‘Lego Movie’ builds on gender stereotypes, pieces together sexist cliches

Though my kids and I saw “The Lego Movie” last week, I’ve been avoiding blogging about it.


Contrary to what some commenters claim, I don’t relish seeing yet another movie for kids with the same old sexist pattern that’s been done so many times my head spins. I’m so fucking sick of the Minority Feisty, I could scream. I cannot believe Hollywood keeps churning out this shit. And, yet…

The last line of the movie, the finale, is all you really need to know to understand the sexist stereotyping throughout. Batman (a major character, while Wonder Woman gets two lines) urges his girlfriend, Lucy, to go off with, the movie’s protagonist, saying: “No, Lucy. He’s the hero you deserve.” The girl– and she is the girl– is the prize to be won. Literally. Why can’t a girl be the fucking hero? Really, LEGO, why?

Here’s what drives me crazy about this film. “The Lego Movie” is all about prizing creativity above all, yet,  when it comes to gender, innovation flies right out the window and cliche dominates the imaginary world. It’s just like how in “Turbo” the movie’s message is that a snail can win the Indy 500, follow your dreams, be anything you want to be…unless you happen to be a girl. Same with “Planes:” anyone can become a champion, even a crop duster, except for…females. What are children supposed to think about possibility and potential when in narrative after narrative girls are stuck in supporting roles if they get to exist at all?

The bad guy (yes, bad guy) in “The Lego Movie,” Mr. Business, is evil because he wants all the LEGO sets to stay only with their intended pieces. He wants to build impenetrable boundaries to make sure nothing too creative goes on. His deadly weapon, the kragle, is superglue. To Mr. Business, LEGO is not about process and creativity, but a static, finished, perfect product.

This is a brilliant message to teach kids. Art is about process (not to mention, life.) LEGO’s self-awareness about its toy surprised and impressed me. The movie’s narrative illustrates the problem I have with LEGO sets (besides their sexism, of course.) Every time I struggle through yet another 1,000 piece project with my kids, I wonder: What is the point here? What are we learning, how to follow directions?

Near the end of the movie, Will Ferrell, who voices Mr. Business appears in human form. He’s angry with his son (yep, his son) who’s in the basement, playing with Ferrell’s completed LEGO sets. The kid has put a dragon on top of a building, where it’s not supposed to be. Ferrell gets mad, and the kid says, “But it’s a toy! See the box? For 8 to 14 year olds.” Ferrell says, “That’s just a suggestion!”

At this point, like so many other times in the movie, I cracked up. The villain is my husband. While I lie there wondering what the point of LEGO is, he’s snatching up pieces, trying to finish the set himself, do it all perfectly, and once it’s done, he puts it somewhere high up where no one can reach it. So, this is what I want to know: LEGO, how can you be so creative, smart, and funny but then fall into tropes when it comes to gender roles? Why can’t you break through the impenetrable boundary of your own sexism?

There’s one Minority Feisty gleam of hope that comes at the end of the father son scene. After an epiphany, Farrell lets his kid enjoy the LEGO and says, “Now that you’re allowed down here, we’ll have to let your sister play too.” Cue the scary music. Could this be the next movie? Girls are allowed to play, front and center? And what if those girls are actually seen having an adventure, not shopping or eating at a cafe or taking care of sick puppies or whatever LEGO Friends allows them to do? LEGO’s world would change. Not to mention ours. That would be an adventure.

Reel Girl rates “The Lego Movie” ***H***

Update: For those of you who don’t know about LEGO’s history of sexism, here are some posts you should read:

A father recently wrote about the sexism his son is learning from LEGO http://taasa.org/blog/prevention-2/building-a-new-kind-of-lego-city-2/

There is a lot I’ve written here on Reel Girl, here’s one on shopping with my daughter http://reelgirl.com/2013/11/if-a-stormtrooper-had-no-epic-would-he-exist/

If you want to see how male protagonists dominate children’s movies while female characters are continually sidelines or go missing all together, check out Reel Girl’s Galleries:

Here are the children’s movies from 2011 http://reelgirl.com/2011/07/heres-a-visual/

2012 http://reelgirl.com/2012/12/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2012/

2013 http://reelgirl.com/2013/01/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2013/

2014 http://reelgirl.com/2014/01/reel-girls-gallery-of-girls-gone-missing-from-childrens-movies-in-2014/