Lego Friends: New Girl in Town

Lego-Friends-MinifiuresThe first episode of the Lego Friends series is called New Girl in Town (also currently streaming on Netflix). This episode starts out with a shot of the sign for Heartlake City, the setting for the series. Heartlake City, as evidenced by the show and the toys that the show is based off of, is a feminine mecca where only stereotypical female hobbies and occupations exist. Like the Feminist Frequency video points out, there’s no fire station, but there’s restaurants. The things you have to exchange for having a completely gendered town…

Anyway, the episode starts out by showing men working on setting up several edifices and stands for what looks like a fair. Men, and only men, are working everywhere. The camera follows a butterfly that passes by the workmen and introduces the first character and the primary protagonist, Olivia. She is watching a bunch of butterflies with her binoculars. She watches them fly away and laments, “Aw, you have friends. Must be nice.”

Just then, her Aunt Sophie calls her over. Her aunt is the town’s veterinarian and is wearing her work uniform. Aunt Sophie tells Olivia that she needs help setting up for the pet adoptions as part of the town’s World Petacular, a fair that is coming up the next day. Sophie is hopeful that they will find homes for lots of the animals that the clinic is currently caring for.

Just then, a woman with short red hair enters carrying a puppy. She gives the puppy to Olivia and announces that she can’t keep the animal. She proclaims that the dog chews on everything and won’t behave. Olivia tells her that the dog just needs to be trained, but the woman insists that she goes to a “more suitable” home. The woman tells Olivia that the dog’s name is Scarlet and leaves without saying goodbye to the dog and telling Olivia, “good luck”.

Olivia says that Scarlet will be the first pet to be placed for adopted tomorrow. Sophie tells Olivia that she should take Scarlet on a walk and suggests that she goes over to the Equestrian area of the grounds where she can meet Mia, a champion horse rider. Sophie tells Olivia that since she’s been in Heartlake City for two weeks, she’s probably dying to make friends. Olivia agrees but mumbles to herself that she doesn’t want to make arranged friends.

Sophie instructs her niece to keep a firm hold on Scarlet’s leash and just as she finishes her statement, Scarlet sees a butterfly and runs off after it. Olivia pursues the little puppy. She runs full force through the veterinarian’s grounds and sees a boy up ahead, playing with a toy airplane.

Although Olivia clearly sees him, she runs into him, possibly because of a lack of depth perception. I have a theory that one of her eyes is glass. She apologizes to the boy that she knocked over and hands him back his airplane. The boy, who we later find out is named Jacob, tells her not to worry; he wasn’t able to get the plane to fly long before she crashed into him. She tells him, “Close the needle vale half a turn, then restart.”

While it seems like this is a moment of female empowerment and a girl stepping outside of the boundaries of girliness and into the role of a mechanic, this type of once-off genius is something quite familiar to children’s shows. A character will show a particular aptitude out of no where, with no indication of how she knows this or where she learned it from. Olivia never mentions flying, mechanics, toy airplanes or anything of that nature in the rest of this episode or in the rest of the series.

But getting back to the story, although Jacob is at first skeptical, he does as Olivia had suggested and the plane works. Olivia takes off in hot pursuit of the runaway dog. The scene then changes to a stage where a man that we learn later is the Mayor, is addressing a crowd.

He stays that the World Petacular will have an equestrian competition, a dog show, pet adoptions, grooming, pet care and more. He vows that this event will put their small town on the map. Just then, Scarlet bursts through the World Petacular sign and leaves more chaos in her wake. Olivia continues to run after her.

Meanwhile, Emma is sitting on the ground working on a banner that she’s been painting for the Petacular. She stops to admire it, just then, Scarlet runs across it, knocking over a can of paint and ruining the entire banner. Olivia apologizes to Emma as she runs by.

Cut to the blonde character, Stephanie who has just finished baking some cupcakes for the Petacular. She remarks that she is only half a cake behind schedule. Just then, Scarlet runs past, knocking the fresh pan of cupcakes out of her hands. They all fall to the ground. Olivia runs by, apologizing again.

Scarlet, who seems has an endless amount of puppy energy, runs past a stage that several workers have just finished building and knocks out a support beam, causing the arch that they just finished to crumble. The scene then cuts to the diner where Andrea is working. Kind of.

Right now, she’s singing into a broom handle. The lyrics contain the phrases, “We can do it/share the fun today/it’s all about the good of creation.” Although, so far, there’s very little creation going on. After she finishes, the diners clap and Andrea announces that she’ll be singing at the World Petacular.

But before she can soak up anymore glory, the owner of the diner reminds her that her order has been up for five minutes now. Andrea picks up a plate of hamburgers and a tray of water glasses and wonders if Beyonce got her start like this. Just then, a woman exiting the diner unwittingly lets Scarlet in and the dog runs past Andrea, interrupting her balance and causing her to drop both trays. A hamburger lands on a customer’s head.

