Tuesday, May 29, 2012

LEGO Lord of the Rings: Remember the Ladies?

Let me start by saying that, overall, I'm pleased as punch with the new LORD OF THE RINGS LEGO sets. They have lots of great figures, neat play spaces, awesome new horses, and *omg!* they aren't a bunch of stupid vehicles (I'm looking at you, STAR WARS). There's just one thing really missing from the first wave of sets - a single female character.

I know THE HOBBIT sets are coming out in December in conjunction with the first HOBBIT movie, so there's more LEGO to come, but we all know that female characters are rarer than hens' teeth in the original Tolkien tale. Even if the movie tweaks the story, it's going to be hard to find a lot of girl power there. Even in LOTR, the central Fellowship is an all boys' club, which is not surprising considering the generation to which Tolkien belonged.

LOTR, however, does boast some fantastic female characters, especially as depicted in the Peter Jackson films. We've got brave Arwen, spooky Galadriel, and - let's be honest - totally freakin' awesome Eowyn. It would have been nice to see LEGO put one of them in the first wave of sets. Especially since LEGO has recently taken some fire for the FRIENDS line (and I went to bat for them on that one), it would be great to see them be a little more proactive about taking the opportunity to include female characters in licensed sets when there's an obvious place for them.

To some extent, this is also a problem with the SUPER HERO sets, since Black Widow only appears in the most expensive set of the AVENGERS collection. Director Joss Whedon did a great job making her a central character and giving her a lot to do, but in the LEGO set she's reduced to a pilot, and her hair doesn't even look right. They made all new figures from scratch for most of the characters but can't be bothered to do a new wig for Natasha? Fan boy and redhead devotee that he is, it seems like Whedon himself ought to have something to say about that. Agent Hill, admittedly a minor character, would still have been nice to have and easy enough to include. Thankfully, we do better with the DC collection, where we get Wonder Woman in a very reasonably priced set, and the Bat Family is so equal opportunity that we get Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman.

It's important to point out for the sake of fairness that other really compelling male characters are also missing from the AVENGERS and LOTR sets. Where's Agent Coulson? Bruce Banner? What about NICK FURY, for Stan Lee's sake? Middle Earth, likewise, won't be complete without Elrond, Saruman, the Witch-King, and Faramir, among others. I'm still trying to figure out why LEGO made a Haldir figure before producing any of those other characters.

A brave heroine takes on a mummy in the MONSTER FIGHTERS line.
The slights matter more for the female characters, though, because of the recent gender dust-up over FRIENDS and the need for LEGO to continue its efforts to incorporate more gender equity into its mainline sets rather than just shunt the girl market off to FRIENDS land completely. (Actually, by that logic, leaving Nick Fury out of THE AVENGERS is just bad all over, for pretty obvious reasons). By contrast, the company did a much better job putting female characters into the new MONSTER FIGHTERS line, with a very tough-looking heroine and a fabulous vampire bride.

Let's hope that LEGO, unlike John Adams, harkens to the advice of Abigail Adams to "remember the ladies" in the upcoming LOTR LEGO sets so that they can be a vast trove of unalloyed awesomeness. Personally, I'm rooting for an "Eowyn fights the Witch-King" set and some all-elf Rivendell or Lothlorien scenes. The Virago is waiting, LEGO, with credit card in hand!

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