Search results for Lego

I love this 1981 Lego ad, sent in by Nora R. (found at Flikr):


This is what I looked like as a kid. Except that I have naturally curly hair that my mom couldn’t control, so add a halo of frizz sticking out everywhere. And it’s been a while since I’ve seen an ad that shows a girl like this–wearing clothes and playing with a toy that aren’t meant to be specifically “feminine” in our current version of that. She’s playing with regular Legos–not some special version for girls that makes a shopping mall or purse or tube of lipstick! And she’s beautiful!

I’ve seen other ads from the ’70s and ’80s, particularly for Tonka trucks, that show girls like this–in clothes that look like they’re actually made for playing instead of making a fashion statement, and playing with toys in the same way boys would, even if it means getting dirty (gasp!). When we see ads that always show girls in pink, playing with “girl” versions of toys, or engaged in passive activities, that’s a particular marketing choice, not some inevitable, obvious way girls need to be depicted to sell products.

[Note: In the comments, we’re getting a lot of love for the Legos. That’s fine and all, but I must speak up for Lincoln Logs, which were way more awesome if you wanted to build corrals to hold your Breyer horses.]

[Note 2: Holy crap! Someone remade the “Thriller” video with Lego people! I have to admit, Legos probably work better for this purpose than Lincoln Logs would.]

NEW! Nov ’09 I found three more examples of ads that seem devoid of gender differentiation (here, here, and here):




Sociology reveals the invisible in our world. Sociologists explore the parts of our society that remain “in the dark,” and this has a lot in common with the horror genre. Both sociologists and horror fans find value in delving into the qualities and behaviors of people that others would rather not address. Both focus on things we don’t want to confront. More than many other genres, horror films are rife with sociological implications.

We are sociologists who host the Collective Nightmares podcast. Our podcast examines horror films from a sociological perspective. We focus on issues such as the representation of individuals of different genders, sexualities, and racial/ethnic backgrounds as well as the ideological messages of the film narratives.

Horror movies are a great teaching tool for undergraduate classes. For example, two recent films, Summer of ’84 and The First Purge, are a good fit for sociology courses focusing on gender, sexuality, deviance, and social problems. We’ve used discussion of horror films in our classes with great success – and what better time than Halloween to inspire students to think sociologically about horror?!

Summer of ’84 (2018)

Summer of ’84 models itself on popular media of the 1980s in look, tone, and story (The Goonies (1985), Explorers (1985), Stand By Me (1986), etc.). Our lead protagonist, an upper-middle class, white, heterosexual, boy, Davey, played by Graham Verchere, suspects his neighbor of being a serial killer. He convinces his friends to help him spy and investigate. Hijinks and horror ensue.

A Reagan Bush ’84 campaign sign in a neighborhood yard, signaling the political era of the film.

In our discussion of Summer of ‘84, we examine the representation of young women in adolescent boy-centric summer adventure movies. We also discuss the ubiquity of troublesome, but “oh so palatable” tropes. These include the representation of women, people of color, and political ideology that, when couched in a nostalgic 1980’s setting (which we both grew up smack in the middle of) can feel homey. The cultural climate of our youth seems to have clouded our ability to see the way Summer of ’84 depicted first and foremost women, but also racial inequity and the political climate of the 1980’s.

To address these ideas in your classroom, consider a discussion centered on the following argument, which we make in the podcast: Summer of ‘84 presented women largely as sexual currency for young men’s bonding.

Davey and his friends in their clubhouse discussing women while looking at an adult magazine.

Horror is a genre that relies on stigmatized topics and transgressing boundaries, and it therefore has unique potential to challenge or reinforce common conceptions of normalcy. One of the ways the core group of boys are cast as normal, good, and moral, in contrast to the suspicious neighbor, is via their hegemonic heterosexuality. This is largely done by showing them discussing women as potential sexual trophies, engaging the male gaze toward adult magazines, and taking advantage of Davey’s vantage point to watch his neighbor Nikki, played by Tiera Skovbye, undressing.

Nikki is relegated to the role of  “love interest” as a willing participant in these exchanges. She takes pride in her ability to give the boys status through her flirtations, exalting them as her only true friends. She finds their covert attempts to see her naked as flattering, rather than a stark invasion of privacy. For a deeper discussion, we take this argument a step further and ask ourselves why we, both trained sociologists (one of whom specializes in gender) found the film enjoyable in spite of these deeply problematic behaviors. What does that say about the pervasiveness of these gender ideologies in our society?

