Monday, September 7, 2015

Week of 09/07/2015

The LEGO Movie Flaw You Never Noticed
One of the benefits (or curses, depending on how you view it) of having multiple movie channels on your cable or satellite service is that they’ll run the same movie multiple times every day.  And sometimes they’ll overplay some really stupid movie, in which case it’s time to hit up Netflix or pull out a good DVD.  But in most instances they’ll overplay a really good movie.  Something that they know people will watch over and over again.
One such overplayed film of late is “The LEGO Movie”.  And, having watched that 2014 computer animated feature numerous times on numerous days, I came across something that I’m sure not many of you noticed.  And, no, it’s not a spoiler, so don’t be screaming at me to say “Spoiler Alert” simply because I’m talking about the movie.
The movie focuses on the main character, Emmet Brickowski.  He’s an extremely average construction worker in the LEGO community of Bricksburg.  In fact, we discover that he is so average and boring that he’s pretty much anonymous.  In a city full of different and unique LEGO people (many of which you could buy, of course, either in the playsets or the various minifigure collections), Emmet doesn’t stand out at all.
And it took a while for me to realize it, but this unique feature about Emmet exposes a crucial flaw in the world of LEGO... one that any LEGO fan (past or present) would spot if they made the LEGO world themselves.
When we are first introduced to Emmet, he starts his average day by reading from and following “the instructions”.  This is something that he is conditioned to do every day, along with supposedly every other Bricksburg citizen in the LEGO world.
This particular set of instructions are entitled “Instructions to fit in, have everybody like you, and always be happy!”  And he tries to follow them to the letter.  He breathes, greets the day, exercises, showers, shaves, brushes his teeth, combs his hair, wear clothes (although he almost forgets that one), eats a complete breakfast with “all the special people” in his life, watches some morning TV, greets the neighbors by their individual names (including their pets), obeys all the traffic rules, listens to the popular songs on the radio, compliments people, roots for the local “Sports Team” (“Go Sports Team!”), drops off the dry cleaning before noon, buys overpriced coffee, and heads off to work with everyone singing the same hit song as they go through the day in synchronized perfection.
He seems to follow everything that the instructions tell him to do...
And yet there’s something glaringly wrong with him.
When Emmet is having a “complete breakfast with all the special people” in his life, according to the instructions, he has nobody to share it with.  He has to make do with his houseplant.  And even though he knows all his neighbors by name, including the names of all the cats one neighbor has, and he knows everyone at work, and he compliments and greets everyone by name as according to the instructions, nobody knows who he is.  Nobody calls him by his name.  Nobody really cares about him.  And this fact is made embarrassingly obvious to him early in the story.  (Like I said, not a spoiler.)
So I’m sure you’re wondering what the big deal is.  There’s always someone like that in the real world.  Hell, that’s pretty much this commentator’s life story.
That’s why we’re quick to look past this glaring error.  Because it does happen quite frequently in the real world.
But in the world of The LEGO Movie, especially in the LEGO city of Bricksburg, that kind of mistake is not supposed to happen if you are following the instructions.  If you do everything that the instructions tell you to do, then the result is supposed to match what you see at the end of the instructions, just like you do putting together the LEGO playsets in the real world. You follow the instructions, and you end up with what you see at the end of the instructions.
Granted, there is a chance with the LEGO playsets that you could miss a piece, but unless it’s a crucial piece, everything else should look like what you see at the end of the instructions.
And let’s not forget that the instruction book that Emmet was following is entitled “Instructions to fit in, have everybody like you, and always be happy!”  He followed the first part, but clearly the other two parts were not there.
In other words... the instructions are wrong!
Emmet followed the instructions as they were given to him, and yet nobody liked him and he wasn’t really happy.  And that is not supposed to happen in the world of the LEGO Movie.  Ever!  The instructions are supposed to be perfect.
So here’s a really painful question to ask all of you who believe that everything that happens to you is all through your control:
If Emmet follows the instructions, and the results do not match what the instructions say he should have, whose fault is it?
You see, the people who have a conservative mindset will tell you that every outcome you have, both good and bad, are entirely yours to control, which means that if the instructions you follow are wrong, then somehow it’s your own fault that you didn’t get the desired result.
According to these people, it’s Emmet’s own fault that his results didn’t match those of the instructions, even though he followed everything that the instructions told him to do.
But how can it be your fault if you follow the instructions and still don’t get what you were told would happen?  Especially when you’re in a world where everyone and everything tells you that you have to follow those instructions!  You’re not supposed to make things up as you go along.  You’re just supposed to conform and do everything that the instructions tell you to do.
If you really think about it... it’s not Emmet’s fault that nobody knows who he is.  It’s actually the fault of pretty much the whole damned LEGO Movie community of Bricksburg for not living up to the expectations like he did!  Emmet seemed to be the only one that knew all of the names of the people in his community and greeted them and complimented them by name as according to the instructions.  His neighbors and associates at the construction site cannot say the same.
But we can’t hold a group that large responsible for being wrong, can we?  No, of course not!  That just doesn’t “make sense”.  It’s better to just blame the individual when the world fails him than to hold the world to account for their gross incompetence.
And, like I said earlier, we don’t readily see this error in the animated LEGO world because we see it too many times in our real world.  We see the systems that we are supposed to put our faith in continually fail us.  We see the people who fall through the cracks. We know them.  Hell, some of them are us!
And when those systems fail us, the conservative mindset quickly chimes in and boisterously proclaim that it’s our own damn fault that we are left out and forsaken, even when our only sin was to follow the flawed systems that they defend.
Let’s get brutally honest here... it is high time that we accept the reality that there are things that go on in our lives that are controlled by others and that we should not be held to account for those things when they fail us.  If you want us to put faith in a system, then it is your obligation to make sure that system works in the way that you claim it to!  And not just sometimes or in “most instances”.  It has to work every single time.  That’s the only way you can build trust in that system.  People need to know that it works every single time, in every single instance, for every single person.
The LEGO world seen in the movie is obviously fantasy, but it is based on an idealized view of society.  To have this kind of a flaw from the real world appear even in an idealized view shows just how pervasive the problem is.  And the fact that most of us wouldn’t catch it because it is that pervasive shows the need for us to address it, lest the only kind of feasible society we have left is one in the world of fantasy.

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