The Lego Movie (2014)

Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Emmet is thrilled to purchase overpriced coffee. An example of the film's attack on consumerism

Emmet is thrilled to purchase overpriced coffee. An example of the film’s anti-consumerism.

The political ideology of The Lego Movie‘s plot, which was released last year, has been a source of some debate among some in American media circles. It has been accused of promoting a strong “anti-capitalist” and an “anti-business” message, while on the other hand it has even been promoted as a libertarian story that promotes the virtues of individualism against collectivist conformity.

When The Lego Movie was released, channels like Fox Business hosted guests who claimed that it contained an clear anti-capitalist theme and went on to condemn it as what they call a typical example of Hollywood’s “far Left politics.” The absurdity of claiming that Hollywood is anything but one of the main promoters of capitalist ideology in the United States aside, is their claim about Lego Movie correct?

The plot of the film revolves around the all powerful “President Business” who has a sort of Orwellian control over the Lego world depicted in the film. The main character of the film is a construction worker who is over content with fitting in to society, which is highlighted by the popular song in the beginning of the film called “Everything is Awesome” which is a parody of the celebration of every day life. Criticizing this complacency is the focus of the film’s plot, and through the adventures that the main character goes through he slowly develops a consciousness that calls into question the idea that “everything is awesome.” He sees that there exists a popular underground resistance to the status quo of President Business.

As the film develops and the main character becomes more involved with the resistance, he begins to learn that the complacency he suffered from was a major problem for not only him but society as a whole. Although the “plainness” of his personality is often the subject of jokes from his fellow resistance fighters, who end up being popular culture figures in lego form throughout the film (for example, Batman is one of the heroes of the film, although he is portrayed as unintelligent and lucky unlike in most of the Batman films).

The main city of the film

The main city of the film

As the heroes go on their quest, the eventually help foment an uprising against President Business which ends up being the climax of the film. What is the nature of that uprising? Is it, as Fox Business claims, a Left wing fantasy of overthrowing capitalism (represented by the greedy President Business) or is it as Glenn Beck claims: a libertarian celebration of individual creativity? One plot point that is clear is that the conclusion of the revolt is not some radical new order for this fantasy world, but rather a reconciliation between President Business and the resistance. He agrees to allow the masses to express their own creativity and to not try to “freeze” everyone where they’re at. This could be interpreted as a sort of implementation of the American Dream, “we won’t hold you back from realizing your economic potential any longer.” It certainly do not call into question the role of someone like President Business as owner of the wealth of the world he rules over. This vague reconciliation leaves it open to interpretation what the writers meant by depicting this revolt. Being mediated through the somewhat tense relationship between the father and son also adds ambiguity and dilutes the political message, at least to the extent where a more psychoanalytical approach is required.

While there are lines in the film like “the construction worker is the hero” (when the son of the “meta story” is responding to his father when discussing the importance of the toys) may make is feel that it is a film about class consciousness and oppression, we should remember that ultimately it is not a film about empowering those who are oppressed to reorganize their society, but rather to just be able to let their “individual creativity” become unleashed. The film does critique consumerism and implicate critiques the greedy nature of capitalism to a large extent, but the solutions offered fall short of the “far left politics” that Fox Business would have us believe. It is a progressive film, but not a revolutionary film.

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