Gender stereotypes have been around in our society forever. From the moment a male or female baby comes into this world they are immediately placed into a category that will try to define the rest of their lives. This happens the second the nurse puts the newborn baby in either a blue blanket, representing a boy, or a pink blanket, representing a girl. From this moment on relatives of the baby will start buying them cute, girly clothes and feminine toys if they are a girl, or on the other hand they will start buying them masculine, rugged clothes for a boy and toys like cars and construction building blocks. Unless the parents of the child purposely try their hardest to avoid these stereotypes and let the child decide for themselves how they want to grow up, these gender roles are very hard to avoid. Children are exposed to gender stereotypes everywhere as they grow up. From jobs, to sports, to music, to politics, and especially everywhere in media, such as television and movies, children truly are exposed to these stereotypes each and every day. Sometimes it’s hard to even pick out these gender stereotypes because they are so engrained in our society. In my MACS 320 class, we watched The Lego Movie, which is a movie targeted towards children. I had heard great things about the movie before watching it in class, and I had this same positive opinion after viewing it. I thought it was entertaining and hilarious, and it had me laughing out loud during the whole thing. I fell in love with the characters in it. It wasn’t until this assignment came around that I started considering the possible gender stereotypes that this film portrays. Thinking about the deeper meaning in this film, The Lego Movie portrays numerous gender roles through the characters’ appearances and actions that reinforce the American society’s gender stereotypes.
The Lego Movie, stars Emmet (voice by Chris Pratt), just an ordinary Lego who goes about his normal routine doing the same things everyday, and making sure to always follow the rules. He soon becomes identified as the “Special,” who happens to be the only person capable of saving the world. He has help from the female lead in the movie, Lucy or Wyldstyle. Taking a look at some of the gender stereotypes early on I thought a quote from one of our readings fit in well. According to our reading, Exhibiting Masculinity, Nixon states, “The pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female” (Nixon 314). Looking at these words closer, this means that the male is typically the one who is the go-getter, and the main character. On the other hand, the female is typically seen as something pretty and fun to look at. The movie is through Emmet’s point of view so right off the bat he is the clear main character. We soon learn that he is the only one that will be able to save the day. When the audience meets Wyldstyle, since it is through Emmet’s point of view all we are able to focus on are her looks. The first time we see her face the music slows down and becomes romantic. Rather than focusing on her building skills and her personality, all we know is that she is good-looking in the eyes of Emmet. As the movie goes on Emmet constantly fantasizes about her and this same slow-motion music comes on. This goes along with the points made from our reading that women are only there for their appearance a lot of the time. The main female roles in many movies are almost always beautiful women, simply because America enjoys looking at them. This is one point in the movie where this gender stereotype that women are only cared about for their looks rather than their intelligence and personality is really clear.
Before Emmet sets off to save the world he works a typical male job as a construction worker. This is a gender stereotype in American society because this job is typically looked at to be a rugged and masculine one only cut out for men. Majority of his coworkers are all male as well and this just plays into it even more. Jobs are a huge topic of discussion for gender stereotypes. Certain jobs, such as teachers and nurses, are seen to be typical jobs. On the other hand, jobs like a construction worker, mechanics, and high up businessmen are typical male stereotypical jobs.
In the movie, Emmet goes on to become the “hero,” although he is not nearly as qualified as the female lead. Nixon states, “Male characters [are often] positioned as the bearer of the look in the film story,” and we as the audience actively follow their journey in hopes of watching them achieve success (Nixon). In other words, The Lego Movie follows this exact plot. The male stereotype that involves a man being the hero doesn’t stray in this movie. I definitely fell into this same trap wanting and hoping that Emmet would save the world and “achieve success.” I didn’t even really think about the fact that maybe Wyldstyle should be the one saving the day in the end.
Also in Nixon’s reading it states, “The coding of masculinity in these films privilege the attributions of toughness, hardness, and being in control” (Nixon 315). In the beginning of this film it is thought that Emmet might not be “The Special,” because he does not really display the characteristic of being in control. He is just a follower of everyone else and immediately the audience doesn’t think that he is cut out for this job. The “bad guy,” in this film is also, not surprisingly, a male. “Lord Business,” is an evil businessman that fits these masculine characteristics that Nixon discussed. Thinking about this now, I couldn’t imagine a female being the evil character. As bad as it is, I don’t think it would fit as much in this movie, which is what is so bad about gender stereotypes in America.
I did genuinely enjoy this movie while I watched it in class. After doing some analyzing and critical thinking about this film, however, I am well aware that there are numerous gender stereotypes throughout the entire thing. I think that one of the worst things about our society right now is that these stereotypes are just the norm. I know this because I didn’t even think twice about these things the first time I watched the movie. It is going to take efforts from all parties in order to improve these stereotypes. I also expect movies to hopefully realize their mistakes in this area and improve on this in the future. I am disappointed in The Lego Movie for playing into these gender stereotypes so much.
Nixon, S. (n.d.). Exhibiting Masculinity.