The Lego Movie is a children’s movie that teaches the importance of how a white male can overcome any obstacle and be the hero that every society needs. It sticks to the consistent theme of movies that showcase the effects of mass culture, Marxism, and gender roles
To start, The Lego Movie is a perfect example of Mass Culture in modern society. Everyone in the Lego movie consumes the same media that is provided for them by President Business and their “Where are my Pants?” is our “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” For both of these shows there is no plot line or purpose and yet it is the number one show to watch.
As Dwight MacDonald (1953) points out the decision makers that create our mass media is corporations making decisions on media that they do not even consume themselves. This is exactly like President Business who is the sole controller of everything that is released on all media outlets in the Lego community and never strays from the norm. I think The Lego Movie is a good look into our future and even our present day situation when it comes to the popular culture our society consumes. In Matt Novak’s (2014) article “Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie and You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It” he explains how this movie shows the downward spiral of “America’s cultural and educational decline” and how the blame for this is placed on the poor. Novak discusses how the real problem is that “we aren’t living up to the ideals and promises we’ve given to each generation of Americans that have come before us” which is exactly what the problem was in the Lego community. The reason President Business gained so much control is because people did not live up to their capability when it came to building and instead of thinking of their own ideas they simply followed the orders. At the end of the movie the Lego community realized they were in fact capable of imagining and building things by using their brain but it took them getting glued in place to realize this.
Marxism and Hegemony play a major role in The Lego Movie because there is a clear dictator in the film, President Business, who has total control over the innocent civilians. The subordinated groups accept the ideas, values, and leadership of the dominant group because they are comfortable in their everyday lives. Emmet is the perfect example of someone who is comfortable being completely submissive to a superior. He does not even realize that he does not have a single person to call a friend because he chooses to believe that “Everything is Awesome” instead of seeing what is really happening in the world. In Popular Culture and the “Turn to Gramsci” Tony Bennet (1980) discusses how Popular Culture plays a major role in politics and that “political functioning depends on the network of social and ideological relations in which it is inscribed as a consequences of the ways in which, in particular conjuncture, it is articulated to other practices” (p. 96). This holds true in the Lego Movie because the politics revolve completely around pop culture, President Business is their source of news and gives them the information that he chooses to. At one point on the news President Business says “Let’s take extra care to follow the instructions or you’ll be put to sleep, and don’t forget Taco Tuesday’s coming next week.” He, like any evil dictator, threatens to kill the civilians if they do not follow his leadership but supplies taco’s to distract them. This reminded me of the movie Josie and the Pussycat Girls because in the film the music they are listening to is actually brainwashing society to buy their products. President Business uses Hegemony in his pop culture, like the song “Everything is Awesome,” to persuade people into believing that their life is everything it can be.
In The Lego Movie there is a clear distinction between the two genders, the man is superior superhero while the woman is his trusty sidekick. Emmet became the chosen one even though Lucy had been searching high and low for the piece of resistance and was the one who was a master builder. Laura Mulvey (1975) hit the nail on the head for how women are treated in popular culture, she states that “woman’s desire is subjected to her image as bearer of the bleeding wound, she can exist only in relation to castration and cannot transcend it” (p. 58). This is true in The Lego Movie because Lucy is continuously looked at as this beautiful woman who flips her hair in slow motion and make Emmet have heart eyes. Mulvey (1975) states that the presence of the women’s “visual presence tends to work against the development of a story line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation” (p. 62). This can be seen in the multiple scenes where Lucy is trying to explain something to Emmet but he cannot hear her because the power of the gaze takes over. This shows how cinema displays women as being useless for their great ideas and only something nice to be looked at. Even in this G rated film Lucy, a plastic toy, still becomes a sexualized. This film could have been a chance to show young girls that it is in fact okay to play with Legos no matter what gender you are.
In class Postmodernsim has seem to become the light at the end of the tunnel where society rebels a little against older ideals (ex: gender roles). In Jean Baudrillard (1981) “The Precession of Simulacra” she talks about capital and what it really means in a society, he ends with it being a “challenge to reality” (p. 395). I think that all these blog posts, this class, and Media and Cinema Studies is a challenge to society to change the way society consumes popular culture. The Lego Movie has some valuable life lessons and is overall an encouraging message to children but there are many ways in which the film could have strayed from the typical depiction of cinema to broaden children’s views of the world.
Baudrillard, J. (1981). The Precession of Simulacra, (389-395).
MacDonald, D. (1953). A Theory of Mass Culture, (12-24).
Maloney, C. (1999). The Faces in Lonesome’s Crowd: Imaging the Mass Audience in A Face in the Crowd, (252-277).
Mulvey, L. (1975). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings New York, (57-68).
Novak, M. (2011). Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie and You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It