Chicks with Bricks: Building Creativity Across Industrial Design Cultures and Gendered Construction Play
As a ﬁ lm that narratively celebrates unlimited construction play, yet economically supports the sale of construction toys differentiated in the marketplace by single imagined uses, The LEGO Movie (2014) must engage in a careful ideological balancing act. The “creativity” it idealizes must account for the freedom and agency implied by that term, yet in a way compatible with the packaging and marketing campaigns that encourage users to build what they see on the box then purchase new sets instead of reconﬁ guring what they already have. The ideological bargain struck in the ﬁ lm, therefore, depends on deﬁ ning creativity in relation, rather than strict opposition, to the practices of following the instructions. The ﬁ rst act focuses on Emmet, an animated LEGO construction worker miniﬁ gure who dutifully follows instructions for everything from combining bricks to ﬁ tting in socially. Although “Master Builders” like Wyldstyle and Batman shun instructions and rebuild the world around them in virtuosic ways, Emmet eventually schools these individualistic builders in the value of instructions as a platform for teamwork. And when the ﬁ nal act shifts to a live-action struggle over use of LEGO bricks between an order-minded father and his more chaotic but innovative son, the resolution of father and son learning to play together comes from a compromise between instructions and free play. While the father eventually embraces his son’s penchant for reconﬁ guration and foregoes a plan to use Krazy Glue to permanently ﬁ x instruction-built models, there is little suggestion that his son’s master building will come at the cost of entirely abandoning the instructions. The creative model and father-son collaboration settled upon in the ﬁ lm’s conclusion melds the two approaches, where builds made ﬁ rst by the instructions can later be creatively reconﬁ gured. “Master building” in the ﬁ lm is rarely the creation of something from nothing, but the rearrangement of pre-existing, pre-designed things.