Theories, hidden meanings, symbolism are all embedded in motion pictures while viewers are unaware what they are being exposed to. There are many things to be learned from “The Lego Movie”. The producers use toy figures to express different ideologies in an entertaining way. Hegemony was a recurring theme throughout the film that was displayed through symbols and the plot line.
Gramsci, an Italian theorist, developed the concept of hegemony that he used in a political way. “The concept of hegemony is used by Gramsci to refer to a condition in the process in which a dominant class does not merely rule a society but leads it through the exercise of intellectual and moral leadership”(Storey 2015, p.83). This concept starts becoming relevant in the second scene of the movie. The main character, Emmet, starts his morning by following instructions on how to live his life. The instructions included breathing, exercising, getting dressed for work, and talking to the neighbors. Then, Emmet had instructions when he got to work. These instructions continue to occur throughout the day and Emmet likes to follow them. Emmet does not know what to do without them. This was a way for the superior group to lead the subordinate group
in society without having complete dominance. Emmet is not being forced to follow these instructions, but he wants to for his own personal reasons. Emmet’s happiness with the instructions and wanting to follow them is an important aspect of hegemony. It is not meant to force society into doing anything. Instead, it is more of a guidance from the dominant figure in society and the subordinates decide to listen to the guidance. In the film, the dominant figure is Lord Business. Lord Business has intellectual and moral leadership over society and his subordinates want to follow his instructions. Therefore, they aimlessly go through life because they are being led through it. Instructions are a recurring symbol of hegemony throughout the film.
Another symbol of hegemony present in the film was the theme song “Everything is Awesome”. This song was a part of the Lego’s culture. Hegemony is exercised through culture. This song kept society connected. Kelly Kondra further depicted the song in her blog. Kondra describes how the song keeps a harmony in society and influences them to work together. Conflict does not arise often in the society because people are happy. This relates to real life and the music within pop culture today. People look up to their favorite musicians. This makes society act and feel a certain way as a response to their favorite songs.
Complete hegemony was portrayed in the end of the film. The final scene was the father and Lord Business finally negotiating with the son and Emmet simultaneously on how the society should be run. The father was talking with the son in the basement while Lord Business was talking to Emmet in his headquarters. The dominant figures had a hard time seeing the subordinates side and letting some of their power go. Finally, the son and Emmet were able to convince their leadership figures of a different way the society should be running. The father and Lord Business will always have some dominance over their subordinates, but now there is more negotiation and allowed resistance from the subordinates that is acceptable.
“What the concept is meant to suggest is a society in which conflict is contained and channeled into ideologically safe harbours; that is, hegemony is maintained by dominant groups and classes negotiating with, and making concessions to, subordinate groups and classes”(Storey 2015, p. 84). The father and son relationship morphed into a more hegemony type relationship by the end of the movie because the son finally pushed back against his dad allowing the dominant idea to be challenged. This push and pull relationship among all levels of society is what Gramsci theorized about. Furthermore, the son negotiated to play with all the Legos, but that meant the sister was allowed to play with them too. This idea further portrayed hegemony and kept the dad with leadership power.
Lord Business and Emmet finished with a hegemony type relationship as well. It was ultimately up to Lord Business whether or not to Kragle the entire city, but Emmett was able to negotiate a different idea. This made the society more resistant to the dominance over them. Lord Business decided to not hold all power over the society. There was no welded power by one class at the end of the movie. The different levels of society: Lord Business, master builders, and the mass population all have a place now. This idea makes up the central theme of hegemony.
Ultimately, this was a well-written movie that was produced profoundly. It is relevant for all ages and is filled with ideas and symbolism. The hegemony society was the product of the plot. The symbols of hegemony started at the beginning of the film and came full circle by the final scene.
Kondra, Kelly. (2015, Feb. 23). Everything is Awesome- Why Do We Love Lego Movie’s Ode to Conformity? (Web). Retrieved from https://weminoredinfilm.com/2015/02/23/everything-is-awesome-why- do-we-love-lego-movies-ode-to-conformity/.
Lin, Dan, Roy Lee, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. (2014, Feb. 7). The Lego Movie (Motion Picture). United States: Warner Bros.
Storey, John. (2015). Cultural Theory and Popular Culture (7th ed). New York: Routledge.