The Means vs The Goal: Analysis of The Lego Movie

Okay, I’d better start by saying that I thought they Lego Movie was pretty awesome. The writing was witty, the jokes were funny, the graphics were obviously incredible, it was poignant, heartwarming, and even had a reference to Lindsay Fleay’s Magic Portal! But that said, it got to the end of the movie and something didn’t feel quite right.

So, I started thinking about it. Emmet wants for something. It’s clearly laid out at the beginning of the film. And, at the end, Emmet delivers a beautiful and inspiring speech. But does the bookending work? Emmet wants more than anything to be part of a team. Everything is Awesome!!! But not for Emmet, who wakes each day and follows “The instructions to fit in, have everybody like you, and always be happy!” And, it all seems great, until we see that all the “special people in [his] life” is his potted plant. That is clearly set up as his goal: Emmet wants to be accepted and be part of a team.

And yet, in the end, he delivers this speech:

“You are the most talented, most interesting and extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things, because you are the Special. And so am I. And so is everyone. The prophecy is made up, but it’s also true. It’s about all of us. Right now, it’s about you. And you still can change everything.”

It’s a beautiful speech. But can you see the contrast here? Emmet wants to fit in, be liked, and be happy. Now he’s giving advice that’s incredibly Individualist. So, the bookends don’t match. Somewhere along the line, the story stopped being about Emmet’s goals, and started being about individual differences. Basically, it feels like the story’s moral had a bit cut off: “The moral of the story is to be special, to be unique, to be yourself, because…” And there is a “because,” because the story has set it up. But the funny part is, it feels like there was just a rewrite somewhere towards the end, because someone wanted to emphasize that Individualism and focus on uniqueness.

I want Emmet to give a different speech to Lord Business:

“You are the most talented, most interesting and extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things, because you are the Special. And so am I. And so is everyone. The prophecy is made up, but it’s also true. It’s about all of us. Right now, its about you and me. And we can still change everything.”

Because that’s what the movie is about: “The moral of the story is to be special, to be unique, to be yourself, because its only in being unique that you can truly find a place among others where it is awesome to be part of a team working together; you will fit in, have everybody like you, and always be happy.”

2 thoughts on “The Means vs The Goal: Analysis of The Lego Movie

  1. I got a different impression. To me it’s not that Emmet necessarily wanted to be part of a team and that was his big huge goal, it’s that the world he lived in told EVERYONE that they should want to be part of a team. “Everything is Awesome” is basically the propaganda that is drilled into every resident, not just Emmet – each and every one of them is told day in and day out that everything is great if they just fall in line and teamwork and wooo sparkles and magic.

    I remember thinking that at the end Emmet realized that it’s NOT all about being part of the herd and never was – that’s just what the evil city propaganda wanted everyone to believe.

    Granted I watched the movie in Swedish and likely missed many of the nuances.

    • I can see that perspective as well. But the rest of the construction workers happily work together AND value each other, and when asked if Emmett was The Special, they all said he couldn’t because he was too bland. He was so focused on being part of a team that he didn’t recognise that a team is a collection of different parts working together. So, this is in line with your assessment. But, on the other hand, when he’s hanging out with the Master Builders, they are so independent that they don’t work together well either, and Emmet’s “blandness” actually comes in handy to unify them and allow them to achieve something greater. It’s like a study in Aristotelian virtue: either extreme (bland vs independent) is bad. Which was the analogy being drawn between Finn and The Man Upstairs, where “working together” doesn’t mean “following one person’s idea of what should be made.” Each of the Master Builders were actually as bad as Lord Business, because they all wanted their way, rather than working together to achieve a better goal that can only be met by working in a collaborative team (which is what Emmet prompted them to do). In the end, it is more awesome when you’re part of a team, as long as you’re bringing your unique skills and allowing them to contribute and work together with the other members of the team. Finn wanted to play Lego with his father, but his father only saw one vision of how the Lego should be built until Finn challenged him to collaborate and work in a team, rather than what is essentially a dictatorship.

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