At the horse track, Mia, a redhead with freckles, is practicing with her horse, Bella. I have to give the series credit here; they are actually showing a main character practicing at a hobby that doesn’t involve shopping or clothes. It sounds very mundane, but this is an accomplishment for a children’s TV show. So often the storylines are so heavily focused on gossip and shopping that girls’ hobbies that they allegedly have are never featured beyond an offhanded mention.

Just as Mia finishes a difficult jump, another rider, Lacy, comes over on her horse, Gingersnap, and attempts to psych Mia out. The two will be riding against each other in the World Petacular. Mia, not buying into Lacy’s intimation states, “May the best horse and rider win.” Lacy responds, “Thanks, we will.”

Just then, Scarlet runs over and spooks Bella. Considering that Scarlet runs right under Bella’s hooves, it’s very lucky that she wasn’t crushed. Bella, scared of the little dog, bucks Mia into a tree. Olivia runs over to try to catch Scarlet and Mia falls out of the tree and onto her just as both Bella and Scarlet run off.

The introductions of all of these characters how just how limited the scope for female hobbies and abilities has truly become. Painting a banner is feminine enough, so that’s okay for Emma. Baking cupcakes is a feminine hobby and something that Barbie and her sisters like to do, so that’s alright for Stephanie. Andrea both sings and waits tables as a diner, both perfectly natural occupations for young women. Mia rides horses, which is definitely girly enough to be a suitable hobby for her.

Why couldn’t one of the girls be building something out of Legos, like the entire fucking point of these toys is supposed to be? Why couldn’t one of the girls be playing a video game or doing a science experiment or racing a dirt bike? Why are options for girls limited to such roles as singer, baker, or waitress?Lego-Friends-New-Girl-In-Town

Back in the story, Olivia and Mia introduce themselves, Olivia realizing that she just alienated the girl that she was supposed to be making friends with, when the other girls approach. Emma tells the girls, “I worked for three hours on that banner and that puppy wrecked it in three minutes.” It was more like three seconds, but let’s not get too technical.

Mia is worried about finding her horse and continuing her practice for the competition tomorrow. Meanwhile, Andrea is stressed out over having to work at the cafe and rehearse her music while trying to mitigate the disaster-causing puppy. Stephanie whistles to get all of the girls’ attention and tells them to give Olivia a chance to explain.

Not interested, Mia says that she has to find her horse. Stephanie offers to drive her around the grounds to find Bella and tells her, “People first, then animals.” The girls all introduce themselves to each other. Although Olivia is new to the town, all of the other girls seem to have seen each other around Heartlake City before. Olivia admits to the other girls that Scarlet’s rampage is partly for fault for not listening to her aunt and keeping a tight hold on the leash.

Just then, the Heartlake City Mayor runs up to the group. He agonizes to Stephanie, who is on the World Petacular committee, that everything is going wrong in the aftermath of Scarlet’s destructive tear. Why he goes to a teenage girl to fix all of his problems is not explained. He asks who is responsible for Scarlet and Stephanie steps in before Olivia can answer and assures him that it doesn’t matter.

She tells the Mayor that everything is under control. She says that she’s going to assemble a team to fix everything, reasoning that she’s handled worse situations. Emma starts to ask her who this brilliant team is when Stephanie tells her to shush. The Mayor says that he’s counting on her, then walks off.

As soon as he’s out of earshot, Andrea asks who is going to fix everything and Stephanie informs her that it’s them! In one day, they have to fix everything that Scarlet destroyed and keep the World Petacular running on schedule. Everyone is in to help, except Mia. She asks if they can go look for her horse and walks away.

In the next scene, Stephanie is driving Mia in a vehicle that looks a lot like a Jeep. Mia calls Bella’s name and it echoes like they’re in a cave and not out in the open for some reason. Just after Mia ponders where Bella could be, Bella whinnies and look over to see the horse standing among some shrubs. She is limping, holding up one of her front legs.

In another part of area, Olivia, Emma and Andrea are searching for Scarlet. In an exactly identical scene as before, Olivia wanders around calling Scarlet’s name and it sounds like she’s in a cave. Just as she wonders where could she be, the groups here whimpering and they find Scarlet under a shrub, whining. Olivia picks her up and tells the puppy that they’re not mad at her.

Back where Stephanie and Mia found Bella, Sophie, the vet, has been called out to look at Bella’s leg. After Sophie examines her, she determines that she has to have an x-ray. Mia realizes that this means she might not be able to compete the next day at the World Petacular. Lacy rides up and asks what’s going on. When Mia tells her that Bella is injured, Lacy fakes being sympathetic and rides off. Olivia apologizes sincerely for Bella’s injury.

