Open letter to LEGO: Please reconsider the Legal Justice League for LEGO Ideas
I am writing to ask you to reconsider your decision not to allow my custom-designed set, “Legal Justice League,” to compete in the LEGO Ideas contest.
I was disappointed to receive word on March 5th that the set would not be eligible for LEGO Ideas. As you are no doubt aware, official arbiters deemed the entry in violation of the contest’s prohibition on “politics and political symbols, campaigns, or movements,” and I was sent a form email with no further guidance as to the specific offense. In the wake of this response, I did as your notice suggested and shared the project on social media. Frankly, I was ready for that to be the end of the story. How incredibly wrong I turned out to be.
Immediately after I posted about my set, I began receiving questions about how others might obtain a copy. Retweets, likes, and positive comments about the set multiplied exponentially. Individuals began suggesting that I submit the concept to LEGO Ideas — without realizing, of course, that I had already done so unsuccessfully. Views on my Flickr album skyrocketed. Numerous media outlets wrote about the set, increasing both visibility and calls for it to become available for purchase.
From the get-go, the Legal Justice League was intended to inspire children and adults alike, to highlight women in the legal realm, and to provide a play experience in which historical figures are celebrated in toy form. The public response has been overwhelming and extremely moving — which is why I’d like to present you with six reasons that I and thousands of others hope you’ll reconsider allowing the Legal Justice League on LEGO Ideas:
1. Inspiration for girls and women in law and the judicial system. The saying, “You can’t be it if you can’t see it” has become a popular refrain in recent years. Meanwhile, data indicate that worldwide, only 27 percent of judges are women. In the U.S., only 27 percent of all state court judges and only 24 percent of all federal court judges are women. I would argue that more girls and women would aim for such positions if they were presented with positive media and play models showing women as judges — especially ones who have reached the highest level of the judiciary. As stated in the LEGO Brand values, “Dreaming it is a first step towards doing it.” You already offer a male justice minifigure; why not let girls dream to be justices, too?
2. Celebration of historical women. How many women in history does LEGO celebrate in its offerings? Minifigures exist of a Cleopatra lookalike, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, and perhaps a couple of others, but that’s about it. Historical men have been more common, whether through specific characters such as the William Shakespeare lookalike, the Julius Caesar lookalike, or the Evel Knievel lookalike, or through generic but clearly historical male leaders such as the Conquistador. In a recent official LEGO video in which minifigure girls and boys re-enact scenes from early American history, every single character in the play is a man: Abraham Lincoln, his political compatriots, George Washington, soldiers, and Benjamin Franklin. LEGO has even produced minifigures of real-life professional basketball players — all men.
Plenty of respected children’s companies honor women in history, from those making dolls and action figures to media companies that produce children’s books and digital learning materials. Many of these are used in schools — and they even cover contemporary individuals. The Legal Justice League would help teach history in a way that doesn’t exclude trailblazing women.
3. Opportunity to teach civics. The Legal Justice League could also help youngsters grow up to be more active and informed about citizenship and the judicial process. Modeled after the U.S. Supreme Court, the set would provide an opportunity to learn about the high court, including how and why it works. The set could also be used as a generic civil or criminal courtroom and connected with other facets of the justice system — such as the police and criminal suspects so often featured in existing LEGO sets.
4. Instant market. This set has clearly struck a chord with the public. Fathers have written to me, begging for a copy to share with their young daughters. One mother hoped to purchase copies for all of her children’s friends. Another said her six-year-old son declared the set “sooo cool,” that he immediately shared it with his best friends at school. A grandmother wrote to tell me she could have only dreamed of such toys when she was young , and that she hoped to see the set on shelves. A law professor even asked if he could obtain a copy to add to his Supreme Court bobblehead collection.
If raw numbers are more convincing: My Flickr account has seen some 260,000 views in the past week-plus. Similar numbers have visited a Legal Justice League landing page on my personal website. At least 50 media outlets have covered the set. Two petitions — independent of me and of each other — were started to encourage you to allow the set on LEGO Ideas. In short: The market is there!
5. The Legal Justice League is appropriate for the LEGO brand. My set was banned from LEGO Ideas for its supposedly political nature, joining sex, drugs, smoking, alcohol, swearing, religious symbols, racism, bullying, animal cruelty, death, killing, and war as inappropriate subjects for LEGO Ideas. While I certainly see the need to provide some guidelines against political symbolism or causes, I and many others believe a simple judicial scene is perfectly appropriate for a toy company — and in fact supports the LEGO Brand values.
What is “politics,” exactly? If you take the broadest view of this term — that it’s anything having to do with governance of a nation — then I can point you to plenty of LEGO offerings featuring both modern and historical political issues. (One of many examples: If the Statue of Liberty is not an enduring political symbol, I’m not sure what is.) I would argue, however, that the most common use of the term “politics” refers to something along the lines of “debates between individuals and parties having or hoping to achieve political power.” If that’s the politics you’re concerned about, remember that U.S. Supreme Court justices don’t make laws or need to worry about getting elected; rather, they interpret laws and are appointed to lifetime positions so that they aren’t beholden to changing political pressures. And, while there certainly may be strong disagreements, approximately one-third of all Supreme Court cases are, in fact, decided unanimously. (In the past year alone, that stat jumped to two-thirds.) What’s more, in the specific case of the Legal Justice League, the included characters represent women nominated by three different presidents from both of the major U.S. political parties. The set is meant to be inclusive of all viewpoints and celebrates fair trials that are a hallmark of democratic societies.
6. More females in the LEGO universe. Although I recognize progress in the past few years, I and many others believe LEGO could still do so much better in the representation of women in its products. For instance, I don’t know of one modern LEGO set beyond the (quickly sold-out) Research Institute and the Friends line that features only female minifigures; male is the default, and if we’re lucky, a female might be included. The Legal Justice League, were it to be produced, would provide LEGO with instant good karma in your renewed efforts to include more females in your offerings — no beauty tips required.
I hope you will take these thoughts into consideration and reverse your decision on the Legal Justice League. For now, I will leave you with a sampling of the thousands of testimonials my set has received in less than a fortnight. Perhaps they will inspire you to make everything just a little more awesome.
“I have never wanted to buy a LEGO set more than I do at this moment.”
“I’d buy several. Really. One for every room of the house. One for every kid’s birthday party gift. For the boys AND the girls. My daughter is 8. That’s like 32 gifts a year.”
“Oh, if only I could like this a 100 million times!”
“Now THIS is LEGO for girls!”
“I had made into the point in the day, where nothing was making me smile. Then I saw this and I haven’t stop smiling since.”