As someone who grew up on Legos, or arguably didn’t, since i still have all of them, The Lego Movie could not fail to make an impression on me. Short story: go see it, it’s hilarious, and your kids might like it, too. But if you grew up not just with Legos (n.b.: i grew up calling them Legos, and no amount of corporate brand usage guidelines are sufficient to break me of the habit), but immersed in them, this movie will make you laugh until it hurts. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll start wondering how these plastic bricks helped make you who you are.
To me, you could sum up the movie as the story of the conflict between the front of the box and the back of the box. At least in the olden days, the back of a Lego set had all sorts of off-the-wall things you could build when you got bored of the fire engine. We cut them out and saved them, but few of these spoke to me in the same way as the front of the box did.
That’s right, kids, i identify with the forces of order, with Lord Business himself. i had no interest in a walking robot with ladders for legs, my town needed a damn fire truck. i had a vision, and that vision had precious little room for whimsy. Ask my favorite sister about the rigid zoning requirements enforced upon her more multicolored contributions to my fair city. In the corner, a dead-end street.
It’s not, i hope, an indication that i lacked imagination, far from it, i should think. But my imagination was grounded in things that were real; cities, subways, harbors, world’s fairs (hey, i lived in New Orleans in 1984), amusement parks, Olympics, skyscrapers, spaceships (spaceships are real, dammit). Maybe not so much real as realistic; things that fascinated me. And realism was an attention to detail; toilets, clock towers, bustling squares, street lights, airlocks (it always bugged me that Lego spacemen never seemed to have anywhere to take off their helmet).
Don’t mistake me for the man with the krazy glue, though. This was to be played with; crashed, razed, remodeled, perfected, then apocalyptically destroyed in the name of having that clean-slate day with its rush of new creation until my dad bade me go outside.
It’s that same impulse that stokes a burning fury at a design that just isn’t right, where the parts fit okay, but not the way they should, where the seams line up okay, but must be better. Sure, I can pretend it’s good enough, and if it’s 4am and they asked for it tomorrow, damn right it is. But with the time to do it, it gets ripped apart, turned over, blasted into pieces and put back together armed with the knowledge of how it should fit, how it should work.
That’s why i’ve kept all my Legos, even if real life keeps them stowed under the bed far too long; that quick hit of frustration-to-satisfaction is an outlet i do not wish to ever part with. Although i’ll gladly share some with my favorite nephew and niece someday soon. But there’s a reason i use a red spaceman as my avatar these days, sparing me the need to take the dreaded selfies in assorted places around the world. He’s kinda been me all along, and he wants to see cool things, too.
Everybody have pity on my girlfriend, because I’m dumping out the buckets real soon now.