“If you want him to like you, you’re going to have to let him win”

Monday, March 21st, 2016

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“If you want him to like you, you’re going to have to let him win.”

My partner and I waited to hear what was going to come next in the first episode of the Netlfix Series LEGO Friends: The Power of Friendship. It was pretty simple for us: if the episode were to follow what often happens in cartoons with girl focused main characters—strong women makes life decision to be less strong because she’d rather have the boy, we’d shut that whole thing down, invite our daughters up on the couch with us and talk about how much bullshit that is. If it followed a less compromising path, we’d be able to keep watching the episode as the piles of purple, pink, yellow and blue LEGO Friends sets our daughters seem to enjoy continued to grow.

lego friends out in nature

Now LEGO Friends isn’t a franchise one would single out as being a beacon of girl empowerment. Not a whole lot of what gets put together for the 2 to 7 crowd is. But supplemented with parents pointing out strengths or weaknesses, there are many show that are plenty fine to put on the television on those mornings where as a parent you’re looking to be able to get anything done. LEGO Friends is one of these shows. It isn’t perfect, but our girls like watching girls on television, and this crew often finds themselves playing sports or saving dolphins or engineering the winning float in the town parade.

Which takes us back to:

“If you want him to like you, you’re going to have to let him win.”

We settled in to this latest offering by Netlfix and waited to see how this “girl likes boy, girl is better than boy at something, does girl lessen her ability just so a boy will like her” scenario was going to play out. It was like the girls and us were watching different shows, but both pairs were hyper-engaged. The best way to turn a LEGO cartoon into a suspense movie is to set the scene for a potentially sexist message.

A recap of the first 18 minutes of the show in 30 seconds: The girl in question (her name is Mia for the LEGO Friends uninitiated) was an incredible everything—runner, jumper, survivalist.  The boy in questions was good at everything too. But Mia was better. The boy played coy and withdrew from competing with the girl. The uber-masculine best friend told the boy he couldn’t let the girl win. An emergency struck and the girl was best suited to save everyone from the emergency. But she’d have to make the boy look inferior to do it.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT! COULD WE ALL KEEP WATCHING?!

Well, in the end the boy realizes that not being better than a girl at something doesn’t affect whether or not you’re a man. Not even a little. So, Mia saves the day and everybody stays friends and the ridiculous notions too many people have about masculinity gets cut up again.

I know that to many, the Netlfix kid offerings are just time fillers. They are things we can put on for our kids to make them happy and to keep them busy while we try to get things done. But these time fillers can be influential. And some of these shows and movies really are great at depicting girls and young women as the intelligent, smart and creative people they are. Project Mc2, LEGO Elves, and the movie Home have amazing heroes in them—ones I love watching with our girls time and time again.

I like that LEGO Friends shares positive images of young girls, that my daughter watches them excel at sports and science and math. There are flaws of course—every body is the same type, there is little divergence from the girl likes boys only type narrative, and the overwhelming sense of financial privilege among the girls being some of the biggest I’ve noted. But I do like that beyond showing my daughters that girls can be smart and be friends and be successful even when they aren’t good at everything, they also have attempted to take a look at masculinity and show how harmful the traditional ideas of boys needing to be better than girls at everything in order to grow from boy to man can be.

And, I have to be honest, it was pretty cool to watch my daughter build her way through the LEGO Friends birthday celebration set without help from either of us.

*I am part of the Netflix #StreamTeam and this is one of those posts. I’d be happy to talk LEGO Friends with you whenever you’d like.

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