The 2014 film, The Lego Movie, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller was a huge box office and critical success. The film introduced audiences to a whole new way of creating films about toys by incorporating popular elements of previous successful animated films. Much like Toy Story (Lassetter, 1995) and Small Soldiers (Dante, 1998) the film realizes that these characters are indeed just toys, however this isn’t known to the viewers until the final moments of the film where it’s revealed that the entire story has been brought to life by a boy’s imagination. While the film tells the story of a classic animated children’s movie, it has a lot beneath it that makes it much more.
In the film, the hero, Emmet, lives in a near perfect city where he works as, Ironically enough, a construction worker. There in his city, run by the overseeing Octane corporation, he happily does the same as everyone else, literally. The inhabitants of this city all conform to walking, driving, parking, and even shouting out the window “good morning” at the same time. The octane corporation runs the city and makes everything within it, even instructions that tell each of these individual lego characters living in their city instructions on how to go about their day. There, each and everyone of the population of the city abides by these constructions that are given to them by the Octane corporation
As it is stated within the Marxisms chapter in John Story’s book Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, Storey states that a political concept developed to explain the absence of social revolutions in the Western capitalist democracies is considered to be Hegemonic. This concept of Hegemony means that a group has dominance over another. With the fictional corporation, Octane, in The Lego Movie this is definitely the case. There in this Corporation run city, it’s civilian population will happily give in to obeying the instructions that they are all given and carry out any and everything the octane corporation has to offer. The film is loaded with references as to how controlling this corporation is, albeit in a humorous and fun tone, but it still shows how controlled these Lego people truly are. There are signs all over the city advertising bands, strictly stating that the name of the band is “Popular Band”. The Octane daily instructions even instruct to purchase overpriced coffee, listen to the only song, by the only band that never produces any more songs and watch the same television program that never changes or progresses. However, this is all briefly noticed when it’s mentioned by Emmet when he is talking bout how the Octane corporation makes such great things like the television show “Where are my pants”, $37 coffee, and voting machines. This is the audiences hint that there is something wrong going on here and that maybe the Octane corporation isn’t so awesome after all. Emmet and the rest of the city definitely live in a communist like, hegemonic society that is run by the corporate overseer.
The hegemony of the Octane corporation is directly related to the consumerist society that can instantly be seen as mass culture. In Maloney’s essay on mass culture, it states that mass culture tries to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible (Maloney, 199, p. 255). This is evident in The Lego Movie by the fact that there is only one brand for every product the Octane run city has to offer. In the film, the city only has one coffee store, one band that plays one song and one television company that plays one television show, which is all owned and run by the Octane corporation. In the scene where the audience s first introduced to the “Everything is Awesome” song, it couldn’t be more obvious that it appeals to everyone in the city due to everyone singing it.
Lastly, when the film unveils that the narrative of the film is just a story stemming from the imagination of a creatively oppressed kid. It’s here where the film takes yet another turn and shows that there’s even more hegemony that’s derived from the child’s father who doesn’t want him messing with his strict instruction based legos that are not to be touched by his son, but rather admired by himself. This too shows the the lack of freedom the protagonists have in the film and is the climax where the father realizes that his son should be able to let his freedom of creativity be set free and his imaginative story of Emmet convincing the over-empowering mastermind of the Octane corporation, President Business, to stop the oppressive and controlling society he has created. The film ends with the two characters unifying, just like the child and the father and both Lord Business and the Father allowing Emmet and the child to have free roam over the city and to let their imagination run free. The film closes on the idea of allowing the citizens to become individuals, instead of a consumers in a hegemonic culture and ending mass culture and promoting original ideas.
Lord, P., & Miller, C. (Directors). (2014). The Lego movie [Motion picture on DVD]. Roma: Warner home video.
Maloney, C. (1999, Fall). The faces in Lonesome’s crowd: Imaging the mass audience in A Face in the Crowd. Journal of Narrative Theory, 29(3), 251-277.
Storey, J. (1971). Cultural Theory and Pop Culture. New York, NW: Routledge.