I am a fully grown man and I’m not ashamed to admit I went to see The Lego Movie with two other fully independent adults. And we had a great time.
Initially drawn in by the jokes and the creative animation, I was pleasantly surprised by what I took to be a biblical narrative: we are intended to create and steward resources in ways that bring joy and other benefits to other individuals, society, and creation.
In addition to that primary narrative, I also interpreted a limited government, free market theme. All these elements taken together make the movie an entertaining and uplifting hour and a half.
Although I am very tempted to just write praise for the imagination of the animators, the cleverness of the jokes and the tremendous cast, I want to focus on one of the underlying themes that comes through as the plot unfolds: a command-and-control society squashes human flourishing and creativity.
President Business, voiced by Will Ferrell, is the antagonist in the story and wants to make everything perfect. In his quest to perfect society he creates a surveillance state, controls the media, and has a final scheme that will complete his centrally designed goal.
Analogous to the command-and-control structure of Soviet-style communist governments, what starts from good motives quickly turns evil. In order to achieve the perfect society, the Lego peoples’ creativity has to be curbed. The free-wheeling, creative figures known as the Master Builders are driven underground or rounded up by President Business and his robot minions.
What the Lego citizens realize – and what has been true of centrally controlled economies the world over – is, as Winston Churchill is credited with saying,
Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.
The resistance knows President Business’s plan for perfection will actually be just a “sharing of misery.”
To stop President Business, Emmett, an average, everyday Lego man finds himself leading a small group of Master Builders. Along the way, Emmett encourages his friends to not only exercise their creativity but also to work together. He tells them,
What does he never expect Master Builders to do?…Follow instructions. You are so creative…but you don’t work together.
Emmett and the Master Builders’ story is a celebration of the fact that we are made in the image of a creative God and we have enormous creative potential ourselves.
Art Lindsley says,
Only God can create something out of nothing, but we can, and are called to, create something out of something. We participate with God in creativity. Different people are given different gifts, but all are called to use creativity in developing their callings and carrying out their work.
This creativity doesn’t take place in a vacuum. God is a creative God, but he is also a relational one. In Genesis he says, “Let us make man in our image.” Just as we image God’s capacity for creativity, we image his capacity for relationships as well. And so we use our creative gifts in relation to other people, to serve them. As John Bolt writes in Economic Shalom,
We do not work as solitary individuals in isolation but always as participants in an economy, a social order.
This truth plays out in the movie as Emmett recognizes that his friends are unique. When the Master Builders work together in ways that complement their differences, they can achieve much more than when they work alone.
In the real world, we see this creativity flourish in a market system. When people are allowed to freely trade and create, taking advantage of both their unique gifts and those of others, society is better off. Markets allow the Master Builder in each of us to flourish as God intended.
While the theme of free creative expression is a good one, the movie is not a full-throated endorsement of limited government. It seems to highlight the free exchange of cultures and ideas (which is good) rather than the free exchange of scarce resources, which should also be encouraged.
However, world history has demonstrated that freely trading in resources is foundational to sharing cultural ideas. Granted, the free flow of information and resources means bad and evil ideas may take root in communities. But in a system of limited government there is at least far less of a chance that evil ideas will be institutionalized.
For both its entertainment value and positive messages, The Lego Movie is well worth seeing and dissecting with friends and family.
What did you think of The Lego Movie? Leave your comments here.
Photo used by permission,® 2014 The LEGO Group.”