The next scene shows Emma and Olivia walking to a clubhouse that’s been build into a tree. Emma is carrying a rolled up sign to paint as Olivia tells her about the tree house and how she inspected its structure herself and she knows that it’s sound. She doesn’t mention how she knows that or what qualifies her to determine whether or not the clubhouse is safe.

The two girls climb up into the tree house and take Scarlet with them. This time, though she’s on a leash. Olivia is sad that Mia doesn’t want to be her friend, but barely has time to discuss it with Emma when Scarlet sees a cat that was playing in the tree house and barks at it. The cat runs off and the girls laugh at Scarlet.

Back at the vet, Sophie examines the x-ray and declares that Bella’s leg isn’t broken but she won’t know if Bella can compete until the next morning. When Sophie asks Mia about Olivia, Mia doesn’t want to talk about her. She adds that she’s not getting the “friendship vibe” from the young woman. Sophie tells her gently that everyone deserves a second chance.

Meanwhile, at the cafe, Stephanie and Andrea are remaking the cupcakes. Stephanie is acting like a hyperactive coke addict and asking Andrea questions, then ignoring her when she tries to answer. After a few seconds of this, Andrea shoves what looks like a stick of butter into Stephanie’s mouth and informs the blonde girl that she works there, not Stephanie, so she’s in charge.

Stephanie comments that she always thought that Andrea was more of a singer than a baker. Andrea indignantly informs her that she has more than one talent. Even though both of them are suitably feminine. Andrea asks Stephanie if she’s going to let her take the lead and Stephanie agrees.

Outside of the clubhouse, Emma is gone and Olivia has just finished giving Scarlet a bath. She talks to the puppy, asking her, “What girl doesn’t love bubbles?” After Scarlet is all dry from her bath, Olivia decides that it’s training time. She then does some of the worst dog training I’ve ever seen a cartoon character do.

She first instructs Scarlet to sit and seems to think that repeating the word at her and making a downward motion with her hand is going to get through to her hyperactive brain that she needs to sit. After attempting to teach her that command for a few seconds, she switches to roll over and heel with no progress. Olivia gets frustrated with the puppy and tells her that if she doesn’t start behaving that no one is going to want to adopt her.

For some reason, her dog shaming comes across as pointless. The dog doesn’t understand her and just giving her commands isn’t going to change that. Scarlet doesn’t speak English. While Olivia is chastising the puppy for all of the trouble that she caused today, Mia walks up behind her and watches her with the dog. Olivia is upset that Mia might not be able to compete due to Bella’s injury. Then, Scarlet gets it into her furry head that she needs to behave, and this time when Olivia tells her to sit she does it. She also rolls over and heels like a pro.

The training is complete! It took less than a full minute to train the puppy. Mia comes over and tells Olivia that Scarlet is doing well. Olivia informs her that her Aunt Sophie taught her how to train dogs. There is no explanation for how hyper intelligent Scarlet is that she understands English and does commands after hearing the appropriate word a few times. Mia asks if the group needs anymore help.

At the cafe, there’s a short scene where Stephanie and Andrea are victorious at making their cupcakes. They high five and that’s pretty much the entire scene. Back at the park, sometime later, all of the girls are assembled around Scarlet and inform the puppy that they are going to give her a makeover.

They brush her, trim her fur, clip her nails, so on, so forth. Then they dress her up with little accessories that she just seems to love instead of want to eat. Finally, the girls put her in a pink collar with a pink bow on one of her ears and announce, “Scarlet, this is so you!” Do I even need to say anything?

Back at Olivia’s house, later that night, Olivia is showing Emma her bedroom. Although she has moved here two weeks previously, Emma is horrified to find that most of her room is covered in unpacked boxes. Olivia says that she’ll get around to unpacking eventually and doesn’t seem to be very worried about it, but Emma simply cannot let this go. She tells Olivia, “Honey, I cannot let you live like this.”

Olivia, who still doesn’t seem to care, goes to bed with Scarlet curled up next to her. When she wakes up the next morning, it would seem that Emma has unpacked and arranged her entire bedroom and let herself out. A little creepy? I think so. There’s no mention of whether or not Emma went through her underwear though, so let’s not leap to too many conclusions.

In the next scene, Mia goes to the vet to check on Bella. But when she looks around in the horse area, she can’t find her. Scared, she starts calling her name, which, again, sounds like she’s standing in a fucking cave. Just then, Sophie walks up with Bella on a lead.

Bella is all better and ready to compete! Olivia enters and is happy to see Mia’s horse up and around. Mia tells her new friend that she’s ready to take home the gold.

At the World Petacular, things are about to start and Emma announces that everything is working out perfectly. The girls take Scarlet to the pet adoption stage as Stephanie tells them, “Don’t look now girls, but I think we just saved the World Petacular.” Suddenly, there is a crash.

