The Lego Movie
So I finally saw this movie iast night, and, sorry if I’m being super-obvious, here, but guys. You know it’s all about you, yes?
You know near the end when Emmet tells (spoiler) that no one’s destroying your work, there’s only millions of people creating new stuff on top of what you’ve already built?
You know that’s LEGO speaking directly to copyright in the age of remix culture, right? You know that’s LEGO making a positive statement about fandom and transformative works and each one of you, yeah?
This is LEGO, the company that has a Fair Play copyright policy and allows hobbyists to have conventions around their independently built model systems like Brick Con, tacitly permits con vendors to sell unlicensed variants on copyrighted Lego merchandise, and even partners professionally with some amateur hobbyists.
This is LEGO literally telling you that fanfiction is not copyright infringement but rather a celebration of the original work. This is LEGO literally telling you that fanwork is just as cool and as valuable and important as the work it’s based on.
The theme of The LEGO Movie is literally “everything is awesome, whether it started out as the canon or as fanwork.”
I just wanted to make sure you knew that. :)
I would be very enthused to see the LEGO Movie because of this, except.
Except it’s not about us, not really. It pretends to be about us, it maybe wants to be about us — while observing the Smurfette Principle.
LEGO started out as a gender-neutral toy, but it has become very strongly gendered. Nothing I’ve seen suggests that the movie undercuts that, that it doesn’t still privilege boys and their works, that girls and other non-boys are anything other than supporting characters.
It’s not about Us until it’s about fanworks that subvert the dominant paradigm, unless it’s about the girls and the queers and the weirdos playing with the white boy’s toys.
It reminds me too much of Galaxy Quest, a movie I know a lot of people love, but which enrages me because it makes it seem as though the quintessential Star Trek fan is a 12-year-old boy — when it’s really Bjo Trimble. We built this city.
Well… have you seen it? Because while I do think you make great points about LEGO as a dude-centered culture, I also think the LEGO movie sidesteps the Smurfette Principle (though I don’t think it passes Bechdel fwiw). It doesn’t have a relatively large cast in terms of characters who appear in more than one scene, and of that cast there are 2 female characters, one of whom is a sparkly unicorn combination of My Little Pony and Hello Kitty, literally as girly as you can get in the non-Barbie toy world. But she’s as smart and strong as any of the rest of the Master Builders. I do have issues with how the main female character is portrayed in terms of ‘fantasy girl falls in love with average joe geek’ syndrome, but she has agency and is explicitly *more* of an insider to the Builder culture than the hero is. She’s an expert, as is Unicorn Kitty. (And the movie also bypasses the trope of ‘X dude outsider enters Y culture, immediately becomes the best Y of all!’ btw.) And the very final moment of the film actually explicitly welcomes female fans to the LEGO fold while, I think, very cleverly parodying the “fake geek girl” mass panic that the entrance of women into geek culture causes among those who are already there.
So IDK, I think all in all I’d give the LEGO movie a positive rating in terms of what it says about female participation in LEGO culture as well as pop culture.