The First Purge (2018)

The annual purge announcement from The Purge: Election Year (2016)
Staten Island residents rallying against the proposal to enact The Purge in their neighborhood.

The concept of The Purge (2013) film and now TV series is that once a year in the U.S. for 12 hours, all crime, including murder, is legal. The most recent film in the series, The First Purge, arrived in theaters this summer. In the film, the right-wing New Founding Fathers of America political party conducts an experiment on Staten Island, a borough of primarily poor people of color. This experiment is a trial run of the Purge concept that is rolled out nationally in the other films.

This premise offers director Gerard McMurray an allegory to explore a host of sociological issues relevant to current U.S. society. The film works as a basis for a discussion of class inequality, racial injustices, gendered violence, and social control. In our discussion of the film, we address deviance, racial stereotypes, anomie, solidarity, and the social psychological influences on behavior, especially the internalization of norms.

Though the horror genre is notorious for being particularly white-dominated, The First Purge is directed by a Black man (Gerard McMurray) and the primary stars of the film are people of color (Y’lan NoelLex Scott DavisJoivan Wade). While critical and thought-provoking in many ways, the film is also disappointing when it comes to portrayals of gender and sexuality. Questions for class discussion could include how social structure influences individual agency within the film’s narrative. How does the film perpetuate and challenge race, gender, and racial stereotypes? What is the role of intersectionality in these stereotypes?

In preparation for Halloween, we will soon have a follow-up post detailing which of our prior podcasts are relevant to different sociology courses. We will also have an example assignment to share that instructors can adapt to their own needs/classes to help you discuss horror films with your students.

Marshall Smith earned his PhD in sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011 focusing on gender, sexuality, youth, and media. He currently teaches sociology classes at CU Boulder for the Farrand Residential Academic Program. 

Laura Patterson earned her PhD from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011, focusing on environmental issues and the impacts of HIV/AIDS in rural South Africa.  She’s currently a research consultant with a Colorado-based pregnancy prevention program and other federally-funded evaluation efforts, in addition to teaching at CU Boulder and Adams State University.

Thank you all for a truly fantastic year!

We rounded it out with more than six and a half million page views.  We almost doubled our Facebook followers — from 35,000 last December to more than 68,000 today. We are honored to enjoy over 21,000 Twitter followers, 13,000 on Pinterest and 20,000 on our one-year-old Tumblr page.  Much gratitude to everyone for your enthusiasm and support!


Two of us published textbooks!

2What else!

I’ve also signed contracts to write two more books, one on hookup culture and a Introduction to Sociology text. I’m excited to keep writing!

Best of 2014!

1 (3)

Over the last week I’ve highlighted my favorite and your most loved posts from 2014.  Here’s are the lists in case you missed it last week!

Reader’s Choice (plus # of likes/shares before we re-posted)

Most loved humor!

Editor’s picks

Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s to wonderful things in 2015!

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Social mobility refers to likelihood that a person born in one social class will end up in another as an adult. A new study by Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill for the Brookings Institute offered a devastating picture of the possibilities for black youth. To summarize: most black children see downward mobility and are poorer as adults than they were as children.

4More than half of black children born into the poorest 1/5th of households will remain there as adults. That’s only true for 36% of similarly-situated Americans overall. Poor black children, then, are less likely than Americans in general to be able to escape poverty.

Black children born into the middle class — literally the middle 5th of Americans as measured by household income — overwhelmingly see downward mobility. 16% will remain somewhere in the middle, 14% will be richer than their parents, and a whopping 69% will end up less economically stable. In comparison, only 38% of Americans, overall, born into the middle 5th see a decline in their status as adults.

As you may have noticed from the hole in the far right of the chart, the researchers didn’t have enough cases to even estimate outcomes for blacks born rich.

Below is the data for whites (first) and all Americans (second) for comparison:

32Here’s the first author, Richard Reeves, explaining social mobility, using Legos of course:

H/t Joe Feagin. Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Every spring, my daughter receives an invitation to participate in a local Girls on the Run (GOTR) program. Every spring, I hesitate saying, “yes.”

Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a non-profit organization with about 200 councils across the U.S. and Canada. Over 10 to 12 weeks, councils help organize teams of girls in 3rd through 8th grades to train for and complete a 5K run.

