Toby Manhire: Campaign for a Lego-Free New Zealand

By Toby Manhire In Commentary

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Vitruvius is voiced by Morgan Freeman, a man who once played Nelson Mandela in another film called Invictus that exposed New Zealand losing in the Rugby World Cup final. Coincidence?

 

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“Everything is awesome!” goes the catchy song to The Lego Movie. But as far as New Zealanders are concerned, everything about that lousy little plastic edifice is O for awesomely offensive. It is yet another assault on the hardworking people of New Zealand. And it is time to say: enough.

The cause of the uproar is widely known by now: the wizard Vitruvius, an inch-high minifigure voiced by Morgan Freeman, explains that they will travel to a place called “Middle Zealand”, which he characterises as a “wondrous land full of knights, castles, mutton, torture weapons, poverty, leeches, illiteracy, and, um, dragons.”

Which is preposterous, culturally insensitive and defamatory, especially the bit about dragons. Outrage doesn’t begin to cover it. As a man from Dunedin told the Herald on Sunday, “We thought it might not be appropriate. We were not quite sure why it was in there.” The HoS exposé began, starkly: “New Zealand has been insulted.”

The prime minister could not avoid commenting on this diplomatic flare-up, saying he thought it was “a light-hearted line in a children’s fantasy film”. Which only proves that John Key is in the pocket of Warner Brothers, the people who made the Lego Movie, the Hobbit movies, and more or less run the New Zealand legislature. Look at him, on his knees, cowering before Big Lego.

And am I the only one who has noticed the mainstream media’s failure to ask questions about any Lego links between Maurice Williamson and property developer Donghua Liu? Did they build a Lego Technic fire station together at their Coromandel baches? Perhaps we’ll never know.

The Lego film-makers tried to hose down the flames of scandal engulfing the nation, saying they were not making fun of us and that they are “huge fans of New Zealand, LOTR, Weta, island nations, and the film Eagle vs Shark”. Well, they would.

Attentive observers will note the similarity with the words of a squirming Ben Affleck, whose Oscar-winning travesty Argo misrepresented New Zealand diplomats’ role in the Tehran US embassy hostage crisis of 1979. “I love New Zealand and New Zealanders,” he squealed. The NZ parliament would not be silenced, however, and passed a motion damning his sad little film. He has not won an Oscar since.

Even attentiver observers will note the similarity between the names Lego and Argo. Is this some kind of New-Zealand-phobic in-joke? After all, the film Fargo chuckled at simple-minded people who live in remote locations and speak in a curious drawl. Think about it. Key Largo suddenly looks like a meanspirited commentary on the prime minister’s waistline. Not to forget Hey Dude Where’s My Cargo?

What drives these ill-wishers? Spite. They envy our sparkling rivers and bottomless humility. They are driven into jealous frenzy by the twice-weekly articles in online publications placing New Zealand in the top 10 of something or other. It is precisely this, one assumes, that motivated that bubble-blogger to denounce New Zealand’s economy the other day, in another unprovoked onslaught that dominated headlines all around the world in New Zealand.

Will parliament accordingly denounce The Lego Movie? They must do that and more. We stood together against the nuclear scourge, and we must show that backbone once again. Let’s Keep NZ Lego-free. And when the toy-brick-stooges pipe up with, “Ooh, but we love New Zealand,” some statesman – Williamson could redeem himself, perhaps – must stand and declare: “We can smell the acrylonitrile butadiene styrene polymer on your breath!”

A bonfire of the figurines! Or could we test psychoactive substances on them?

What else? Anyone enjoying NZ tax rebates must be obliged to match the same rigorous standards of verisimilitude witnessed in the popular nature documentaries The Hobbit and Avatar. A line could be added to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement prohibiting everyone from toy-makers to film-makers from being mean about us. The Lego-majesté clause, it will be called.

It is no coincidence that Lego originates in Denmark, whence a parliamentarian once came to New Zealand and said rude things about a powhiri. Then there was the regrettable incident a couple of years ago in which patriot Gerry Brownlee insulted Danes, they insulted us back and braveheart NZ First MP Richard Prosser warned in a gravely voice that they “may now harbour hostile intentions towards this country”. Or was that Finland? Doesn’t matter. Either way, let us mount a hikoi to Legoland, in the charming western Danish city of Billund.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking such a protest is misdirected. And perhaps you’re right: the true villains are not the plucky plastic bricklayers of Denmark, but the dastardly moguls of Hollywood. They hate us.

Their latest affront comes in the form of the new and much publicised Star Wars film. Preliminary investigations suggest the seventh instalment will feature no jokey asides about Kiwis, no New Zealand tax rebates, none of our undulating alpine landscape, no Weta-crafted weaponry, not even Temuera Morrison. Disgusting. It’s as if they are saying: sorry, New Whatland?

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One Response to “Toby Manhire: Campaign for a Lego-Free New Zealand”

  1. The_Irony_of_it May 3 2014, 10:10am

    I only came across this article in passing, having seen the film and thoroughly enjoyed it. I guess it takes an individual with an inferiority complex to start seeking slights from every angle, including innocent ones. I thought New Zealander's had moved past that development phase of an insecure teen to a more rounded character. Anyway, the way I look at it, Copenhagen is roughly in the middle of Sjælland, also pronounced Zealand and the poke (by the US movie makers) would have been at the originators of Lego, not some small country of the coast of Australia.
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