Is There an Instructions Manual for Life?

In today’s day and age, it could be argued that it’s near impossible to go about your day without being exposed to any sort of media. Many have smart phones that will display news or advertisements on various apps, we see advertisements in the streets on the daily, or we simply watch television in the comfort of our own homes. Since there are so many people in the world being exposed to this content, it’s not surprising that there are a lot of shared mentalities throughout the world. Because we live in such a globalized culture, it is easy to connect to a colossal amount of people as an audience, and the masses are being molded by what they are exposed to. Interesting enough, The Lego Movie touches upon these themes, specifically how the masses move as one entity and are almost completely influenced my mass media.


In The Lego Movie the first hint of this overall theme is the “Everything Is Awesome” song and the scene of Emmett waking up. There are instructions for him to follow for everything and he is blindly going about his day, enjoying everything, even though the viewer knows some things are ridiculous, like the $37 coffee. This could be translated as the falsities of what media often portrays: an ideal life.

Another aspect was Emmett catching something that Lord Business said over the TV. In the middle of his speech he threatened that if people don’t follow their instructions they’ll be “put to sleep” and Emmett questions it for one second but is distracted. We find ourselves frequently blindly following and accepting mass media and culture and not really questioning motives or origins. In The Lego Movie, everyone accepting of master builders and this societal gap that people cannot build things from their own creative thought process. In Faces In A Lonesome Crowd by Courtney Maloney, she remarks on how passive and gullible a real audience, specifically she mentions television audience, can be, just like in the film (p252).

Lord Business wanted everything to be built correctly and perfectly, and everyone else followed the instructions for it, which is very symbolic for the life that many people in real life live. Our lives our structured by societal norms that we blindly follow. Dwight MacDonald wrote a narrative on this in A Theory of Mass Culture. He stated that mass culture is imposed from the top whether that is from corporations, mass media, or Lord Business (MacDonald, p13). He also states there is a homogenization of culture, that there is a disillusion of boundaries between mass and high culture. This feeds into the people of Bricksburg not questioning motives or origins. The masses are working class and consumers being exposed to high culture’s scheme. They are passive consumers ($37 coffee!) and are being exploited for the agenda of Lord Business, just as MacDonald says, “The Lords of kitsch [high culture], in short, exploit the cultural needs of the masses in order to make a profit and/or to maintain their class rule” (p13). To go off of more of MacDonald’s ideas, he states that there is a homoginization of culture when the masses’ ideas combine. We see this in the film when Lord Business captures the Master Builders and uses their ideas to generate more building instructions.


Finally, something that wasn’t necessarily put in a negative light in the film, was everyone in Bricksburg being inspired to build things of their own at the end of the movie. Though it may be a far stretch, there’s something to be said about how much was changed by everyone acting together, and also how quickly everyone changed their views. Both MacDonald and Maloney both comment on how the masses are seen as one unit that is easily swayed and makes decisions together.


Overall, The Lego Movie frequently brings to light the influence of mass culture and its power. When many people act together, it’s difficult to prevent their actions. And when something has influence over the mass, they hold a lot of power which is what we can see through popular media. This film may or may not intentionally show us this, but it sure does in a humorous way.


Lord, Phil, and Christopher Miller. The Lego movie. Warner Home Video, 2014.

Macdonald, D. (1998). 3□ A Theory of Mass Culture. Cultural theory and popular culture: A reader, 22.

Maloney, C. (1999). The Faces in Lonesome’s Crowd: Imaging the Mass Audience in” A Face in the Crowd”. Journal of Narrative Theory29(3), 251-277.






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