Politics of Bricolage and the Double-Sided Message of the LEGO Movie

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Dalia Grobovaite


With the release of The Lego Movie in 2014, Frankfurt School’s critical theory once again finds an application in the contemporary media landscape. Its main postulates articulated by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer have never lost significance and relevance. New media products provide a convenient platform to engage in the discussion and reinforce some of the most influential critiques of the culture industries. Although with less negative dialect, the paper approaches Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s critique of mass culture in a contemporary media landscape referencing their most influential work of critical theory - Dialectic of Enlightenment. The paper carefully examines the script of The Lego Movie and producers’ interviews and relates those to the critical concepts of the culture industries. From the onset, The Lego Movie brings up a few controversial messages. First, the idea of creativity and imagination appears to be limited to the use of the brick, namely the Lego brick. Secondly, although the basic maxim of the movie is the promotion of self-identity and individuality, the development of these personal traits through the storyline is debatable. Finally, the producers’ aim to criticize American mass culture and the culture industry is dubious as much as their claim to have no intention for the movie to serve as a commercial. The paradox of the latter is poignant since the critique of mass culture is embedded in the product of the same culture — the medium of the screen — the movie. The Lego movie uses a powerful medium to convey the message of the consumer culture – the colorful brick, which is easily recognized by kids all over the world. It is arguable whether the medium intensifies the messages disseminated through the movie. A massive increase in the sales of Lego sets after the movie’s release may suggest an affirmative answer.

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Critical Essays