Everybody has a purpose in life. Some see their life as nothing more than working a 9-5 job and coming home to their wife and kids. Others see it as a way to build an empire. “The Lego Movie” provides an extreme, but understandable example of a government that controls its population through the ideology of perfection, and following the rules.
Louis Althusser, a French philosopher, explains in his writings, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, that although ideology is mean to make the masses follow one, encompassing idea, it still relies on the free will of the individuals to conform to and act upon what is expected of them. “The individual in question behaves in such and such a way, adopts such and such a practical attitude,, and, what is more, participates in certain regular practices which are those of the ideological apparatus on which ‘depend’ the ideas which he has in all consciousness freely chosen as a subject.”. (Althusser 341.) This concept of free will resonates in many works of pop culture that are based upon the concepts of interpellation and hegemony such as “The Matrix” and “The Lego Movie.”
In the movie “The Matrix”, the protagonist, Neo, is given a choice to take a red pill or a blue pill. The blue pill will keep him in the “fake world” that he has known his entire life, but it is comfortable, and familiar. The red pill shows him the truth of his reality and an opportunity to save humanity, but poses a threat to his safety and well-being. Similarly, Emmet, is given a choice to follow directions and live his life as a construction worker in his own “matrix”, or to become a master builder who could save the rest of humanity from imminent destruction by the KraGle. Ideology is dangerous because it isn’t forced upon people; it starts off as a choice, then it becomes habit, and eventually manifests into a person’s character if they identify with it strong enough.
Every citizen in the Lego Movie was happy with the Repressive State Apparatuses’ way of governing their lives. Things like “Taco Tuesdays”, “Where Are My Pants?” and “$37 coffee” were cute aspects of life that nobody questioned. Everybody showed small tidbits of personality to distinguish themselves from each other, but for the most part, were uniformed workers of society that were reminiscent of an ant colony. The conformity displayed by every citizen seems to be the perfect place to live. Everybody is living in harmony, the morning routine was followed religiously and the city was essentially a utopia. This is a comfortable life for anybody, but it comes at the price of living in ignorance as Lord Business prepares to unleash the KraGle on the population. The quote “Ignorance is bliss” really comes into play in this movie.
Lord Business practiced a term called hegemony, which was coined by a man named Antonio Gramsci. Typical subordination of the subjects would be to essentially make them slaves of hard labor. Gramsci stated the difference between domination and hegemony was the incorporation of ideology and culture by the ruling class. “… if the Gramscian concept of hegemony refers to the processes through which the ruling class seeks to negotiate opposing class cultures on to a cultural and ideological terrain which wins for it a position of leadership, it is also true that what is thereby consented to is a negotiated version of ruling-class culture and ideology:”(Bennett 95)
In layman’s terms, Lord Business learned to connect with the working class by offering things such as “Taco Tuesday” and “Everything is Awesome” to win the hearts of the masses in order to convince them that they’re not being used as subordinate beings. The hegemony was very in your face, yet subtle in the “Everything is Awesome” song. The rules of society that were established by Lord Business creates a harmonious environment for everybody to live in, but they are all puppets to his plan for a perfect world because everything they build is according to his instructions and templates. Everybody, especially Emmett, is completely lose and without purpose if the instructions did not exist.
On a sidenote, the “KraGle” is the main phallic object that is used as a sign of power throughout the entire movie. Albeit, it’s only Krazy Glue, the pointy, phallic-shaped glue stick holds the potential to prevent individuality from sprouting in the Lego world. Freud’s study on narcissism ties into how Lord Business projects his subconscious of his penis into the real world by using the KraGle as a way to dominate the masses, forever solidifying his vision of a “perfect world.”
The Lego Movie encompasses a variety of topics such as gender, fantasies and power exerted by the ruling class over the masses. The use of an absurd scenario like the one depicted in the Lego Movie puts the world we live in into perspective. The government implements laws to control the masses everyday, but to what degree are those laws acceptable? At what point does the culture they create affect our lives negatively? Are the missiles and guns we use just a subconscious projection of our phallic, narcissistic thoughts? Perhaps we are living in our own kind of Lego Movie.
- Lord, P. (Director). (2014). The Lego Movie [Motion picture]. USA: Warner Brothers.
- Althusser, L. (1970). Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Compass2g.
- Bennett, T. (1983). Popular Culture and the Turn to Gramsci. Compass2g.