The girls look over and see that a stage has completely collapsed. They ask one of the construction workers what happened and he isn’t sure, but says that one of the support beams must have given out. Stephanie asks if he can rebuild the set before the show and he admits that he doesn’t have a full crew. This causes Olivia to volunteer herself and her new friends!

Then a brief scene follows with the girls actually building something. Which is, you know, the entire fucking point of Legos. I really wish that there would have been more building in this episode and less about friendship. There are so many girls’ shows about friendship, why not have one about building really cool shit out of Legos?

But anyway, after the construction is finished, the Mayor comes over to congratulate Stephanie and she humbly tells him that she had a little help from her friends. After he leaves, the girls turn to each other and Olivia says, “If we save the World Petacular, I wonder what else we can do.” What indeed. The world should be open to girls, but right now the world they’ve been presented with is pastel-colored Heartlake City.

Anyway, the Mayor announces that it’s time to start and Stephanie mentions a surprise and walks off. The World Petacular begins with the Mayor welcoming everyone to Heartlake City. As he talks, a plane flies overhead carrying Emma’s banner. Jacob is flying it with Stephanie in the co-pilot’s seat.

Cut to the equestrian competition where Mia is doing very well. She advances to the medal around and Lacy walks past on Gingersnap and tells her that she’ll see her in the finals. Like I said before, it’s refreshing to see a girl actually performing a hobby. Not just talking about it, not just mentioning it offhandedly, then talking about clothes, but actually doing it.

Meanwhile, over at the pet adoptions, Olivia tells Scarlet that it’s show time and she better behave. Scarlet, for whatever reason, suddenly forgets that she’s a dog and struts down the runway like a goddamn model. At the end of the runway, Scarlet performs all of the tricks that Olivia taught her in under a minute.0

The next pet introduced is Oscar (pictured), who is some kind of porcupine or hedgehog. It doesn’t say, but the design in this creature is unbelievably cute. I was really sad when we didn’t get to see more of him.

Anyway, at the medal round of the equestrian competition, the girls are cheering Mia on as she competes. Olivia briefly talks to Stephanie about flying and she tells her that she’s still learning, but enjoys it. Then she tells Olivia that Jacob is the boy who was with her and his dad owns the aviation school. You can already tell that young love is about to blossom between the two, but this plot line never really goes anywhere.

Back on the track, Mia goes for the last jump, but doesn’t quite make it. Bella’s back hooves knock the jump off of its stand. The announcer states that this keeps Bella from the gold medal position. So Lacy gets the gold medal and Mia gets the silver.

After getting off her horse, Mia congratulates Lacy on winning the competition. Lacy asks her if she’s mad that she didn’t win, but Mia isn’t. She tells her competitor that she won something else; new friends. Her new friends wave to her and then come to congratulate her on her second place victory. Lacy, who doesn’t seem to have any friends of her own, walks off. Just to make sure that Lacy knows; she might have won, but she’s still a loser.

Later, the girls are walking around the fair. They are about to go see something when Olivia sees Scarlet’s previous owner standing at the pet adoption table with Sophie, petting the little puppy. Olivia walks over to hear the owner talk about how she can’t believe the difference Olivia’s minute of training has done for the dog.

She asks to readopt her. Olivia is hesitant as she’s already bonded with Scarlet. However, Sophie picks up the dog and says that she’s already been adopted. The previous owner says that that’s a pity and walks off. But it wouldn’t be out of Sophie’s hands to refuse to adopt the dog to the woman to begin with. A good pet owner doesn’t give up an animal at the first sign of trouble and want them back after someone else has trained and cared for them.

Regardless, Olivia asks her aunt who adopted the dog and Sophie tells her that she did. Olivia asks about what her parents might think, which by this point in my children’s entertainment career sounds like a joke, but Sophie assures her that she will work something out. So Scarlet is now Olivia’s dog.

Scarlet doesn’t appear in any subsequent episodes and is never mentioned again. It would have been nicer to check in with her and she how she’s grown and how she becomes a part of Olivia’s family and a close friend to her. But we sadly don’t see her anymore. Which is also rather common for children’s TV shows.

It’s now the end of the night and it’s time for Andrea to perform. She starts out playing the piano and singing. Soon, she’s standing holding a microphone. The song itself is pretty uninspired. Just like Andrea’s singing voice.

At the end of the episode, everyone is dancing along in one of those happily-ever-after type wrap ups that shows all of the various characters and animals that we’ve met throughout the last 22 minutes. At the end of Andrea’s song, there’s fireworks and the girls jump on stage to congratulate her. And that’s the end.

This show didn’t have a promising start, given the medium that it’s taken from, but it soon teeters into pure banality. The episode manages to be so middle of the road and simplistic that it’s just not intriguing, challenging or daring enough to be enjoyable. It’s not bad per say, but it’s not really that good either. Let’s see if the next episode manages to be any better than the first.

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