Like lots of middle-aged dudes in our country, I’m still pretty much a child. A bit tall and beardly for a normal child perhaps, and okay sure I responsibly hold a job and pay a mortgage and am generally handy around the house, and all that sort of thing, but you know … I saw the LEGO movie. And I loved it.
There were lots of great moments in the movie for a long-time LEGO lover like myself, but, perhaps oddly, the thing that stands out most for me, the thing that makes me really think fondly of the movie, is Benny the Spaceguy.
More specifically, Benny’s cracked space helmet.
I’m not sure if Kids These Days picked up on that little detail, or if they did, if they understood it. But for anyone who grew up as I did playing with those early space sets, that helmet crack was a wink from the moviemakers. I’m fairly certain that was no random decision and no carefully focus-tested, marketing-approved character decision born of a corporate desire to sell vintage 80s LEGO Spacemen (though it may have that effect).
I had many LEGO sets growing up, and the space sets were always my favorite in those early days, so I had a fair number of little LEGO astronauts, and after so many deep space explorations and hard moon landings and harrowing flights in experimental spacecraft and rough rides in poorly-engineered land rovers, pretty much every single one of them had that same crack in that exact same place.
For me, Benny’s cracked helmet wasn’t just a nice touch, it was a beautifully chosen detail that said “We know. We had the same experience that you did.”. I still would’ve enjoyed the movie whether Benny’s helmet had been cracked or not. But the fact that it was took me from feeling like I was watching a movie made for my children to feeling like I was watching a movie made for me.
As a creator, it’s always important to try and get the details right. That’s what research is for. But there’s nothing more powerful than going beyond just getting the details right, beyond just showing you’ve done your research. When you get those intimate, experiential moments right, it establishes an almost magical connection to the audience members who’ve been there; it reminds them they’re not alone, that they’re not the only ones who feel that way, or who have been through that.
Getting it wrong can have exactly the opposite effect, alienating the people who would be your biggest supporters if only you’d gotten it right. This is part of the power of the old maxim to “write what you know” … creative writers can write just about anything, but when you write from a place of honesty, and write about the things that you know deeply, you infuse your work with the kinds of details that like-minded people recognize and feel embraced by.
There might be a point in here. It’s probably just an incomplete thought. But I’ll leave it here in case anyone else wants to think about it too.
In closing, SPACESHIP!