Lost In Translation Of GoldieBlox’s Ad

GoldieBlox released a video ad introducing their new action figure for girls (video below). I was thrilled to read in the press release of their intention to “show girls more options and lead them to a world full of possibilities.” As a feminist, I absolutely get where GoldieBlox is coming from.  Creating toys to encourage and promote girls in a pursuit of STEM interests is noble indeed.

I, too, want to promote alternative thoughts and actions in young girls in our seemingly institutionalized cultural obsession with princesses and being perfect.  I’m also a strong advocate of change.  Though the process of change is frequently messy and the disruption and disruptors aren’t always welcome, everyone loves rooting for a rebel and a rebellion?  Right?

But a funny thing happened as I watched the video, I got frustrated and mad instead.  How did GoldieBlox undo so many good intentions in one video?  With all the wrong messages they are sending to girls.

Big Sister = Dark Underbelly

"Set to the music of Metric's "Help I'm Alive," the video portrays the dark underbelly of 'Big Sister's' influence."

Being an adult and having viewed the video, I get the reference as a feminine counterpart to our ever watching, ever controlling “big brother” institutions. While this ad maybe targeted to parents, we live in the internet age. You have to assume kids see all.  Especially when a video is about a new product made specifically for them.

So how many young girls would understand the context of “Big Sister” as a social institution? Wouldn’t they more naturally think of their “Big (aka older) Sister” or even themselves as the bad thing, the dark underbelly to rebel against? And what about any involved in the “Big Sister” mentoring organization? Wouldn’t those “Big Sisters” get tarred with the dark underbelly tag in the mind of these young girls too?

Girls who Love Pink, Princesses & Glitter = Clones

I’m not sure why anyone wanting a positive response to their product would characterize their target consumer, “girls,” as a monolithic production line of high-heeled wanna-be adults identically dressed in pink, walking in step and passively waiting for their “Barbie” like doll to be offered up by a giant machine.

Isn’t that degrading of young girls?  Isn’t that creating a mega stereotype?

Even a non-princess obsessed like me knows there are a lot of different princesses who look different, do different things and live different lives (I’ve watched and loved all the princess movies).

Boy Behavior (Aggression and Disruption) = Leader

"Enter Little Sister - a hightop wearing, hammer-wielding disruptor out to break the monotony, show girls more options and lead them to a world full of possibilities."

Leading requires presenting a vision of the future and a path to get there.  Destruction can be positive when it is followed by the construction of something better in its place. But destruction for the sake of monotony usually creates chaos in its wake and isn’t worried about what comes afterward. But apparently relieving monotony is leader-like, because …well, Little Sister shows she is disruptor and not princess like?

Girl Behavior (Passive and Accepting) = Bad

The underlying message of the video to young girls seems to be saying — if you don’t join the rebellion, if you don’t become a disruptor with us, you are just another wimpy girl. Yes, apparently, it is still an either/or world.  So girls need to be on the right side — the non-princess side.

Where is the appeal to the “Every Girl?” Where is the presentation of that “world full of opportunities” for a girl to be a romantic book-worm, a skateboarding geek, a beribboned basketball player, a music loving math genius… Where is the acceptance of the full spectrum of what a girl can be — including a princess?

To me this is the biggest sin of this ad.

Pink Dressed Girls = The Problem

The road to math and science isn’t through a take down of young girls wearing pink.  If you want to change girl/women culture, don’t take aim at girls for accepting something they didn’t create.  Your target should be the adults, the media, the advertisers, the Disney movie makers — those who created and perpetuate such a narrow view. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell girls what they can and can’t be!

(*Update: Here is a reaction from a 13 & 16 year old.)

Here’s the video. What do you think?  Did the good intentions of GoldieBlox get lost in bad messaging?




  1. Hmmm …. I think they are trying to emulate the iconic Steve Jobs Mac commercial complete with the hammer wielding female. That makes me think this is aimed at adults not children, which I don’t mind.
    I go crazy looking for non-pink, non-princess stuff for my granddaughters. I’m sure it is the adults that started the fad of dressing little girls like homeless ballerinas.
    I worked in advertising. You couldn’t sell the doll to kids with this commercial but you might make adults think twice, I hope.


    1. Hey Jean,

      Great to have your perspective! I’m with you…Girls = pink drives me nuts too. My objection is with the ad using the young girls in the line up. It gives the impression that they are the ones doing something wrong. I agree the ad is targeted at adults and changing their behavior. Which makes me think it would have been more effective to have had women walking the line all matching clone like and the young girl still doing her thing. Then the message of who needs to change would be more clear…

      I also wish they would have presented this as breaking the mold which was the point and not that it was expanding a world full of possibilities which it doesn’t.


      1. Linda you are absolutely right. You should be in advertising. A line of ADULT women Barbie dolls and a non-conformist young girl would be perfect. So would blowing up an actual mold that pops these Barbie women out. At the end all the Barbie women robots could transform into happy actual adults.

        I have a couple of friends who owned small agencies (no longer the case – the big ones decided to go after the small business as well). About 20 years ago I told one to go after the boomers because all the ads are ageist as well as sexist. Sadly we now see perfect brainless young women and hapless confused grannies, neither one being a person I identify with.
        Makes you wonder what happened to all the majority women college graduates.


      2. Blowing up the Barbie woman mold and freeing real people — love it! It would also being empowering to young girls – saying its okay to independent and not accept your mother”s ideal. Some of the fiercest women I know are in their 80’s and 90’s.


      3. Well, not quite there yet but definitely second wave Feminist.
        Job ads were Help Wanted Male and Help Wanted Female (I answered the male ads).
        Employers could ask married women if they planned to have any children (I said “No” because at THAT VERY MOMENT I had no plans. Of course a few moments later could be a different story …)
        No maternity leave – I only had 2 weeks vacation. They generously threw in another third because I had a Caesarean.
        But all that only made me work and fight harder. In some ways it is worse for women now because they believe those battles were won.
        No, they are just not visible any more.


      4. Ahhaha! Didn’t think you were. I just so admire their tenacity in not quietly fading into a corner and even at that age believing they still have something to contribute and it is needed…

        Hmm, the stories you could tell…Yes, I think current generations assume it should be easier. At this point, I’m not sure it ever will be.


  2. Get the point here and appreciate it. I think girls have far more options today for toys then when my daughter was growing up. She had the obligatory Barbie with outfits, but seemed to prefer PacMan. In the end, didn’t matter whether she played with dolls or not, as she continues to succeed in a male dominated field. The greater influence is what we as parents do to cultivate interests and help our daughters break through the nonsense that can be thrown at them.


    1. Ha! “Break through the nonsense” — Perfect way to phrase it. “Cultivate interests” early on, absolutely key. I’d also add “establish their self worth” though it is pretty much implied by your other two.

      I do appreciate Goldieblox’s goal, I just think this ad is way off the mark.


    2. Yay! Another girl raised right. My daughter hated Barbie, loved PacMan and is now a well-known Videogame designer – definitely a male field.
      Maybe there should be a club.


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