“The Lego Movie” is a story about becoming who you are, realizing you are unique and exploiting your strengths to become who you are supposed to become. Oddly enough, it happens to be in a utopian dictatorship that this story takes place, yet by the end it all makes sense and you are left feeling good inside because the right stuff happened when it needed to. The “happy ending” that we are accustomed to in Disney movies is apparent of course, as well as the saving of friends followed by the hero saving everyone.
This is and has been almost like a trademark for kids movies since animation became a thing and for good reason what kid wants to watch a guy who they now think is awesome lose everything? No one. I am going to start this a little differently, beginning with our Mulan discussion. It was about gender, and what it meant to be the perfect man, or woman or parts of a story that make a man or a woman perfect. In the Lego movie we join the conformist Emmett a hard working construction worker who lives life by “The Instructions” which is a code of life to be happy and healthy always set forth by the “evil” President Business.
He is a regular Lego so we will start with him he makes himself different by wearing this big fiery costume that has giant tall legs, flaming cups on the top of his head, and all these strange other world “relics” as he calls them. This is his way of making himself the perfect villain, someone who is tall powerful and intimidating, also he is a guy. Does this mean girls aren’t able to be evil? “Adults were treated to a smart drama about toys that exploit their toyness and the other toys don’t realize they aren’t human. (Halberstam 274) Is a good quote by Halberstam for this point because all of these Legos don’t actually know that they are just being manipulated by humans, they think they are real yet it’s a father and sons basement set of Legos. Enough of that back to the intro, we have our good construction worker Emmett who is the opposite of what you would think a hero would be, also male yet not this big tough perfect one, in fact he is mostly your average joe kind of guy, no one notices him really he is just invisible because he is so plain.
This is our heroa regular guy who believes in himself rescues everyone and achieves his destiny. Next we have Batman the Lego, he is the perfect man, cool, smart, strong, deep voice, and he starts with the girl but does he end with her? No. He isn’t the hero in this story but it sets you up to see him as the perfect male. Now let’s get on to the one female in the entire movie. Wild Style, is that a DJ? That was a joke.
Anyway she is the only girl and on her Lego is an hourglass shape, like the perfect specimen of female which could be misconstrued as sexist, but it probably won’t be because no child notices that, this movie has a lot of great representations of perfect males and females, yet it also has a lot for instances of not so perfect character that support Halberstam to a T, which is crazy now moving on. So Halberstam has made a connection to the CGI film industry which she likes to call “Pixarvolt. ” In a nutshell it is the queer embodiment of the popular narrative.
It involves the things that kids see, then it morphs them into a dark thing for adults almost, for instance, we dive into a utopian society and as kids we are like “wow their life is great” we come as adults and we go “oh they are in a dictatorship, in which they can’t think for themselves and are forced to live a way that is predetermined for them. As an adult you see things differently and that is what she was willing to uncover. She wrote an article about something no one else was willing to go into and she stumbled onto a very important thing that could, almost should cause the ratings on movies to be changed.
The only reason that they are left where they are is because their audience is children who don’t know any better. Halberstam makes many good points in her reading one of which being, “The new wave of animated movies is also deeply interested in social hierarchies” (Halberstam 273) which basically involves relations between an outside world and an inside world. This hits the Lego movie directly on the head because this child is manipulating these Legos from the outer world and the inner world is their story that they are living.
At one point one of the Legos flies out of the inner world and ends up in the outer world, where he sees everything as it truly is how he is a Lego and who The Man Upstairs is. Which they considered a god, yet it is just a kid and his father playing with Legos. Often times a lot of the movies today really do have an inner and an outer world, even cartoons there is that one about the germs inside of a man’s body and they have adventures yet the man they are in has adventures of his own. It is a very popular plot formation.
This one really gets to me “A more radical reading allows the narrative to be Utopian. ” (Halberstam 274) this movie begins in a so called Utopian society where everyone does the same thing at the same time with the same people. They have to like the latest shows, listen to the latest music, and suffer from the latest trends. Yet they are in a dictator ship run by a man who only cares about his stuff and everything being perfect by his standards. Creativity is shunned and exiled, taboo if you will.
Which to most wouldn’t be ideal or good, but these people don’t think they are brought up believing that the dictator is right so to them everything is good, and the way it should be. When in the end the leader plans to freeze them all even though they have done nothing wrong. My next point from Halberstam’s reading is “Human exceptionalism comes in many forms. ” (Halberstam 276) In the movie there is a thing called “The Special” which is the prophesized savior of all who will stop doomsday from happening with his amazing skills.
This turns out to be Emmett and the Wizard Vitruvius accepts that it is him regardless of who he is the life he has lived or the fact that he is some construction worker who has no difference from any other person in their world. Wild Style at first is disappointed with him and doesn’t think he is good enough to be yet later she comes around. Now where does this tie in with the quote? Emmett thinks anything is exceptional. 40 bucks for a coffee? He is all over it like white on rice.
They tell him he is the special he is all for it, even though he has no idea what that means or what he is supposed to do. He thinks anything and everything is exceptional no matter what, tying into what she said yet again. As another example the trending song is “Everything Is Awesome”. This is the song that everyone has to like, why? Because they are in a dictator ship so everyday everyone loves that song and sings it all day long like it’s the greatest thing ever. Emmett is obviously the main character in this story, but every hero has a mentor, for Emmett it’s the wizard Vitruvius.
Now, Halberstam outlines that “animated films for children revel in the domain of failure”. (Halberstam 271) How does this describe the Lego movie? Well, let us start with the fact that Vitruvius the portrayed wise old man who as I said is the mentor of Emmett, Vitruvius tries to help Emmett and bring out his Master Builder capabilities (a master builder is someone who can build anything without instructions). There is one small problem with Vitruvius, he is completely blind.
The movie never tells us how he lost his vision but it is somewhat assumed it is because of old age. Yet in the movie they choose him to keep watch while Emmett and the rest of the master builders storm President Business’ Tower. How exactly does a blind man keep watch? In the movie Vitruvius is staring at the wall through binoculars, while he is supposed to be “keeping watch”. This blunder causes the big calamity or “failure” that gets all of the builders caught held prisoner and forced to watch as the villain takes over everything.
This gives Emmett his chance at saving everyone and getting his happy ending which we all know is what a Disney movie is all about! The happy ending has arrived! After Vitruvius dies Emmett saves the day, gets the girl, and his happy ending all at the same time. This sounds like another good reading from someone recently. Halberstam? That’s the one! So in conclusion, Halberstam is beyond right in her words about how most films that are animated involve some kind of revolution against an evil entity. The main goal is always a Utopian society or it starts as a false one, in almost all movies.
Males and females are often portrayed as certain perfect specimens with the sculpted bodies, the perfect faces, the perfect hair, etc. Yet sometimes they get away from this and make the complete opposite the best there is. We have also looked into the fact that a lot of Disney films have a huge failure or how they revel in the failure. We had our biggest failure in the Lego movie but what happens after the failure we get our big happy ending which happens in every kids movie, big failure, happy ending. The villain loses and the hero wins.
Finally, there is a lot of exceptionalism in animated movies a lot of people or animals who are totally okay with what is happening Monsters Inc. for instance is about traumatizing children for power. None of the monsters ever questioned it until that point in time. Halberstam was on to something with this prompt and I feel as though we can all learn something from reading this and actually looking at the things she talks about the next time we watch an animated movie. We might be surprised at what we find.