if it will work (The Star Wars Rebel Trooper pack from this year comes to mind), but not when it comes to compromising the best selection available, especially when they can only include a limited number. For the Sanctum, there’s only two female characters that are generally affiliated with the location in the MCU: Christine Palmer (a relatively obscure character) and America Chavez (who came out in a cheaper set earlier this year anyway). You can argue for the Ancient One as well, but their gender in the film is pretty ambiguous (male in the comics, portrayed by Tilda Swinton, and gender is never brought up). Would the set work if they threw in Gamora or Jane Foster? The Collector or Black Panther? Probably not, as they have almost no affiliation with the location. I’m quite surprised they even included Scarlet Witch to be honest, although her larger role in MoM might have been why.
2. Painted waist? Don’t people come in all shapes and sizes? I really don’t have a problem with that at all.
3. Is Ninjago really set in Asia? TMNT is set in New York after all! In all seriousness though, there is no explicit mention that it is set there, even though there are inspirations from there. Regardless, Ninjago is it’s own mystical world, so I’m not sure you can really say ‘they MUST be this race’.
4. I think you’re missing another problem with the ‘Monkie Kid/Ninjago Minifigures’ in regards to skin tone. I’ll let you figure that one out 😉