For many years, the Galactic Empire was portrayed as pro-human/anti-alien autocracy, and though it is fictional this stance by creator George Lucas – and the writers who followed him – has resonated through pop culture and the community.
The roots of the Galactic Empire began with a strong military force made up, predominately, of cloned male humans. This set the trend for further officer candidate training and recruitment of the rank and file, and created the assumption that only pale-skinned non-females could be bad guys in the Star Wars galaxy!
It wasn’t until the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade by Timothy Zahn in the early 1990’s that there was any sign of thaw in the Empire’s recruitment policy, and for the longest of times, its homogeneity was barely challenged in the movies, books, comics or video games of the next Millennia.
The same was true, to an extent, with the LEGO Star Wars theme because early human minifigures all had the classic yellow skin color as if they were residents of LEGOLAND and not a galaxy far, far away. It wasn’t until October 2003, with the release of set 10123 Cloud City, that the issue of ethnicity in the Star Wars galaxy was dealt with when a dark brown-skinned minifigure of Lando Calrissian was included in the set.
Five months later Caucasian skin tones were introduced to the Star Wars theme, and yellow minifigures were retired, when LEGO made the decision to represent licensed characters more accurately. Surprisingly this change in direction started with the licensed NBA subtheme that formed part of their larger Sports theme, and not with the Star Wars or Harry Potter lines.
With licensed products such as LEGO® Star Wars™ and LEGO® Harry Potter™ the figure began appearing in specific roles, and with LEGO Basketball in 2003 it took on authentic skin colours. In 2004 the LEGO minifigure assumed an even wider range of skin colours when it was decided that the figures in licensed products should resemble the original characters as closely as possible. One result was that the figures in LEGO Harry Potter™ changed from yellow to a more authentic skin colour.Source: LEGO Company Profile (2010)
Since then there have been very few advancements and, with the exception 75226 Inferno Squad Battle Pack in 2019 and 75293 Resistance I-TS Transport in 2020, fans have seen very few changes to the white/male minifigure lineup.
From its earliest days, LEGO has stretched itself to be more inclusive, with many of its in-house themes demonstrating non-gender biased roles (though still with yellow-skinned minifigures).
We work with a broad definition of diversity, from gender, ethnicity, background and experience to other dimensions such as lifestyle and family responsibilities. Our goal is to increase the representation of all dimensions to reflect the increasingly diverse and global marketplace we operate in.Source: LEGO sustainability statement
The tumultuous homeworld events of 2020 saw LEGO take a more public and direct stance against many forms of bias, but it wasn’t until the release of the 75313 AT-AT in November 2021, with the inclusion of non-white and female Imperial minifigures, that the LEGO Star Wars theme began to catch up with the times.
While minifigures representing characters played by actors of different sexes and races are nothing new – Jannah, Rose Tico and Iden Versio are prime examples – the heterogeneity of the commoners has always been vanilla. That changed earlier this year when LEGO made a revision to the minifigure assortment included in 75311 Imperial Armored Marauder by adding female and Black stormtroopers.
Now, with the recently released UCS AT-AT, the diversity of the Imperial war machine has been further improved.
Using light nougat for Caucasian skin, medium nougat for Latino and Asian tones, and reddish-brown or dark brown for Black origins, along with male and female facial features, LEGO has added a white female Snowtrooper, an AT-AT Driver that is a Latino or Asian woman, and a Black male Snowtrooper to the regular white male minifigure assortment that is standard in Imperial sets.
The cynical will see this as a move to help sell LEGO sets to those who don’t see themselves being included in the traditional line-up of Star Wars minifigures, while others will recognize this as the Danish toy manufacturer making a step towards a more inclusive representation of the Star Wars galaxy – even if it isn’t necessarily depicted at a multimedia level yet.
Regardless of their motives, this change brings the Star Wars theme in line with a number of other core LEGO product lines – like Duplo and Friends – which have reflected the society and the children who play with LEGO toys for a number of years.
What’s your take on this change? Is it a welcome one, are you ambivalent or do you still miss yellow Star Wars minifigures? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Fervent documentarian, effusive AFOL and founding partner, Jeremy manages the daily news content and set reviews.
Having enjoyed playing with LEGO from his earliest years, Jeremy started collecting LEGO Star Wars in 1999 when the theme was first released. He has shared his thoughts and opinions on LEGO via a number of websites – including starwars.com, rebelscum.com and brickset.com – contributed to the LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary series and served the LEGO Ambassador Network as a Recognised LEGO Fan Media representative.