What The Lego Movie can teach creative people

Yesterday I went to see The Lego Movie with five children (not all my own). I expected to spend an hour and a half consumed by an action-packed, colourful and fun, light-hearted story. I expected there to be a moral (good is good, evil is bad), two characters who realise just at the end their love for each other, a pre-ending quiet-before-the-storm bit, a storm bit where all looks just about lost, and a nice happy ending once good has prevailed. Indeed, the film contained all of the above. What I didn’t expect was to gain some insight into the nature, and value, of those two ancient forces: creativity vs order.

Waiting for the film to start

Waiting for the film to start

If you google ‘The Lego Movie message’ the internet spews up a lot of very irate and emotionally-charged discussion about The Lego Movie’s supposedly unbalanced message. Apparently it is anti-business (ironically, since it is about Lego), anti-capitalist and pro-anarchist, and as one website states ‘a paean to freedom and decentralisation’ (The Economist). The supposedly anti-business message I think is actually more like ‘power corrupts’. This is hardly breaking news. Another review claims it to be anti-religious as it pushes the message that ‘the man upstairs’ is the source of everything that is bad and evil. So apparently it is much more than just a fun way to spend 90 minutes.

The moral? Glue is bad

The moral? Glue is bad

However, to me the message was quite different. I saw it as (the film was speaking to me personally, of course) creativity alone isn’t enough. The Lego world couldn’t be saved by the master builders working alone because they relied solely on creativity. They had tried, and they had failed. They needed the help of the chosen one’s (Emmet) insistence of the value of instructions and plans.

My husband in Lego

My husband in Lego

As a creative person (a master builder) myself, I shy away from planning. I am married to an Emmet. I like to just go for it and do. My Emmet likes to plan and follow instructions. He struggles with improvisation. A good example came last week when we both followed the same cake recipe seven days apart and made almost completely different cakes, albeit with the same ingredients. He followed the recipe word for word. I got bored and improvised with the topping and filling.

My version of the cake

My version of the cake

The recipe expects the cake to look like this

The recipe expects the cake to look like this

I like to launch myself into a painting or, more recently, an animation without much in the way of forethought. The problem is that this sometimes leads to downfall. The painting isn’t quite right, the colours are slightly off, the composition not really considered. Or the animation is too short, the frames per second are not enough and thereby rendering the film clunky, or the audio is poorly executed. By these failings, I have come to see the value of SOME planning. This, to me, is what The Lego Movie was trying to say. Creating anything out of Lego takes you so far, but not far enough. Following the instructions word for word, ditto. A combination of instruction and free thinking is the way to go!

Over the last twelve months I have got better at planning and researching before launching and I am convinced that thanks to watching The Lego Movie, I will now embrace further the need to do some planning, but not too much of course, I haven’t got the time or the patience.

References

‘Play’s the thing’, 17th Feb 2014, The Economist. Available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/02/new-film-lego-movie [last accessed 9 March 2014]

Jagernauth, K., ‘Watch: Fox News Report On ‘The Lego Movie’ Claims It Pushes Anti-Business Message To Kids’, 10th February 2014, Indiewire. Available at: http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/watch-fox-news-report-on-the-lego-movie-claims-it-pushes-anti-business-message-to-kids-20140210 [last accessed 9 March 2014]

Newsome, K.,’The Lego Movie: One of the most anti-Christian movies ever’, 25th February 2014. Available at: http://kevennewsome.com/2014/02/25/the-lego-movie-one-of-the-most-anti-christian-movies-ever/ [last accessed 9 March 2014]

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One Response to What The Lego Movie can teach creative people

  1. You’re “married to an Emmett”?

    When it wasn’t ripping off The Matrix, I think there was also a message in there about the value of working together, Consider the lyrics of Everything is Awesome:

    “Everything is better when we stick together
    Side by side, you and I gonna win forever, let’s party forever
    We’re the same, I’m like you, you’re like me, we’re all working in harmony”

    Ultimately, though, I think I’d side with the reviewer in The Economist:

    “Pulling the film apart for political messages is a bit like prodding Bert and Ernie’s relationship to find pro-gay messages: Ernie and Bert are puppets. They don’t have genitalia. ‘The Lego Movie’ doesn’t have a message, other than the anodyne ‘Believe in yourself’. It wants to sell Legos.”

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