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I guess I just like liking things

I want to talk about The Lego Movie, but I don’t know how to do it without potentially spoiling things. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so I’m giving you the chance to not read spoilers by putting the spoilers after the poster. If you don’t want to know anything about the movie, don’t scroll down!

Everything is awesome!

Everything is awesome!

If you are still reading you are not allowed to gripe about spoilers!

You’ve been warned!

This line is to give you one more chance.

Okay, on with the spoilers.

First off, I really enjoyed the movie. It was funny and action-packed, and there was a nice lesson to it, which is what I want to talk about.

I went into the movie expecting a fun little movie that happened to take place in Lego World, but the filmmakers took it farther. It’s really more of a movie that takes place in Lego culture. The main conflict is between two groups: those that build the Lego kits strictly according to the instructions, and those that freestyle it, using whatever bricks they want to make whatever they want. In the movie, there’s a father representing the “Instructions!” side while his son represents the Freestylers. the dad uses Lego as hobby, building things to create sets, while the son uses Lego to build things to play with. In the end, as you might expect, they come to the conclusion that both sides have their strengths, that Freestylers can take what Instructicons (how come the Transformers never had Instructicons? Seems a logical progression to me) do and enhance it.

The struggle serves as a good backdrop to the movie as a whole, and I was surprised at how conflicted I became. When I was a kid Lego had kits, but the pieces were more general. Now it seems more like “this piece was created specifically for this kit because we needed this edge to look a particular way.” Along with that, when I was a kid I just had a bunch of generic Lego that I used to build whatever I could. All the pieces lived in one tub and that’s how I used them. I don’t know how much the kits cost back then because I didn’t buy them myself.

I’ve bought 6-7 kits over the last year, but most are still boxed. I have to be in a very particular mood to want to get them out and assemble them, and I know that once I put them together I’m going to need space to keep them out, as it’s unlikely I’ll ever take them apart again… and now you see where I started having internal conflict during the movie. Somewhere along the line I became an Instructicon rather than a Freestyler. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with age, but not just from a “as you get older your imagination gets less” perspective. It’s also a function of age that you get more set in your ways, more devoted to your quirks and inclinations. When I was a kid, sure, I was more of a Freestyler, but I was already separating out the Lego bricks by color even then. Some of my greatest spaceships were all red and yellow, not because I was a huge McDonald’s fan, but because those were the colors that we had the most of. Now, 30+ years later, I may not separate my bricks by color, but there’s no way in the world I’m letting bricks from one kit mix with the bricks from another. Just the thought of it puts my teeth on edge!

My nephew is big into Lego, like, huge. I couldn’t tell you how many different kits he has, but I can tell you two things:

1. He doesn’t keep the bricks separated. There’s just a huge (huge!) pile of bricks.

2. He got several Star Wars kits from a garage sale a while back and they didn’t have instructions. He put the kits together anyway and they looked like they were supposed to look. I have no idea how he does it.

The movie talks a lot about “master builders,” a person who can see in their mind what they can build given the bricks at hand. I love the way they illustrate it in the movie, but at the same time I was shaking my head with a “no way I’d ever be able to do that” sadness behind it. My nephew’s a master builder, I’m pretty sure. He’s both an Instructicon and a Freestyler, and that’s probably what it takes.

As for me, I think it’s okay to be an Instructicon right now. The problem will come if I ever have kids of my own. “These are daddy’s and they’re not for playing with” is a thing that won’t fly, and I don’t think I’d want it to. I’d want my sons and daughters to play with Lego and build and experiment, I want that even though right now in my head I’m having a hard time even mentally handing over the kits I have. That’s a bridge I’ll have to cross when and if I ever get to it.


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