Posted by: Ray Brescia | March 2, 2014

And the Creativity Oscar Goes to…

On Oscar Night, perhaps it is a bit odd to talk about a film that is not up for consideration this year and will never win an Oscar (except, perhaps, for Best Original Song), but next year’s award in the category “Best Film About Creativity”, were there one, would definitely go to The Lego Movie.  This film, which had all the makings of a 90-minute infomercial for small, interlocking plastic blocks, is just a joyous romp through pop culture and cinematic inside jokes, as well as a sustained homage to children’s toys and Marvel comics characters.  It is so much more than that.  It also explores the meaning of creativity and art, and the fact that everyone has the ability to design and inspire works of art, while also leading world-changing social movements.

The Lego Movie tells the tale of Emmet Brickowoski, an average guy/construction worker who does whatever he can to “fit in.”  He follows the rules, watches the right television show, listens to the right music, and never questions authority, something he seems completely incapable of even imagining doing.  Throughout the course of the film, he is convinced he is a “master builder” and “the special”: i.e., the chosen one who is destined for greatness and will upset the social order, bring about justice and freedom, and liberate the world from the clutches of its corporate overlord.  What evolves over the course of the film—without giving too much away—is that Emmet, like everyone, has the ability to tap into his or her creative side, break some rules, and change society.

Artist Kevin Lahvic observes that one can “ask a class of first graders if there are any artists in the room, and they will all raise their hands.”  This doesn’t happen in later grades.  What is it about our educational system that brings this about?  As I teach in a law school, where students are far removed from first grade and their artistic roots, I am constantly looking for ways to revive the artist in my students, to help them tap into what Dan Pink calls the six senses needed for today’s economy: design, story, “symphony,” empathy, play and meaning.

Law schools, by their very nature, teach their students about rules.  We also lay down rules for how they must behave during law school, and we require them to take tests to make sure they have learned the rules.  To enter the legal profession, law school graduates must take the bar exam, which, in most states is a two-day affair, and in some, even three.  That test requires students to know a lot of rules on a range of subjects, and to be able to apply them to particular situations.  What law schools and the bar exam do less of is test students’ creativity quotient: their ability to engage in creative problem solving to address the thorny issues with which our clients, and society, present.

If there is one takeaway from The Lego Movie it is that we need more Emmet Brickowoskis, in life and the law: individuals who understand the rules, but also know when the time is right to mix things up, try something different, and maybe break them a little.

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