A few months ago, the LEGO Group announced their intention to eliminate gender bias from their marketing materials, ensuring that no set was going to be explicitly sold as a boy’s set or a girl’s set, but rather as toys for children. At that time we looked at the way that the marketing images in a number of LEGO® themes presented a degree of bias in their lifestyle ‘hero images.’
However, following this announcement, some people were concerned that it might spell the end of LEGO Friends. The theme was introduced back in 2012, as a result of focus groups suggesting that there was a large group of girls not engaging with LEGO Bricks. The theme is now enjoyed by boys and girls alike: embracing the everyday adventures in ‘real world’ settings.
When the Adult Engagement Team asked me if I would like to review the new set 40516, it was described merely as ‘Merchandise.’ No description was available beyond that. Sometimes that can be a little vague. I was expecting to receive a storage box, a branded bag or an ill-fitting T-shirt ( mainly because nobody asked me my size.)
And then it arrived, and I opened the box. This set was something totally unexpected: bands of bright colour, with minifigures in single shades. The build looked elegant and straightforward enough. But I found myself thinking: Could this be one of the most significant sets of recent years?
Let me explain. As you have no doubt seen, the set features 11 bold, colourful stripes on a platform. 11 minifigures stand on the platform, each matching a coloured stripe. Elements of a single colour make up each figure.
A message is sent out with the set, written on the first page of the instructions. It comes from Matthew Ashton, Vice President of Design for the LEGO Group, and designer of this set:
“I wanted to create a model that is a symbol of inclusivity, that celebrates everyone, no matter how they identify or who they love. Everyone is unique, and with a little more love, acceptance and understanding in this world, we can all feel free to be our true AWESOME selves! This model is to show that we care, and that we truly believe ‘Everyone is Awesome’! We hope you’ll build this model and display it with pride. It’s a celebration of love, a celebration of you!”
Matthew Ashton, VP of Design, The LEGO Group
I read it. I paused. I read it again. I have been trying to work out how best to respond. As a white, straight male, I feel almost unqualified to do so.
Matthew Ashton, VP of Design at the LEGO Group, has been teasing a new set for the last week or so on Twitter. … one different coloured 2×3 brick at a time.
Today the LEGO Group has unveiled set 40156: Everyone Is Awesome. This set features 11 various coloured stripes, along with a unique monochrome minifigure for every stripe, a celebration of individuality and inclusivity, love and acceptance. The final model is relatively small, being a little over 10cm tall with a footprint of 22×16 studs. It has 346 pieces and has a recommended retail price of $AUD59.99 / €34.99 /£30.00 / $USD34.99 / $CAD44.49. It goes on sale through LEGO Branded stores and LEGO.com on June 1, 2021, commemorating the start of Pride Month.
The company has long espoused the virtues of diversity and inclusivity, particularly amongst its employees, but to express it in the form of an actual product is a huge statement to both the fan community as well as the community at large.
Alternatively, here’s a set with some really cool monochromatic minifigures as well as some elements in hard to find colours. It looks pretty.