Volunteer coaches lead their team through the program’s pre-packaged curriculum, consisting of lessons that “encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development.” Among other things they discuss self-esteem, confidence, team work, healthy relationships, and “challenges girls face.” Boys are not allowed to participate in the program. The 5K is described by GOTR as the ending “moment in time that beautifully reflects the very essence of the program goals.”

The starting line has the atmosphere of a party. Music is played over loud speakers, pumping teen pop (with lyrics laden with sexual innuendo and “crushes” on boys) and oldies that carry an affirmative “you can do it” message like Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive.”

Vendors (local businesses and organizations) bring tables to engage the girls and their parents in products/services they have available. This is not the only form of capitalistic opportunism affiliated with GOTR. The international organization’s official sponsors include Lego Friends – a line of Legos that emphasize single-sexed socialization (not building!) and Secret’s campaign “Mean Stinks” (featuring another pop glam star, Demi Lovato) that emphasizes painting fingernails blue, among other frivolous things, to address girl-on-girl bullying.

The run is an odd scene. Though boys have been banned from participation, older male relatives, friends, and teachers are encouraged to run with girls as their sponsors. It has become a unique trademark of GOTR that these men, and many of the women and girls, dress “hyper-feminine” (e.g., in skirts, tutus, big bows, bold patterned knee-high socks, tiaras, etc.), apply make-up or face paint, and spray color their hair. The idea is to “girl it up.”

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with this event for a couple of reasons.

First, encouraging girls to “girl it up”—or I prefer, “glam it up,” so that we don’t appropriate these behaviors just for girls—can be fun, an opportunity to step out and beyond what is practiced in everyday life. But there’s no corresponding encouragement to “butch it up” if they desire, or do some combination of both.  In the end, then, this simply serves to reproduce gender stereotypes and the old-fashioned and false notion that gender is binary.

Second, by bombarding girls with “positive” messages about themselves meant to counteract negative ones, the program implicitly gives credence to the idea that girls aren’t considered equal to boys. What messages are girls really getting when special programs are aimed at trying to make them feel good about themselves as girls?

Although I have always given in to my daughter’s requests, at some point I am going to say “no.” Instead of reinforcing the box she’s put into, and decorating it with a pretty bow, we’ll have to start unpacking mainstream girl culture together.

Scott Richardson is an assistant professor of educational foundations and affiliate of women’s studies at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. You can follow him on Twitter.

We’re 7 years old today!  To celebrate, check out this picture of seven capybaras.

Thanks to everyone who has visited over the last seven years!  This is our 5,226th post and I can hardly believe it.  Ready to charge on for another!

Here are some highlights from the last year. The blog never ceases to surprise!

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

SocImages News:

At the end of January we had the pleasure of introducing the world to 7 year old Charlotte’s letter to Lego asking for more female minifigs and adventures for girls.

It struck a nerve and was covered this month at The Independent, ABC News, CBC News, Fox News, io9, USA Today, The ExaminerThe New York Daily News, San Francisco GateBuzzfeedShine, Huffington Post, Metro, Vitamin W, and The Daily Mail.  And that’s just a selection from the first two pages of search results!

Readers’ Picks!

Social Media ‘n’ Stuff:

Finally, this is your monthly reminder that we’re on TwitterFacebookTumblrGoogle+, and Pinterest.  I’m on Facebook and most of the team is on Twitter: @lisawade@gwensharpnv@familyunequal, and @jaylivingston.


…a lovely picture of the steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi crescent.  I’m enjoying New Orleans and looking forward to Mardi Gras and the St. Ann’s parade!


Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

SocImages News:

A proud father shared with us a letter written by his daughter, 7 year old Charlotte, to the LEGO company.  She asked for for more female minifigs and more adventure for girls.  We put the letter out on social media this week and it’s been re-tweeted over 1,000 times and shared over 3,000 times on Facebook.  This is how social media can be used to put pressure on companies to change.  Huzzah!

Well done Charlotte and big thanks to Dad!


Reader’s Picks of the Month:

Social Media:

This is your monthly reminder that SocImages is on TwitterFacebook,TumblrGoogle+, and Pinterest.  I’m on Facebook and most of the team is on Twitter: @lisawade@gwensharpnv@familyunequal, and @jaylivingston.

In other news…

Stay warm New Orleans!  I’m arriving on Monday and I expect you to be hospitable!


If you’re in the city, I’d love to get together!  I’ll be there through Mardi Gras.  Send an email to and I’ll be in touch!  

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.