This weekend my children and I watched The Lego Movie and I laughed unashamedly throughout. There was the obligatory ‘everybody is awesome or special’ sentimental message, but most of it was pure satire, making fun of fast food, reality TV shows, following instructions and even capitalism. It may have been above most children’s heads, but I enjoyed the references to films such as ‘Brazil’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Blade Runner’.
I only hope that the humour contained a healthy dose of self-irony too, since the key message is that it is better to be creative rather than follow instructions blindly. Furthermore, it is better to move easily between worlds and cultures rather than seek to sharply compartmentalise and separate things. This felt a little contrary, given the increasing tendency of Lego to go into more distinct niche markets rather than just produce universal bricks anymore. In fact, they are using The Lego Movie to launch a whole new series of products… which supposedly encourage ‘free building’.
Personally, I do prefer cross-model building and I believe this message also applies to literature and that rather tiresome separation into genres. Surely it’s time we stopped quibbling about the merits or demerits of a particular genre (see the recent Isabel Allende brouhaha), did away with snobbery and labelling, opened our minds to anything original and truly creative. We don’t have to love it, we just have to give it a chance.
We reach the park. It doesn’t take long for Mum to get bored: ‘Enough of swings! I’m tired. Run about, do something!’
It’s cold, windy. The monkey-bars are icy, and there are too many children on the climbing wall and see-saws. My baby brother sticks out his lower lip. ‘Don’t wanna!’
Mum rolls her eyes. ‘First of all, it’s “I don’t want”, not “don’t wanna”. Secondly, tell me clearly what don’t you want? Talk to me! Can’t help you if you don’t tell me! When will you learn to express your thoughts instead of just crying and whingeing all the time? Waa, waa! Is that all you guys ever do?’
She’s off again. No one can say Mum is stuck for words. Press a button, and she goes on forever. I have my pocket remote and switch her off like the sound on telly. Only let a few words slip through, just to make sure she isn’t suddenly saying something important, like lunch or time to go home. But no, it’s the usual stuff… How could she have given birth to such lazy children?… Sports are so good for you – unhealthy, stuck indoors all the time – only interested in Wii… Nobody will be our friend if we behave like this…
She folds her arms and sits, muttering, on the bench. Jake stands stiffly beside her. Face all screwed up and snotty. Refusing to have fun. I shrug and start playing Star Wars. I always play this on my own – no one else, not even Jake, may join in. I’m a clone trooper, fighting enemies with my light sabre. I run around with sound effects. Mum hates this game. She says only Jedi knights have light sabres and clone troopers are stupid. But I want to be stupid, I want to look like everyone else. All Mum’s brains, all those college scarves in her sock drawer that we’re not allowed to touch… and she has to go to hospital every month. Feels sick like a slug afterwards.
Besides, Jedi knights are boring, like grown-ups: they talk too much, they’re always right, always winning. Light sabres should belong to everybody.