The Lego Movie Bricks Female Representation
Major spoiler alert! Please do not read this piece if you have not yet seen The Lego Movie. At this point, I am going to assume that is a select few.
The Lego Movie ends upon a note of silliness, a happy little denouement. Yet this coup de grace to an at times entertaining film solidifies the reveal of the Boys Club upon which this enterprise is built: The Man Upstairs chides his curly haired moppet of a son to “let your sister play, too”, and of course, she goes on to build some twisted monstrosity. The fact that she just HAD to be a sister suggests that The Lego Movie is pretty much a male fantasy. The message imparted to impressionable young viewers seems to be along the lines of “boys are rule-breakers, but girls are so far outside the lines they might not even be playing”. Better keep building Lego skyscrapers, boys, or girls will keep ick-ing up the city.
Much of the fun of The Lego Movie, the ‘hack’, if you will, is feeling the moment of the experience of different franchises intermingling, albeit in blocky form. Yet in almost every single instance, the representative of the franchise is male: The Simpsons? Milhouse. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Michelangelo. (Perhaps for the joke about old masters, though a Megan Fox-y April O’Neil was a missed opportunity). Lord of the Rings? Gandalf. Harry Potter? Dumbledore (because all old wizards look the same)? Sports? Shaq. DC Comics? Batman, Superman, and the Green Lantern. The greatest ‘surprise’ only featured male guests coming to party: Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbecca, who is definitely a dude. (Batman noted that he found out the hard way). Would it have been so hard to shoehorn in just one female character from an iconic franchise, or would that have spoiled the fun?
Wonder Woman did not have a standalone comic book movie, and even Green Lantern did, so she does not count. In a jokey bit of voice casting, the natural actress fit to play Wonder Woman, Cobie Smulders, is met with a sense of “what if”. A Lego Lisa Simpson, perhaps, may have done the trick, or a maybe a Galadriel, a Venus or a Serena Williams, a Selina Kyle, or even, oh my Stars, a Princess Leia. A Carrie Fisher cameo? An unexpectedly over-the-top Anne Hathaway impression? Cate freakin’ Blanchett? Adding some of these franchise players would have been truly awesome.
Wyldstyle (real name, Lucy) gives off a very strong first impression of being so incredibly badass, (“Come with me if want to not die” is a great way to make an entrance). It may seem as if she has got attitude to burn, by the end of the movie, she reveals herself to be little more than a sad little Lego female. Wyldstyle is quite obviously the Lego representation of a manic pixie dream girl, (If only Wyldstyle had told Emmet that she is not there to solve his problems). But of course, clueless Emmet gets to revel in the glory of saving the LEGOverse, thanks to a pep talk from a ghostly Vitruvius. The enlightened and supposedly empowered Wyldstyle, who is, herself, THE SPECIAL, must hide in the background, nothing more than a cheerleader for her new man. What’s so special about that?
In the reveal of the real master builders, Will Ferrell is far more interesting in his Lego form as President Business, stilts and all. The movie’s conceit of a play on 1984, that Big Brother is watching you, is far more exciting if Big Brother does not turn out to be YOUR DAD. The father character, this so-called Man Upstairs, (funny, because the action takes place in the basement), simply reinforces sitcom-y ideas about stern fathers and rebellious children. How much funnier a hack might it have been if the kid wants to play by the rules, and the father is the iconoclast? Furthermore, why do we need a bizarrely tanned Ferrell, who at this point seems to have given up on the idea of playing serious-funny? How we long for Stranger than Fiction Ferrell, all awkward limbs, and yet, wounded soul, instead of this man-child role that has not been funny since four to five movies ago? Perhaps a strong female influence would have calmed Father Ferrell, and allowed him to smooth out his edges, and… oh, that’s right, there is no mother. Not a Kristin Wiig or a Sarah Silverman in sight. In fact, The Lego Movie is filled to the brim with a stable of male comic actors, but is extremely light on the female comic touch. This is the End was probably the last comedy that was so male-dominated. And at least that bro-fest had the decency to include Emma Watson within its Potterverse.
The real-world conflict, settled by a very tender man-hug instantly recalled the latent misogyny present in the putrid About Time. In that film, actress Margot Robbie plays a manipulative beauty, using the promise of sex to lure in the main character, (good thing that she never had to reprise a role like THAT), Lindsay Duncan, so good in Le Week-End, reduced to a thankless mother role, and Canadian Rachel McAdams, essentially forced under the spell of wizard-like Domnhail Gleeson. The piece de resistance in About Time was an execrable Ping-Pong scene between Gleeson and Bill Nighy, which put the capper on an unbearably sappy movie, and seeming to reveal that women are the bricks upon which men can pile their emotional catharses. The bonding in The Lego Movie comes dangerously close to falling into the self-same mechanisms.
This trend of men who hug it out recalls an Entourage world wherein female bonding must be sublimated into a new kind of emotional intimacy: the bromance. It is about time to destroy this trope—it must be messed up before it is Kragled into place—and quickly. This Business of bromantic comedy eventually creates a new landscape, a cinematic precedent. Lacking female representation is its business, and business is good.