Advent calendar: 16. The changing face of the Lego minifigure

1975 – the minifigure has no face. Why would it? Kids are perfectly capable of imagining any face they can. The clothes come in four colours (red, blue, black and white), and there is pigtail hair, a sailor hat and a cowboy hat. All interchangeable. The figure has no arms, and isn’t really recognisable as the minifigure we know and love today.

1978 – The classic minifigure is born. Arms, legs, torso, head and hat/hair. The pigtails from 1975 remain, as do the hats, but this year marks the birth of the classic shape still in use. The face is remarkable. It is everyface. Imagination still rules.

2011 – The detail on the minifigures is astounding, and several series of collectible minifigures have been released. Almost every conceivably imaginable character under the sun has been released in one set or another – if you’re lucky enough to own it. Who needs imagination now?

In three short years, the classic Minifigure was developed, and is still in use 35+ years later. In the meantime, though the shape is still in use, so much detail has been added that the use of imagination is all but impossible. I do love the massive range of characters now – and they really are fantastic characters. Back in 1978 though, every single one was a girl, or a boy, or a man, or a woman, or a robot, or none of the above. It was whatever you wanted it to be. Now, as I explored yesterday, there appears to be a gender split whereby only 25% of characters are female. Yesterday I was thinking about avatar play, and being able to find a character to represent you in the world. This is almost by the by – why should a child of any gender have to imagine a world in which only 25% (at best) of its residents are female? It’s weird and it’s not representative.

At least the figures remain interchangeable. You can now take Cleopatra’s hair a pop star’s face, a windsurfer’s torso, a punk’s trousers and a pirate’s bottle of rum to make a remarkably accurate avatar for someone. If you have the cash to buy all five constituent figures, that is. Once upon a time the power of imagination could project the same identity onto any figure. That was pocket money toys – as they should be.

Later I will look at all seven (!) of the recent collectible minifigure series, and the gender/race makeup of each set. Just out of interest…

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7 Responses to Advent calendar: 16. The changing face of the Lego minifigure

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