On the surface The Lego Movie seems like it is just an entertaining, children’s film, but underneath it’s colorful surface there are deeper concepts at play. Although the main lesson of the movie is simple in order for kid’s to understand and learn from it, it has underlying messages and ideologies about societies and how they work.
The main message The Lego Movie gives to its audience is to be original and not always go by the books. This is a great message to be sending people and I really found it to be touching, but there definitely is more serious ideas about society that are represented in this film. From our class textbook by John Storey, he supports the concept of hegemony, which is very strongly symbolized in The Lego Movie.
Even though it is not a main concept that is obvious on the surface it is extremely apparent once you are educated on the topic. It is a theory created by Antonio Gramsci to explain the lack of retaliation against the capitalist government. Hegemony, as defined by Gramsci, is “a condition in process in which a dominant class (in alliance with other classes or class functions) does not merely rule a society but leads it through the exercise of ‘intellectual and moral leadership’(75)” (Storey, 83). In other words it is when a higher class leads and persuades a lower class through ideas and negotiation. Another quote that nicely explains this concept is, “Hegemony involves a specific kind of consensus: a social group seeks to present its own particular interests as the general interests of the society as a whole” (Storey, 83). It doesn’t necessarily mean the dominant social class just straight rules over the subordinate class, but through implementing ideas and negotiating with them in order to achieve their goal.
In The Lego Movie hegemony is very clearly represented through President Business and how he runs the city. As we see in the beginning of the film, Emmet and all other citizens follow the specific instructions on how to live their lives exactly how president business wants them to, without them knowing that they are doing it. Through Emmet we see how much he enjoys following the rules and likes his life being that structured and unoriginal, but we later see that is structured through President Business. He has trained all of the citizens through the “Where’s my pants?” television show and the song “Everything is Awesome”, which they don’t realize what it is doing, but because the President is doing it to make them do what he wants, it is considered hegemony. Through these media tactics, he implemented the ideas in all of the people’s minds that that was the best way of living.
The usages of the TV show “Where’s My Pants?” and the song “Everything is Awesome” is where the hegemony was produced in this film. The media spreads the ideas and values to a whole society the fastest. Also, the media is so popularized that, as we see in The Lego Movie, it is easily persuasive because people just follow one another. That is how popular culture becomes popular and widespread, and why it is easy to manipulate a whole society with media.
When the higher social group has all the power they can easily persuade the minds of the lower class into believing anything. The main problem I have with this concept is the fact that the higher social class can use this technique to exploit and oppress the lower class and are basically being manipulated into believing it is their own doing, when instead it is what is best for the higher class. It puts a pause on originality and one class’s free will. But as Storey and Bennett both explain, it is not always just hard power over the subordinate class, but instead it is a negotiation. Storey says the process is “marked by both ‘resistance’ and ‘incorporation’”(Storey 84-85). In his article, Popular Culture and the ‘turn to Gramsci’, Tony Bennett writes, “To the contrary, to the degree that it is implicated in the struggle for hegemony is fought for, won, lost, resisted- the field of popular culture is structured by the attempt of the ruling class to win hegemony and by the forms of opposition to this endeavor”(Bennett 96). He states that the ruling class does not always win and there is usually some opposition. Unfortunately, we do not necessarily see a negotiation between the citizens and President Business in the beginning of the movie that explains the hegemony because the story needed to be simplified for children, but in a real world society the citizens may not be as subordinate as the ones in the film, and resist a bit more. Finally, in the end of the film we see the retaliation of the people, which leads them to a negotiation with President Business. By the end they have created a peaceful middle ground that includes originality and fun for everyone in the city.
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Storey, J. (2012). Cultural theory and popular culture: An introduction (7th ed.). Harlow (England): Pearson.
Bennett, T. (n.d.). Popular Culture and the ‘turn to Gramsci’ In (pp. 93-99).
Boston’s Gazette. (2014, February 13). Retrieved October 3, 2016, from https://bostongazette.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/lego-movie-everything-is-awesome-lyrics-a-critique-of-obama-administration/