I've been told I think too much. That I dissect things I like into little itty bitty pieces. So of course, it stands to reason I would take apart and dissect 2014's biggest movie so far, The Lego Movie.
Because Legos are supposed to be taken apart into itty bitty pieces.
I went into the theater thinking The Lego Movie was going to be a mindless kids' movie with great animation and offbeat humor. I had seen the Star Wars Lego videos and found them cute and comical, but nothing overly spectacular.
But The Lego Movie is far different. Far more dystopian. It reminded me a lot of a "Brave New World" and somewhat of Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We", the forebearer of Huxley's novel and Orwell's "1984".
It is a movie about finding that niche between complete anarchy and utter obedience, that "Hairball Orbiting" discussed by Gordon MacKenzie.
It is a movie about Fun and Play.
Unfortunately, the 24-hour news cycle has completely milked the fun out of the movie, with both "sides" of the political spectrum claiming the movie espouses their world views. It's almost comical.
Here is John Sexton of Breitbart saying it promotes an idea "one would expect the late Occupy movement to embrace." and he is "not surprised Michael Moore is a fan".
Here is John Heyward of Breitbart saying the movie is actually about capitalism.
The joke is on the lefty fools who didn't see the movie, because it's evidently a devastating slam at socialism, particularly the Obama model of government-business cronyism.and
The expressions warn by doctrinaire liberal parents who took their kids to see "The LEGO Movie" thinking it would deliver a wheezy Michael Moore Marxist screed against free enterprise and voluntary commerce must be priceless; they should have planted hidden cameras in the theater to capture audience reactions. Or maybe those doctrinaire liberal parents are too far gone to think about what they're seeing, the way Mollie Hemingway did, their critical faculties short-circuited by the sight of a villain named "President Business" who looks like a Republican.There is Molly Hemmingway of The Federalist, who gets closer to the mark when she opines that The Lego Movie is a subversive pro-liberty film.
This is not an anarchist cri de coeur, with the film also rejecting the absence of rules and government itself. In one pivotal scene, Emmet explains how rules help build teamwork, efficiency and the ability to meet objectives.See MacKenzie's ideas on knowing the rules before you can play! Hemmingway also continues:
Even though the film is a 100-minute commercial for a business, it’s also an ad for personal responsibility, individual choice, meaningful work, natural constraints, the dignity of the individual and the fight against a government that desires control of the lives of citizens. Its message about heroism being based in creativity, hard work, and resourcefulness — not superpowers — is deeply unifying.
Then there is the conservative flagship station, Fox News, which wondered why leftist Hollywood would make yet another anti-capitalist movie that would try to teach kids how horrible and evil businesses are and attempt to brainwash them at their tender ages.
Gotta love the Fox News spin machine.
What most of these politicos miss is the key element of the Lego Foundation:
The LEGO Foundation has a goal of creating impact by inspiring and developing children and youth to become active citizens – and to empower them to create a better future for themselves – through fun, creativity and high quality learning.Fun, Creativity, and High Quality Learning.
The Lego Foundation even gives out prizes for people who promote that mantra. If you thought a movie about Legos was going to be made and that wasn't going to be the message, you were wrong.
That's their thing.
From this Fast Company article in October, 2013:
A growing body of research shows that testing-focused education systems are stifling children’s creativity and critical thinking skills--the exact skills many CEOs say will be critical for success in the workforce in the years to come (see our related story “Why Solving The Creativity Crisis Means Looking To 3-Year-Olds”), not to mention the skills needed to solve looming societal challenges such as extreme poverty and climate change."Systems are stifling creativity" - the ability to play should be fostered. That's the manta of The Lego Movie.
Grob-Zakhary believes the Lego Foundation can help preserve these skills by paving a path for more structured “hands-on play”--whether that is with a Lego brick, an Erector set, or a robotics kit--to be incorporated directly into school curriculums.
Playing and creativity is not the 9-5 office job inputting data or digging the same ditch. Of course a Lego movie is going to attack that. Creativity and play is Miles Davis jamming, it's art, it's a group of college dropouts wandering the country playing gigs in coffee houses and rock bars trying to get their band signed. It's the reason open mics were established. To some, hippies are a burden on society, to others, they are living life on their terms without the burden of society.
But that's the classical dilemma. Conservative-minded parents want the college dropout to finish school, get a 9-to-5, and play life safe, but the dropout wants to create.
Then there is this interview with the Lego Foundation CEO on Forbes.com:
Play allows us to test our capabilities, as all forms of learning should. It stimulates children’s learning abilities by fostering creativity, building critical thinking, sparking intellectual curiosity, and facilitating learning by doing. Learning by doing deepens our engagement and understanding significantly, and strengthens the most important pathways our brains use to learn and develop.When the rules are strict and mandated, there is no reason to develop. When the TV dinner is packaged, there is no reason to hunt. No development of that brain function. That is the element we find the hero in in the beginning of the Lego Movie.
While Hemmingway claims a key scene is when the protagonist insists the characters follow some rules and channel their creativity under some guidance, there is an earlier scene I think is more powerful. When needing to build an escape vehicle, Batman, a pink unicorn, a spaceman, and several other characters combine their ideas and cooperate to build a plane that moves the heroes out of immediate trouble. They do this by themselves, without instructions, and without a leader. They just find the pieces they need (Batman: "I only work with black, and sometimes dark gray"), work together, and create.
In 1921, the Russian State Committee for Publishing found Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We" so anti-establishment that it was quickly banned. According to LiquidHip.com, the book dramatizes the struggle between freedom and security, nature and artifice, spirit and order.
In 1988, 65 years after it was written, "We" was finally published in the Soviet Union.
If it was written today, "We" would probably be taken apart piece by piece like The Lego Movie.