A trip to the mall took me on a journey into the LEGO Store for the first time in quite a while. While I continue to collect and build Star Wars LEGO sets, my purchases have dropped off a bit over the past few years for a variety of reasons. As a result, I rarely make an effort to actually go into the LEGO Store, but on this particular day I decided to explore what the store had to offer.
As I perused the shelves, I came across a set that piqued my interest. Called “Defense of Hoth,” the set comes with two tripod guns, a rotating laser canon, and most importantly, three Rebel fighter minifigures in Echo Base gear. What truly caught my attention, though, was that these Rebel minifigures offered a cross-section of representation that is otherwise lacking in The Empire Strikes Back. In the film, all of the Rebel soldiers engaged in the defense of Hoth are white men. However, in this small Lego set, only one of the minifigures is a white man. The other two are a black man and a white woman. Without hesitation, I eagerly purchased Defense of Hoth and was excited to add some diversity to the Rebel minifigure battalion on my shelf at home.
Having other events to attend to the rest of that day, it was not until the following morning when I put the set together. Sitting down with my coffee and with my young son watching and offering his “assistance,” I got to work on the set with gusto. And with less than a minute surpassing, my zeal turned into confusion when I realized that while the male minifigures have two faces, the female minifigure only had one.
It is not uncommon for LEGO minifigures to have two different faces. Turned one way, perhaps the minifigure will look happy but turned around their face may give away a sense of anger or determination. In the case of the male figures in Defense of Hoth, this is the case. One way, each figure looks stoic, while the other way, they are gritting their teeth and displaying a sense of determination. The female soldier, however, does not get to display any this gritty determination. Instead, her other face is blank (see the featured image).
My own face was bemused. “How could it be,” I wondered to myself, “that in a set which intentionally offers representation the woman was given just one face to display?” As I considered this question, I decided it was also important to be fair to LEGO, that perhaps I had purchased an anomaly, a version of the “Defense of Hoth” in which the female soldier was incorrectly misprinted. Mistakes do happen, and so I decided to head back to the LEGO store and purchase another “Defense of Hoth” set to explore this possibility. Doing so, I discovered that it, too, was lacking the second facial option for the female solider.
Dumbfounded, I decided to go straight to the source. Sending a message to The LEGO Group, I inquired why I was now in possession of two “Defense of Hoth” sets that, while amplifying representation in one way, was lacking in this other, rather noticeable way. And as luck would have it, I received a response. This is what I was told:
You’re right — the rebel fighter minifigure doesn’t have a reversible head when both of her male colleagues do. We agree, it would have been better if she, too, had the range of expression given to the other minifigures included in this set. We asked one of the designers why this was the case, and they let us know that for sets with generic figures that don’t have storylines, like the rebel fighters here, they incorporate heads that are already available to them. Although this set has reversible head prints for the male fighters, it may be that in another set, there could be female figures with reversable heads and a male head that doesn’t have a reversible print. But your point on representation still stands.
We understand the importance of representation in our products, and we believe that our LEGO® sets are for all children. Our mission is to inspire the builders of tomorrow, and we want all children to feel inspired by our products. Feedback like yours helps us to be better at this.
Years ago, when I wrote my piece LEGO Star Wars: A Paucity of Female Minifigures, I was left unimpressed by the response to my question at that time about why there were so few women among the minifigures in Star Wars sets. This time, after contacting LEGO, I was left far more satisfied. I never anticipated that one of the designers would be consulted on this issue, and the response given by the designer was appreciated. Certainly, I can understand that the LEGO designers often utilize generic figures that are readily available, and that future sets could have the reverse issue, with female fighters having two faces and male counterparts with only one. Never-the-less, that my point on representation was affirmed is what is important. I am under no illusion that my message pointing out this discrepancy will case a tidal wave whereby generic minifigures are re-examined; however, that I was heard, that the importance of representation was acknowledged, and the information I provided was actually passed along to a designer, is most welcomed.