The Lego of 1981

It’s bold, cheeky and spot on. What it is is beautiful’ is a wonderful juxtaposition to the girl in her baggy pants, her scrawny laces and her rather insane Lego creation. But it is exactly beautiful. It forces you to appreciate real deep beauty, and not - easy to falsify - surface beauty.

-Josh Summers, Lego’s Beautiful 1981 Ad Campaign”

Mr. Summer’s is referencing this 1981 advertisement for Lego; it is a brilliant piece of advertising and frankly a surprising one to me, given Lego’s moves to create gender specific play sets.

For Christmas this year, Eloisa got Legos from her grandparents. The set was not a small one and I believe my mother saw in my face that I thought it was almost too big of a set, so she offers me this gem:

I know this one has a lot of pieces, but this was the only one that was gender neutral. All the other, smaller sets were either princess castles for girls or spaceships and race cars for boys. Also, they were color coordinated, so the girls set was pink and the boys set was blue. This set has a male and a female character and doesn’t have a theme, so she can make what she wants.

What this communicates to me—in direct opposition to the 1981 ad—is that children of a certain age have fewer options in what their Legos can create, which is sad. Add to that the fact that if my daughter wanted to play with spaceships (please, God!) and race cars, she would have to do so with a boy’s” set, in gender-appropriate” blue. Lego’s simplicity in the 80s was its biggest strength and, now that they have a huge business, it feels as though they have lost some of that childhood curiosity that they once worked so hard to create and engender in their products.

Posted: February 20, 2015

In 2022, I am participating in two leadership training programs. This should be a social experience, so I am writing about it. Check out the full list of posts in the series here.

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