Real Signature Figures. LEGO® Minifigures and the Human Individual
Robert M. Mentyka
From its interlocking pieces to its high degree of imaginative customization, the LEGO® brand is iconic in many ways, but one of its most recognizable features is the adorable and highly interchangeable character pieces known as “LEGO minifigures” or “minifigs” for short. Beginning with just a few pieces, the simplicity of the minifigures’ design masks the sheer depth of customization available to them. By merely swapping out a different head, torso, pair of legs, or hat/hairstyle, inventive LEGO Maniacs can create a cast of thousands to inhabit the plastic worlds of imagination they create with LEGO bricks.1
For all of their versatility, however, minifigures have long been stumbling blocks for LEGO builders the world over. Despite the sheer number of variations possible using even the most basic of character pieces, LEGO minifigs tend to be rather homogenous components in a hobby that prides itself on creativity and difference. Whereas the castles, spaceships, and other inventions built using LEGO bricks are as unique and varied as the people who create them, these constructions are all inhabited by a crowd of strikingly similar plastic figures. Even The LEGO Movie referred to this issue by casting a relatively plain minifig with few distinguishing characteristics as its main protagonist while relegating more recognizable licensed characters to side roles and small cameos.
Given that these little toy figures are, for the most part, meant to represent human beings, it should really come as no surprise that
LEGO® and Philosophy: Constructing Reality Brick By Brick, First Edition. Edited by Roy T. Cook and Sondra Bacharach.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
minifigs struggle. After all, similar problems arise within the philosophical study of the human person. Although humanity has always been a central concept in philosophy, many modern thinkers have begun to place a renewed emphasis on examining the nature and role of the individual in a world dominated by industry, mass society, and increasingly impersonal technology. Much like his blocky minifig counterpart, the human individual often struggles to distinguish himself from the crowd and provide an adequate explanation for just what makes him “special.”