It has come to the attention of the Brick Alliance that there have been multiple cases that could be considered cultural appropriation in products from The LEGO Group. This project seeks to compile all the cases we can find, then construct a document containing explanations about why these cases are cultural appropriation and actions The LEGO Group can take to ensure similar do not happen in the future. We then hope to share this document or present our findings to The LEGO Group via our direct contacts in the company.
Just one example is that of the Ancient Warrior minifigure from the Collectible Minifigure Series 21. Tips&Bricks reviewed the entire series and found that the Ancient Warrior minifigures has heavily inspired by the Nahua (commonly known as Aztec) Jaguar warriors. However, The LEGO Group chose to give the minifigure a generic name, missing an opportunity for education around the design’s inspiration.
Tips&Bricks was able to question The LEGO Group about this naming choice, and through the LEGO Ambassador Network received a statement in response:
“When designing minifigures, the team takes inspiration from a number of different sources and cultural references which we try to balance sensitively in how we name our characters. The Ancient Warrior minifigure is a creative representation of a number of different warrior references with just one of these being the Aztec Jaguar Warriors, so we needed to reflect this in our choice of name.”
There are a number of things wrong with their statement:
- By ‘creatively representing a number of different warrior references’ they did not respect the original inspiration which is clearly the Nahua Jaguar warriors. By mixing different ‘sources and cultural references’, this could be considered as cultural appropriation.
- No credit is given to any of their inspiration. In the LEGO community, if someone used your technique and didn’t even mention you as the original creator, you’d be annoyed right? None of these warrior references have been credited anywhere on LEGO’s website, which is very disappointing and we ask LEGO to do better in the future.
- The statement shows a general lack of knowledge around what is and isn’t appropriate when taking inspiration from cultural sources.
Information to back up our issues regarding cultural appropriation can be found here: https://www.sfu.ca/ipinch/sites/default/files/resources/teaching_resources/think_before_you_appropriate_jan_2016.pdf
This is just one example of where LEGO has fallen short of where we would expect them to be. There are many more cases over LEGO’s history of producing plastic toys starting in 1949. And with more education and knowledge around cultural appropriation in today’s world, it is not okay for a multi-billionaire dollar company to still be making mistakes in this area.
Therefore, with this research project we will look to compile all the cases we can find, then construct a document containing explanations about why these cases are cultural appropriation and actions The LEGO Group can take to ensure similar do not happen in the future. We then hope to share this document or present our findings to The LEGO Group via our direct contacts in the company.
We would love your input on this topic, so if you are interested in assisting with this research project please contact Alex Johnson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org who will be setting up this project in the near future.