There are many references in The Lego Movie (Lord & Miller 2004) that relate to popular culture ideologies we have learned in class. The movie follows the protagonist, Emmett, as he tries to save his lego world from President Business. He doesn’t seem like the typical hero, but he does what he can as the underdog. The movie gives a message that everyone is special. People should have the power to be creative and unique.
However, the beginning of the movie depicts these lego people in an entirely different way. The people, as shown by Emmett, wake up everyday in a happy mood. In the beginning scenes, Emmett opens an instruction manual that teaches lego people “how to fit in, have everybody like you and always be happy”. He follows these instructions on a daily basis. The instructions are shown to be followed by everybody in the city. While following the instructions, Emmett turns on the television to see President Business telling people to follow the instructions. He then whispers, “or you’ll be put to sleep”. Emmett seems to notice this alarming comment but immediately became distracted by the popular television show “Where are my Pants?”.
Emmett then leaves for work at the construction site, where most of the lego people work, and turns on the radio to listen to the popular song “Everything is Awesome”. The next two minutes this annoying song is sang by everyone in this lego city. Emmett continues to follow the instructions, along with everyone else, by dropping off dry cleaning, rooting for the local sports team, returning complements and drinking overpriced coffee.
The lego people don’t realize that they are doing these things because they were forced to. Hegemony is extremely present in The Lego Movie. Hegemony is the idea that people from different classes find a way to negotiate power between them through “intellectual and moral leadership” (Storey 83). In this case, President Business found a way to make the lego world exactly how it wanted it. He controls these people by negotiating with them through the instructions the read each day. The lego people willingly follow these instructions because they are told that is how they “fit in” with the others.
Hegemony does not imply that there is no conflict in a society at all. The concept suggests that “all conflict is contained and channelled into ideologically safe harbours,” (Storey 84). We see this in The Lego Movie because President Business continuously maintains hegemony. The citizens may question why they do the things they do everyday, but still continue to participate because that’s the thing to do. We see Emmett question President Business when he hears him say “or you’ll be put to sleep”, but he goes right back to following instructions. What the citizens don’t know is that President Business is manipulating everyone in to acting how he wants them to, so he can create his perfect world. However, he isn’t alone. President Business has the help of Good Cop/Bad Cop to enforce the instructions on everyone. “…when moral and intellectual leadership is not enough to secure continued authority, the processes of hegemony are replaced, temporarily, by the coercive power of the ‘repressive state apparatus’,” (Storey 85).
Emmett comes to realize President Business’ true intentions when he meets another lego person named Wildstyle. She teaches him about President Business’ plan to use the Kragle (krazy glue) to keep everyone and everything in place. Wildstyle also takes Emmett to other lego worlds, like the Wild West, and he realizes he’s been lied to all his life. They set off to find a way to stop President Business from making the lego world stuck in place forever.
In reality, a young boy named Finn is playing with his father’s legos and creates this entire movie with his imagination. His father is strict with his legos and doesn’t like anyone touching them. At this point, we relate Finn and his father to Emmett and President Business. They each believe legos are for different purposes, Finn thinks of them as toys while his father thinks they should be like decorations. We see hegemony in the real world as well because Finn’s father convinces Finn that the legos are not toys and should not be played with. The conflict between the two is not completely removed, but Finn’s father has to control the situation with him.
To conclude, the concept of hegemony is present in The Lego Movie. It is continuous throughout the movie, which is a main definition of hegemony. President Business and the citizens of the lego city “negotiated” how things should be done and how they should act. The citizens were unknowingly being controlled.