When the LEGO Movie 2 came out last year (Jesus, was it really only last year? I had to look that up), we saw it in the theaters, twice. Remember when that was a thing? It’s a terrific movie, but the one moment that has really resonated with me is the song that comes on just after the first fake ending. (Don’t complain to me about spoilers. It’s been out over a year!) It’s titled “Everything’s Not Awesome,” and after seeing the movie, I believe I tweeted something to the effect that it should be an anthem for our times, and I feel that even more so now than I did then.
The song’s second verse goes like this: “Everything’s not awesome / but that doesn’t mean that it’s hopeless and bleak. / Everything’s not awesome / but in my heart I believe / we can make things better if we stick together” and so on. And that’s really at the heart of the movie, that cooperation is how you improve things. It’s a response to the first LEGO movie where the emphasis was on becoming a Master Builder and imposing your personal will on the world around you.
But it’s in the second half of the song, where the music goes from sad piano to dance club synthesizer and the tempo speeds up about 50 times, where the real lyrics really speak to this moment we’re living in. Here they are:
“Everything’s not awesome. Things can’t be awesome all of the time. It’s an unrealistic expectation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, to make everything awesome, in a less unrealistic kind of way. We should maybe aim for not bad, because not bad, well that would be real great.”
This is our politics right now. I almost wrote this post way back during the primaries (remember those?) but it didn’t feel quite right at the time. But now?
Things are absolutely not awesome right now. As Lucy/WyldStyle would say, this is a heckish place. And if we’re honest, things have never been awesome for a lot of people in this country, even when they were way better. So we don’t want to look back and say we want to recreate that.
But we also want to be clear-eyed about what we’re facing and what our options are going forward. The clever line in the song is “because not bad, well that would feel real great” and it’s absolutely true, especially lately. I would kiss not bad on the mouth in a second.
But the important line is “we can make things better if we stick together.” What follows that in the song is “side by side, you and I, we will build it together.” We’re in a deep hole right now, the deepest I’ve seen in my life, and it’s going to take a lot of work to fill that in and get some new structures built. We can build them, though, as long as we’re working together. Not bad is a good first goal on the way to awesome.