Guest post on the promotion of the individual from a notoriously collectivist industry
by Tyler Smith
It’s no secret that Hollywood is strongly liberal. This is often reflected in the films that are produced, especially if those films promote a strong message. Over and over, we see businessmen, the military, and the generic “old white men” portrayed as villains, whose reactionary approach to life is keeping us from becoming a society of equality and fairness for all. The heroes are those that put aside their own petty selfishness and embrace communal values.
What I find particularly interesting is that this message only starts to come about in films aimed at adults. When we go back further, to kids movies and family films, we find a very different situation. We are often treated to stories about oppressive societies that emphasize sameness above all. “Get in line and be like everybody else, or be ostracized,” seems to be the order of the day.
The heroes of these stories are those that look at the societal structure around them and feel like they don’t belong. They sense that they were meant for better things; to break out of communal expectations and be their own person. Of course this makes sense, as we want to engender a sense of specialness in our children, rather than encourage conformity.
This is not by any means a new concept, but there have been several recent films for children and teenagers that seem to really take this idea and run with it. You can find it all over movies based on Young Adult fiction. Movies like The Giver, The Hunger Games, and The Maze Runner really put the effort into depicting an oppressive government whose best intentions- peace, prosperity, etc.- might actually be a smokescreen for a thirst for power. That so many young people are growing up watching these movies is encouraging to me; perhaps as they get older, they’ll start to look at our increasingly regulated world and start to wonder if all those rules aren’t actually limiting freedom more than protecting it.
In the midst of all of these films comes The Lego Movie, which manages to take the idea of a centrally-planned society and ratchet up the absurdity to such a degree that I consider it one of the most effective refutations of socialism (and perhaps liberalism) I’ve ever seen in film. The first ten minutes of the film are all about the way the society is run. Everybody has their place. Everybody is given the same instructions about how to live out their day. Very little is left to chance.
But, then, just when the satire is at its peak, the movie reveals its true stroke of genius. The current hit song in the city- the song that everybody knows and loves- is called “Everything Is Awesome.” It is extremely catchy and relentlessly upbeat. And, it’s message? Well, it’s right in the title. Everything is Awesome.
But when we actually listen to the lyrics, this song plays like something out of Soviet Russia. It is a piece of propaganda obviously passed down from the city government to keep its citizens excited about sameness and conformity.
Let’s take a look at some of these lyrics:
“Everything is awesome
everything is cool when you’re part of a team.
Everything is awesome
when we’re living out our dreams!”
“We’re the same.
I’m like you. You’re like me.
We’re all working
The leaders of the city are telling their citizens- in bouncy, enthusiastic fashion- that nobody is any different than anybody else. We’re all part of a team where no one individual is more capable than his team members. And it’s a thing to celebrate!
Then we come to a part of the song that demonstrates what conservative commentator Evan Sayet would call the “indiscriminateness of thought” that is adopted by modern liberals.
“Lost my job, it’s a new opportunity
More free time for my awesome community.”
“It’s awesome to win, and it’s awesome to lose.”
“Everything you see, or think, or say is awesome!”
In order to emphasize the idea of sameness among people, the concept must also be championed among ideas and concepts. Nothing is inherently good, so therefore nothing is inherently bad. If you lose your job, it’s no big deal. Failure isn’t something to be afraid of nor is success something to strive for. Everything is equally awesome.
If every job is awesome, nobody would ever consider trying to get a better one. If every car is awesome, nobody will create a better one. And if every law is awesome, nobody will question any of them.
Of course, it is possible to simply look at the song as a call to both optimism and teamwork, which there is nothing wrong with, just as there is nothing wrong with the idea of equality and fairness. The only problem- as exemplified in the film- is that these ideas are merely used as a means to satiate the masses and ensure that those that are in power stay in power.
There is an insidiousness to the way words like “fairness” and “equality” and “tolerance” are used right now. Those that use them most tend to define them in a way that best suits their own needs and ideas. And if you ever question the person’s motives, they can always say things like:
“Don’t you believe in fairness?”
“What are you, intolerant?”
“Do you not think teamwork is awesome?!”
This is the brilliance of The Lego Movie. While I didn’t find the story itself to be incredibly engaging, the world that is created and the care with which the writers take to craft that world is admirable. And in their desire to create a truly despotic villain whose power is dependent on a controlled citizenry, the writers have shown a canny understanding of the way propaganda works. It can convince you that up is down and black is white. Because if there is no such thing as good or bad, then how can we say that those in power are bad?
They’re not bad, because there is no bad. There is only awesome.