I’ve seen The LEGO Movie twice now – it was that great. A super sharp, witty, and self-referential comedy, The LEGO Movie is a fantastic ninety minutes.
It’s got one flaw.
To preface, let me put the disclaimer on this by saying I understand that the movie is about LEGOs. They are toys. It’s a movie about toys. They’re all yellow and their bodies are square and they don’t have any fingers. I get it.
Doesn’t make me any less critical of how the movie treats the one girl character. Elizabeth Banks voices Wildstyle/Lucy, who, from the previews, just seemed like a badass who is way more knowledgeable than the main character Emmit and essentially has to guide him through everything.
This impression didn’t turn out to be totally inaccurate – Lucy did know more than Emmit and did have to lead him around quite a lot – but the most important thing about Lucy? Had to do with her boyfriend. Lucy shows up and Emmit is immediately like ‘wow hot’ which, fine, if she’s gotta be the love interest (which I would strongly argue was an unnecessary burden to the already packed movie) then okay. Emmit’s reaction was kind of cute, he totally spaced out and her hair swiveled around which made me laugh every time it happened.
I don’t have an issue with Lucy being Emmit’s love interest from a feminist perspective (more just a storytelling one). I do have an issue with how what felt like a majority of Lucy’s lines and purpose had to do with her boyfriend Batman and/or Emmit’s interest in her. At one point, Emmit stopped listening to her even though she was telling him important info, and to his mind, she was spouting nonsense like “and now I’m probably mad at you for some reason” because all girls do is get irrationally pissy, right? Even though Lucy was trying to help Emmit, his dismissal of what she had and the assumption that she was probably irritated for a reason that must not matter was played for laughs.
And this was how the movie continued. Lucy’s other characteristics, like the fact she’s a master builder, or that she wanted to be The Special, or that she’s insecure? All fell by the wayside, while her relationship with Batman (and how that prevented Emmit from pursuing her) became key. The movie also never really explored the fact that Lucy changed her name a lot because she’s insecure – it was mentioned once, as a throwaway line.
This is especially disappointing because The LEGO movie was just so close. Lucy is a great character – she is smart and knowledgeable, but insecure. Which is a good thing! Media depictions of girls and women do not just need to be all all ass-kicking power and unstoppable forces of strength. They need to be well rounded and real. Lucy had this potential, the movie just failed to develop it. And so Lucy’s storyline focused more on how Batman was (in typical Bruce Wayne fashion) not a very good boyfriend, and not on Lucy.
The underdevelopment of what was really the only girl character (does a unicorn kitty count? I’m going with not really) is important in the context of The LEGO Movie because LEGOs are often marketed as a “boy” thing. The skills and interests that intersect with LEGOs are things that boys are conditioned to like and be good at and girls are steered away from. The child in the movie was a boy. All the main characters were boys except for Lucy and if you really want to push it, Unikitty. The movie has great messages about imagination, creativity, and teamwork, but with a cast of characters where the only lady is concerned mostly with what the men are doing, why would a girl think those messages applied to her?