As I stated in my recent VIDIYO review/ ponderings, at the end of the day LEGO‘s product choices most of the time are very conventional or even conservative. They like to play it safe and not risk damaging their bottom line by offending anyone. On top of it there are the self-imposed rules about family- and kids-friendliness, which unfortunately are based on dated tropes and stereotypes from a different time and don’t keep up with modern times. That’s why it was extremely surprising to release the Everyone is Awesome (40516) set, which clearly takes a step into a different direction.
Controversy in Rainbow Land
The apparent observation would have to be that this is a set aimed at the LGBTQI+ crowd or for that matter addresses “diversity” in the broadest possible sense. Is it, though? Ultimately it becomes a question of whether the set is catering for those demographics or just pandering to them. Point in case: The deciding question is whether or not LEGO are legit on this subject and their heart is in the right place.
As a gay person and thus a member of one of those groups I have ambiguous feelings about this. Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way: Regardless of the rest, this set has the unfortunate stench of “corporate pride” all over it, i.e. the typical scenario where big companies and organisations pull their rainbow flags from storage once a year, put out some nice ads and sponsor a bunch of events for Pride Month and then the rest of the year not much else happens to foster inclusivity and diversity. This duality in fact could be observed just today when UEFA prohibited illuminating the Munich stadium in rainbow colors for tomorrow’s match during EURO 2020. You know, when it comes to their money and truly sending a message, they get touchy.
Then of course there’s the other side of the equation, the general population and by extension the AFOL crowd. I’m struggling for words, but the craziness even the announcement for this set caused has me baffled. I was seriously shocked about the level of intolerance this brought to light in way too many people. C’mon, folks, it’s 2021! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not waving around rainbow flags all day as I much prefer to be “That normal guy you’d never have thought being queer.”, but isn’t that in itself a point. Shouldn’t we not even need to talk about this?
So as you see, this is indeed more controversial than it may seem at first, but overall I’m glad that this set even exists. Raising awareness is more often than not painful and you can’t make everyone happy, but doing nothing is certainly not an option, either. I just wish LEGO had went about this a bit smarter. They could have released this earlier and collaborated with an LGBTQI+ charity and it would have been the better for it and not come across as such a cheap move to exploit pride month. People still would have bought it and the discussion around it might have been more civil and fruitful.
Pricing and Contents
While the set’s name of course is derived from that “Everything is Awesome!” song from The LEGO Movie, the price really isn’t that awesome. For the time being this is a LEGO exclusive only available at their retail stores and online shop and at 35 Euro for 341 pieces it is definitely a tad on the expensive side. You have to cut them some slack for having to manufacture a few pieces in new colors, including some minifigure parts, that naturally drive up the cost, but overall I feel that the value present here is more in the 25 Euro range.
The point here really is that aside from the arcs and the minifigures you are dealing with basic bricks and tiles, many of which are readily and cheaply available on Bricklink and other sites and as such are also part of LEGO‘s standard supply flow because they are in many other sets. they could have been a bit more generous about that and shaved off at lest 5 Euro. Does this make it a bad deal? The answer to that are actually the minifigures.
As anybody who has tried may know, scraping together monochromatic minifigures can be a major pain. It’s easy enough to find unprinted legs and heads. The latter are occasionally used as decorative elements, lantern inserts or fruit (the notorious orange pumpkin for instance, before LEGO had a special mold for this) whereas most basic Creator or City sets feature figures with plain legs. Things do however get infinitely more difficult for finding print-free torsos, colored hands/ gloves and hair pieces. Some “rare” colors where a specific part has only been done once on a minifigure this can be almost hopeless even.
For this reason any such single-colored figure on its own can already cost you a major fraction of the price for this whole set. Even when sufficient options are available, you may have to buy three or four other figures (or at least parts of them) to bash together a new one. Once you figure that in, this set may almost feel extremely affordable. I would maintain, though, that the set should and could be more affordable.
There’s a million ways to skin a cat and so are the possibilities for presenting the rainbow theme, but the designer(s) opted for the most basic approach and simply recreated the stripes of the original pride flag and gender identity flag as a presentation stand.
As it is, there isn’t really much to say about it as building the back wall is a tedious and repetitive task of stacking bricks and tiling over the “stage” area isn’t much more exciting, either. There’s just no technical finesse, no unusual building techniques, no nothing and building drags on, despite a limited number of parts.
Personally I was most disappointed that the inner corner did not also have a fillet/ curve. That would have added some extra value. Similarly, they could have staggered the stripes in some fashion, both horizontally and vertically and the resulting steps would have added interest and then they could have gone even more crazy by making them “liquid color” with drips and puddles where they melt and blend. There’s so many ideas here. You can do all of that yourself, of course, but it would have been nice to have some more options of of the box.
One of those might also have been rearrangeable stripes that can be reordered and plugged together with pins. This would have allowed to create a bunch of custom flags for some sub-communities and if they had included more colors like Lime Green, Tan, Dark Azure, Medium Nougat and others it would have expanded the options even more. I’m sure some Furries out there would just love to have their flag on the shelf in LEGO form…
Now I don’t want to ruin everyone’s day, but we really have to talk about LEGO‘s quality issues because they are so painfully apparent. Yes, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, the 6 x 16 plate on the left is indeed much more yellowish and that is after tweaking the photo to look nicer. This is only tolerable because the colored elements distract enough, but imagine this was a winter scene with those white parts fully exposed. It would be a nightmare and sadly this is so common these days, that I don’t find it acceptable. A company that claims to be the market leader should not have any such issues even if parts are produced in different factories!
The meat of the set and in fact probably the only reason this set sells outside the queer communities are the monochrome figures for the reasons I explained earlier. The selection is what I would call eclectic, but overall still limited. Most notably and one of the oversights they could have fixed easily is that each figure has only a fixed hair style. Given how much I love pink colors, I certainly wouldn’t have minded having a “male” hair piece in that color. It would also have been nice if they had included a bunch of accessories like headphones, scarfs, beards or even those Ninjago bandanas as mouth coverings. After all, the Corona pandemic is still raging and it would be a nice nod to that.
The shapes of the hair pieces are familiar, but there is exactly one completely new piece on the blue minifigure. This rockabilly style hairdo has many people speculating about a new Stranger Things set as apparently it fits one of the characters there. We shall see once it makes an appearance in a then more traditional hair color.
One has to be thankful for small things, so as a way of representing diverse communities this set certainly is a start, but a humble one. Unfortunately LEGO have settled on stereotypes and compromised a bit too much as well as simply having been miserly (again) and this just isn’t what it could have been. Combine that with the awful timing and you really can’t shake the thought that their thinking is just still as biased as any other company X. Indeed “corporate pride” that’s only on display when it’s convenient or beneficial for their image.
As a LEGO set in the strictest sense this is more or less a fail if it wasn’t for the figures. It’s the sole reason I immediately got two of these sets just in case I might ever need those monochrome buddies for a project. It’s something I almost never do, but I’m not trusting them to keep this around forever, so if you have even the slightest interest in those minifigs, you should not put off a purchase for too long. Eventually they’re simply going to move on and not produce it anymore, latest when perhaps next year they bring out another pride-themed set.
If none of this matters to you in any way, than this just isn’t for you. You can have enough sets that are much more interesting to build, look more attractive on display and also have equally if not more interesting figures. Come to think of it, some VIDIYO figures would probably be good donors for colorful parts to create a pride parade or design a drag queen…