The Paradox Of LEGO

SPACESHIP! Image via Jeff Bogle

Can you imagine if the point of IKEA furniture was that all the pieces fit together and you could mix EKTORP with EXPEDIT and get something totally unique, but just as sturdy?

If you wanted to, you could follow the pictograms, but the furniture would be just as fun to take apart and build again in a totally different shape. They’d even add in a few random extra pieces of wood and screws in the box to help kickstart your imagination.

Of course it wouldn’t work. We’re adults. We’ve been trained to follow directions, and instructions, and we need the rule of law to know where everyone stands and how to build a bookshelf.

For kids, however, things work differently. Their imaginations are alive. They are free to think laterally, and they can conjure all sorts of bizarre combinations of ideas, words, and contraptions.

It’s exactly what I love about being a parent, that chance to Ctl-Alt-Del my life and gain that new perspective of the world through the eyes of my children. Time with kids is spent laughing, re-discovering, and imagining.

But there are times we get back to our old adult ways, for me it’s with my son’s LEGO collections. I have long lamented that the beautiful creations they make last mere minutes before the Batman LEGO gets mixed with the Star Wars LEGO and gets mixed with LEGO City.

In the plot of The LEGO Movie, I am Lord Business, a father who appreciates the artistic architecture of LEGO and wants to keep them in a museum to be looked at, but not touched. The kids are the ones itching to get at the sets, stick them in the imagination blender, and write their own narrative regardless of what the instruction manual says.

The movie totally exposed my bias to me, and has me vowing to loosen up with the kids and what they do with their sets.

I audibly cheered and fist pumped when Benny finally got to build his “SPACESHIP!” in the flick.  Damn, I wish my mother had saved that bin of boring grey LEGO Space bricks. Back in the day, LEGO was generic. I think it fostered the freestyle play a little more. Now, with so many highly branded sets geared at marketing tie-ins, everything is gorgeous and it feels like a shame to break it up.

Or maybe I’m mis-remembering. I’m remembering my tendency as a kid to build random objects, no matter what “kit” they came in. The same thing my boys end up doing with their LEGO sets despite my desire to have the X-Wing Fighter on display on a shelf.

zacharie and x wing fighter

But The LEGO Movie is giving us permission to get back to doing just that, right after we go out to the store and buy more of their highly branded, marketing tie-in, The LEGO Movie sets.

SEE IT OR SKIP IT? See The LEGO Movie. Come home, destroy all your LEGO sets on display, build something fresh, and then go see it again.

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