Everything is for Boys?: Gender in the Lego Movie

 

Growing up with only a younger sister, we shared many dolls, Barbie-themed board games and a closet full of princess costumes. While these toys for young girls have been a mainstay for decades, we also had something one might not have expected. Next to the Barbie board games we had boxes upon boxes of legos, and not the one’s that built a fairytale like castle but Star Wars battleships, NASCAR racing tracks, and fire stations complete with ‘burning’ buildings. I adored playing with legos and if they were placed in front of me probably still would. A few years ago The Lego Movie was released and while I was no longer the target audience it was still enjoyable. It follows the journey of the “Special” to stop the evil dictator, Lord Business from using his super weapon called the “Kragle” on the lego world.

The “Special,” Emmet, embarks upon his journey with the help of Wyldstyle and other master builders, to bring the use the “Piece of Resistance” in hopes of preventing Lord Business from freezing the world with the “Kragle.” Eventually captured by Lord Business attached to a bomb, Emmet decides to sacrifice himself to save the other master builders, in doing this Emmet jumps into the human world. Up until this point there have been few references to the human world (i.e. band aids, Krazy Glue, Xacto knife). Once in the human world Emmet cannot move and talk freely like the viewers have witnessed. It is revealed that Finn, a young boy, has been creating this entire story, taking apart his father’s lego world in their basement. The father catches his son taking apart his lego world and creating objects without instruction manuals using pieces from all different kinds of sets. His father, upset by his sons actions wants all the pieces put back where they belong, permanently. The scene cuts to a box of Krazy Glue otherwise known as “Kragle.” Following a brief argument between father and son, Finn’s creativity is recognized and eventually cherished by his father who agrees to never super-glue pieces together again. Emmet is thrust back into the lego world where he mirrors Finn and his father’s actions by placing the “Piece of Resistance” back on the “Kragle” making sure nothing will ever be stuck permanently again.

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While the movie was full of action and fun for the whole family, some parts left me questioning the role of gender in the movie. For example, the character of Princess Unikitty was a pink and purple kitten/unicorn that loved rainbows, happiness, and all things good and sweet. However, when she would get angry she would turn red and appear evil and crazy, destroying all the “micromanagers.” Princess Unikitty was one of the few supporting female roles in the film along with Wyldstyle, the love interest. Wyldstyle immediately caught Emmet’s eye and she also grew to like him, despite her boyfriend Batman. Batman’s blatant disregard for learning Wyldstyle’s real name and carelessness to leave without her when help arrived, depicted Wyldstyle as the girl who needed a new guy to come and save her. These female personalities embody stereotypical characteristics like having mood swings, PMSing, or a prize for the ‘better’ hero (Emmet or Batman).

Even though the female characters from The Lego Movie embody stereotypical female characteristics, they were categorized as master builders with the rest of the male characters and could just as easily fight off the robot villains. Despite this, I was not the only one who noticed the lack of strong female leads. In a 2014 interview with the BBC, Lego Movie creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller will add more female roles in the upcoming 2018 sequel to “inspire young women as much as we inspire young women” (Masters). The creators decision goes hand in hand with the emerging ideology of post-feminism. “Post-feminism has become a dominant form of mainstream feminism in the United States, where a media creation and legitimation of post-feminist ‘power’, combined with the increasing cultural recognition of adolescent girls and women as both powerful citizens and consumers, offers what at times looks like a radical gesture in terms of disrupting dominant gender relations” (Banet-Weiser & Portwood-Stacer, 2006, pg. 257). Hopefully the sequel will truly include more powerful female leads so that my sister and I will no longer be the odd girls out with our lego sets next to our Barbie board games.

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Sources:

Masters, Tim. (2014, November 14). Lego Movie 2 ‘will feature more female characters.’       Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-30019445

Banet-Weiser, Sarah & Portwood-Stacer, Laura. (2006). ‘I just want to be me again!’   Beauty pageants, reality television, post-feminism. Feminist Theory, 7(2), 255-272.

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