The Lego Movie follows the story of a construction worker named Emmett. At first glance everything seems pretty normal. People go about their day being polite, dropping off dry clean, getting coffee, and going to work. The theme that I want to focus on for the Lego Movie is that of hegemony. While there are themes of sexism and mass culture in the movie, the theme that often gets overlooked is hegemony as it is not as widely talked about. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, hegemony is the influence or control over another country, a group of people, etc. Hegemony is a recurring theme throughout the Lego Movie because of the control that President Business has over the Lego people in the movie.
It could be easy to just say that hegemony is the influence over people, but there is more to it. According to the reading in Cultural Reading and Popular Culture by John Storey, the main thing that it’s not ruling over a society, but leading it through the exercise of intellectual and moral leadership (Storey 2015). That is an important aspect of hegemony because in the movie, President Business creates guidelines aka instruction manuals of what the Lego people should do, think, and build. They as a collective society know that they are being told what to do.
The book talks about how hegemony is not a simple power imposed from above. It is a result of negotiations between the dominant group (President Business) and the subordinate group (the Lego people). The way that President Business keeps them from revolting and creates a negotiation is through a program called “Where are my Pants?” and Taco Tuesday. In one of the early scenes of the movie, the main character Emmett is eating breakfast when President Business makes a comment about putting everyone to sleep. It takes Emmett a second to realize that is being said, but before he can keep thinking about it, the show “Where are my Pants?” appears on the screen. There are so many distractions are happening to the point where Emmett brushes off comment of President Business. In a way he has brainwashed the Lego people to follow his instructions. In the scene where Emmett is getting ready for the day, he reads through an instruction manual titled “Instructions to: Fit in, have everybody like you, and always be happy!” That shows that every aspect of their lives is being controlled in the way that President Business wants to and the Lego people do not object at all.
Throughout the movie I did the theme of hegemony be morphed into a repressive state apparatus, which the book talks about. The repressive state apparatus is when the police, army and prison system take over. The main reason that this is done is when moral and intellectual leadership are not enough to secure continued authority. That is one of the big things that happens throughout the movie, especially after Emmett finds the “piece of resistance”. Emmett is being chased through different dimensions because President Business doesn’t want Emmett to ruin his plans of destroying the world. Emmett and his entourage are chased by the police, which in his reality represents police using force in order to protect their current system of hegemony. Eventually when they get back to Emmett’s town, the repressive state apparatus shows the population what is really going on.
The reason that they are being chased has more to do than just Emmett finding the “piece of resistance,” it has to do with him being the chosen one. That means that Emmett is the master builder, with the ability to build anything that his mind comes up with. There are other people like him such as Wyldstyle, Batman, Vitruvius, and other historical and iconic characters, but not as powerful as him. According to the section in hegemony, this would be a bricolage. That means that products are combines and transformed in ways not intended by their producers. Throughout the movie you see Batman and Wyldstyle use existing Legos around them to create things that will help them escape the police or help them in a crisis. What is interesting to note about bricolage is that it breaks the norm of hegemony. Under the context of the movie, the characters are no longer bound the authority of President Business, but instead understand their self-worth which was in part thanks to bricolage. It helped them see that they don’t need to build what President Business wants instead they can build whatever they desire, which is what they were intended to do from the beginning.
Overall the movie does a good job about portraying hegemony because it shows the relationship between President business, who is the higher authority, and the Lego people, who are subordinates. While hegemony is the main topic throughout the movie, there are demonstrations of repressive state apparatus as well as bricolage. They show two very different sides of what happens when hegemony goes wrong. In the bricolage side there are people building and transforming things that normally would have served a certain purpose. While one the other side repressive state apparatus tries to keep hegemony alive once the authority has been compromised by using police and army.
Storey, John. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader. 7th ed. New York: Routledge, 2015. Print.
The Lego movie [Video file]. (2014). Retrieved October 01, 2016.