This post has been coming for a little while. There is some history along with a rabbit hole or two: A week or so ago, it was International Women’s Day. In the past, I have written up some articles looking at the trends in gender representation in different LEGO themes over time. This year, I thought I would take a quick look at a couple of licensed themes and see how representation of female characters has changed over time. When I say representation, I probably really just mean ‘how many are presented to us in sets.’ I started with Harry Potter, Marvel and Star Wars. That’s actually quite enough.
In fact, I decided to leave it at that: ‘It shouldn’t take too long,’ I thought to myself. ‘Probably by tea time.’ It turns out that individual definitions of ‘not too long’ and ‘tea time’ might vary.
In the past, an annual update typically took about a day or so to complete. Of course, I failed to take into account that LEGO Star Wars has been running for over 20 years, and has had over 1000 different minifigures (including small, brick-built droids) associated with the theme over this time. Harry Potter has been running on and off for a similar period, albeit with a hiatus from 2012 – 2018. I have opted to present this information in a couple of articles. But before we begin, some background…
We have observed in recent years, since the introduction of LEGO® Friends, that the gender ratio of minifigures in LEGO City has become more balanced. In 2011, only 6 out of 64 minifgures released in the City theme were clearly defined as female (9.3%), while 23(36%) were clearly male. Thirty five of these figures were not clearly defined. Come forward to 2016, when I first examined this data: 41 minifigures out of 145 were clearly female (28%), while 61 were clearly male (42%). Last year, the situation was far more balanced: in the first half hear release of LEGO City, 35.3% of minifigures were female, 38.2 were clearly male and 26.5% of figures did not have clearly defined gender characteristics. This is focussed on figures released at that time. If you looked at LEGO City and Creator sets displayed in the print catalog for 1st half year 2020, the gender ratio was closer to 40%male; 40%female and 20% not clearly determined.
LEGO® Star Wars
Now, the Star Wars franchise has always had few issues as far as gender balance amongst the characters depicted on screen is concerned: With Aunt Beru, Leia, Mon Mothma, a few patrons in the Cantina and a couple of dancing girls in Jabba’s Palace being the only characters that stand to develop any form of story in the original trilogy – be it in the films, or extended universe.
The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) was not significantly better, with Amidala and her handmaidens, along with Shmi Skywalker being the primary female characters engaged in the narrative. A couple of silent female Jedi are present onscreen, but do not gain their voices in The Clone Wars. There is the bounty hunter Zem Wessel, but she is killed by Jango Fett before she extends to a second page of dialog. We do meet Aunt Beru, and she is the only one of these characters to survive past the end of The Revenge of the Sith!
The Sequel Trilogy (2015-2019) had a greater number of female characters central to the story, particularly Rey, but there were others, including Rose and the Stormtrooper Captain Phasma.
But it is outside the Skywalker Saga: The Clone Wars, Rebels, Resistance, as well as Rogue One and Solo and, more recently, the Mandalorian that we see and increased number of interesting characters – including some strong female characters such as Asohka Tano, Hera Syndulla, Bo Katan, Sabine Wren and Jyn Erso, as well as speaking roles being given to Jedi who otherwise remained fairly quiet during the prequel trilogy. We also gain an insight into societies beyond the points of central government, as well as some of the different forms of political intrigue across the galaxy. I am grateful to my son for encouraging me to go back and watch these series that I might have missed at the time of their original screenings.
Minifigures have also appeared over the years tied into Electronic arts Star Wars Games (Knights of the Old Republic; Battlefront), as well as novelties tied into animated specials and advent calendars.
So, how have things changed over the years?Continue reading