“That’s a Suggestion!”
Having said all of this, it could easily be objected that The Man’s inflexible attitude toward rule-following for its own sake, while certainly problematic in some respects, hardly makes him worthy of the title villain. After all, it seems to be a fairly minor flaw even in comparison to the various deficiencies exhibited by some of The LEGO Movie’s putative heroes (analyzing Batman’s character alone would keep an army of therapists in work for years) and certainly when compared to those of a supervillain such as Lord Business.
One possible response to this is to maintain that, though central to his failings as a moral agent, the kind of rule worship I have highlighted is not the only flaw The Man displays. We could, for example, point out that The Man demonstrates a problematic kind of inconsistency when it comes to rule-following. He is slavishly devoted to one kind of non-binding rule—concerning the proper construction of LEGO sets—but, when it suits him, treats equivalent prescriptions as if they had no force whatsoever. Consider the following exchange between The Man and his son prompted by The Man’s insistence that his LEGO world is not a mere toy but rather a “highly sophisticated inter-locking brick system”:
finn: But we bought it at the toy store.
the man: We did, but the way I’m using it makes it an adult thing.
finn: The box for this one said “Ages 8 to 14.”
the man: That’s a suggestion! They have to put that on there.
In one respect The Man is, of course, correct. It is highly doubtful that anyone in the LEGO Group would be upset to learn that sets primarily designed with those aged 8 to 14 in mind were being used by AFOLs—far from it—but this attitude is clearly in tension with The Man’s slavish devotion to following equivalent rules that originate from the same source.
We might well conclude, then, that The Man is acting hypocritically here; treating the LEGO Group’s instructions as sacrosanct when it suits him but as mere suggestions when it doesn’t. Though I think this is right, and that The Man is certainly open to a charge of hypocrisy, I don’t think this will really help us with the charge that The Man is not villainous enough. The various flaws I have highlighted, while genuine, are of little consequence when, as in The Man’s case, they are confined to the world of LEGO construction. The real problem arises, though, when the flaws I have highlighted are not limited to such a narrow and relatively inconsequential aspect of someone’s life.