Movie Review: The Lego Movie

We went to see The Lego Movie today with the kids & cousins.  By and large, it’s a mostly enjoyable movie, filled with enough humor for adults, while there’s more than enough action to keep the kids amused even if they don’t get all the jokes.  It’s not precisely the most coherent movie in the world, but hey, what do you expect from a movie inspired by a bunch of building blocks?

However, I have more difficulties with a lot of the movie’s subtext.  Without giving too much away, the movie is about the struggle of ordinary (and not so ordinary) Lego citizens to resist the domination of a master villain, Lord Business.  Lord Business demands order and control over all things, and devises a plan to ensure that his will prevails.  Vague enough?
On the one hand, there are obvious political and economic subtexts.  The struggle against overreaching political power, the dangers of marrying business and politics, and the general manipulation of Everyman by a pervasive cultural machine that does much of it’s most effective work through media.  I don’t have problems with these subtexts.  They’re pretty lightly treated.
But there is an overarching theme of the inherent beauty and better-ness of nearly unrestrained personal liberty.  The bastion of this way of thinking is Cloud Cuckoo Land, an area of the Lego universe where unrestrained personal creativity is the overriding expectation.  People are free to do and be whatever they want (epitomized by Uni-kitty, a mix of a kitty and unicorn).  While there is some clever hints that not all is as simple and carefree in Cloud Cuckoo Land as it appears on the surface, this is pretty trivialized.  
The land is visually represented in clouds and rainbows, multi-colored creations of all kinds and types.  Their unrestrained freedom of personal expression and creation is diametrically opposed to the oppressive demand for order insisted upon by Lord Business.  None of which seems too awful in isolation.
Except that in our culture wars today, the fundamental disagreement is over whether there is (or even should be) a fundamental order to things.  An order that doesn’t just reflect but actually constitutes reality to a large extent.  More and more the fringe elements of our culture (which aren’t nearly as fringe as they were a few short years ago) are successfully bullying people into accepting that there is practically no inherent order necessary in things.  People are free to do and be as they see fit.  Gender is arbitrary, not genetically and biologically hard-wired.  Sexuality is a matter of personal preference.  Marriage is a matter of whatever two or more people want to make it. Freedom is to be the rule of thumb, rules and order be damned.  Well, at least any rules and order other than *their* rules and order.
How is this movement often visually represented in our culture?  In clouds and rainbows and the use of bright and varied colors.  
Not exactly subtle.  
The disagreement over whether things are to be determined by an overarching master planner, or whether we are completely at liberty to do whatever we feel like is the struggle going on in our culture, and this movie clearly seems to side with those who demand unrestrained personal freedom of expression.  Once again, order and propriety are portrayed not just as old and stodgy and silly, but actually evil.  Those who disagree that people are free to create their own reality become the enemy for trying to impose their will on others, even though those who insist on full personal autonomy are just as stridently seeking to impose their will on others.  
Your kids aren’t going to pick up on any of this.  But it really struck home, particularly in the second half and the last few minutes of the movie.  Love is allowing people to wreak havoc on an intended order.  And while I’m a big fan of the freedoms we still enjoy, I am also quick to realize that freedom requires a framework within which to operate.  There is an overarching order both naturally in creation as well as in human constructs.  This is a crucial thing to recognize not as evil, but ultimately as good.  
And we need to be aware that the contrary message is being hammered home again over and over and over in our media.  

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