Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
3 November 2017updated 02 Sep 2021 10:19am

Why The Lego Ninjago Movie is the perfect Brexit parable

Forget The Death of Stalin. 

By James millar

Some think that Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin has parallels to the nation’s current political predicament – a group of ambitious and abnormal men scheming and swearing while the nation’s nominal leader wobbles.

But there’s another male-dominated movie playing now that speaks more loudly to our present times – The Lego Ninjago Movie, and not just because it sometimes seems that the pro-Leave camp cleave to an ideal world in which stuff just logically clicks together.

It is quite simply a Brexit parable – a simple story that illustrates deeper lessons about where we are now as a nation and where we go next.

The premise is that Ninjago is a land peopled by the sort of well-meaning folks that run Pilates studios or present TV programmes. You might call them a metropolitan liberal elite.

Every so often their world is threatened by people entirely alien to them – one has six arms, some appear to wear jellyfish on their heads. No-one in the film actually calls them “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” but it’s clear that there’s no attempt on either side to understand each other. And anyone, like the film’s hero Lloyd, who is connected to these outsiders, is to be shunned. Let slip your family voted Brexit in an East London cereal café and you’ll get an idea of how Lloyd is regarded.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A weekly round-up of The New Statesman's climate, environment and sustainability content. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Except one day the weirdos succeed in taking over Ninjago.

OK, so the Brexiteers didn’t use a giant Lego robot to achieve their aim but the result was the same – the people derided and despised by the metropolitan elite were suddenly and unexpectedly in charge.

And here are where the lessons and parallels with Brexit get really interesting.

Content from our partners
Prevent and protect – why looking after our oral health begins at home
Polling on the protocol: Westminster is a long way from Northern Ireland
How smart energy can deliver for smaller businesses

It’ll come as something of a comfort to youthful audiences that the evil Lord Garmadon, the Nigel Farage of Ninjago, loses by the end of the movie. But not because the good guys simply take him down and, ahem, take back control of the city. Instead, into this world of bricks and minifigs brought to life by computer generated animation drops a kitten. Not a Lego kitten but an actual cat (the moviemakers are clearly fans of The Goodies).

And when real life intervenes, things really start to get chaotic. (Just like, ahem, Brexit.)

Unleashed, Meowthra (a nice nod to Japanese Godzilla films but let’s not ponder the cultural appropriation in the film too much or we’ll get sad) causes chaos. The good guys are forced into the wilderness – imagine Chuka Umunna, Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry, but ninjas – and the bad guys party while everything falls down around them.

Still, there are lessons for the Ninjago latte-drinkers too. For years Garmadon has been firing underperforming underlings out of a volcano and the metropolitan elite were either unaware or uninterested. But ultimately they have to face the anger of a workforce exploited and ignored by the ruling class.

The complicated vehicles or “mechs” that have served to defend the populace of Ninjago are smashed, just like political parties’ structures have been buckled by Brexit.

The similarities don’t end there. The Lego Ningjago Movie is dominated by men, has some serious questions to answer about its lack of diversity, and displays some oddly outdated views.

Unlike Brexit, The Lego Ninjago Movie is funny.

But hopefully the parallel can be strung out even further – for the key to a happy ending in the movie, just as in politics, is to understand each other. And even to embrace real life (spoiler alert: everyone ends up adopting the cat).

It’s perhaps a sign of the mess Westminster is in just now that it would do well to look up to a kids film for lessons, but there are lessons to be learned.

Understanding your opponents rather than shunning them is a surefire way to avoid serious conflagrations.

Embracing real life, rather than ignoring it, and dealing with the situation put in front of you, rather than hoping dogma will see you home.

And if both sides in the Brexit debate sat down to watch The Lego Ninjago Movie, they’d surely laugh at the same bits.