Grief and Violence in The Lego Movie (Spoiler Alert)
Why you should think twice about taking your kids to see The Lego Movie.
Posted Mar 18, 2014
He is angry towards his father. Expressing his anger, the boy imagines and then acts out violent attacks: beheadings, explosions, shootings, and pushing people off a cliff. And in the end, he gets what he wants—and wins the girl too.
Am I referring to the life of a boy who recently shot people at a movie theater, school, or mall? No, I am describing the main character from The Lego Movie.
Yes, the ending softens the story. Yes, I realize the figures are not real. Yes, I know children's minds are active. But let’s go deeper with the themes of this movie.
If a child had written that story in school, there is a good chance he would be suspended. (I’m not arguing a suspension would be right. In fact, I think that is the wrong way to approach youth who are displaying tendencies towards violence.) My point, though, is that we question the active imagination of violence in some situations but not in others. For our entertainment, we often welcome violent scripts and encourage children to watch them again and again.
I’m not against Legos. My girls love to play with Legos, and I believe they can be wonderful for imagination and creative play. This is one of the arguments in the movie. And it is obviously not just The Lego Movie that exploits themes of violence for our entertainment. (Or pokes fun at consumerism as a way to sell toys, but that is a different post.)
I am not arguing that movies and video games (or violent Lego play) cause our school shootings. However, they do give scripts for how to handle anger and grief.
Boys and men are told again and again in our culture that they shouldn’t cry. They should not show fear. They should not grieve (or at least very little). In our culture, we allow men to freely express one main emotion: Anger. In many ways, we support the expression of anger through aggression in sports, movies, video games, play, and intimate relationships.
Most boys and men do not go around shooting and assaulting others. Even for men who do not choose violence, they have to endure the culture that tells them not to be sad or afraid. The fortunate ones have role models in their lives who show them non-violent ways to express grief and frustration.
In the end of the movie, the dad learns to listen to his son. That is great. I love that part. But in spite of that short moment, it is the 90 minutes of violence that linger. For some bothered by the violence, the ending may redeem the movie. For me, it leaves a lot of questions.
Is violence the only way we can keep people's attention that long? Are there not other ways of telling stories about grief, frustration and anger that do not take explosions, shootings, and beheadings? And what about those children (or adults) who do not have anyone at the end of their imaginary violent play to help them release anger?