If Lego Ninjago is representative of a typical playtime fantasy we have some serious issues on our hands. Why? It’s that old chestnut – erasure of women.
The film starts with a live action scene that feels like an homage to Karate Kid. A young boy being bullied seeks solace in a wise local Chinese man. We then move into Lego world and meet Lloyd and the other ninjas. Through adventure and battling their evil nemesis they find their inner strengths.
Fantasy playtime that doesn’t include women and girls
After meeting the two males in the opening scene we meet more in the Lego world.
There are six teenage ninjas, only one of whom is female.
The only other notable woman is Lloyd’s mother Koko. She does motherly things like make him food and worry about him. She does have an interesting back story which is referenced later but she doesn’t influence the narrative in any way.
Where does that leave us?
- Male protagonist
- Male wise uncle
- Male arch baddie
- 5 male ninjas
- 1 female ninja
- Protagonist’s mother
This is a totally normal ratio coming from Hollywood, so it’s frustrating but not surprising. The reason why it worries me is this is supposed to be the inner child in all of us playing in our toy world. So why no more women?
If the film is aimed only at boys do they not weave women into their play? Do they not deserve to see strong inventive skilled women? What are girls watching this film supposed to think about themselves?
Only men can throw things
A key part of the plotline is that Lloyd famously can’t catch or throw because his he didn’t have a father to teach him. But his mother could have taught him. She was more than qualified since she’s a secret ninja warrior. But apparently only men can throw things.
Yes it’s a common trope, men playing catch with their sons. But this film makes SUCH a big deal out of it it just highlights the massive sexist plot hole.
Some parts were amusing enough. I liked the live action cat destroying the city. But for a children’s film to not only fail the Bechdel test but to exclude women from the narrative to such a degree it really let itself down.
The female characters weren’t represented poorly, they were skilled badass ninjas after all. There were just so few of them and they didn’t get to drive any of the story.
- Score: 5
- Bechdel test: Fail
- Totally unscientific women’s representation score: 6