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How to: Hidden Themes

I was going to write a nice long blog post about hidden themes and story layers.  I was going to fill it with lots of examples and a few different suggestions, but now I dont need to.  Because I saw the Lego movie.

Seriously.  This movie is so full of hidden themes and subtle layers it would make Herman Melville proud.  On the surface its a movie encouraging the creativity of children.  Go a step deeper and its about rebelling against having your life laid out for you.  A layer deeper and its about fighting big business.   Its about refinding creativity as an adult.  Its about thinking for yourself and finding out why you’re special.  Its about fighting for change.  Its about opposing tyranny.   Its about how there are no wrong answers.  And its about realizing that Batman is a badass, but not good in a relationship.

And it’s all done with Legos!

So I guess we can add a layer of ‘Find meaning where we may’.

The movie is an iconic example of hidden themes.  They use subtle language and simple sentences to explain what’s going on, which allows the viewer to interpret for themselves the meaning behind everything.  The name of the bad guys like ‘Lord Bizness’ and ‘Bad Cop’ are kept simple to amuse children, but also lead the more mature viewer to thoughts of corporate corruption as Lord Bizness becomes President Bizness.

And that’s the key.  Most people look at stories, movies, or books with a lot of layers or even plot points that weave together in the end and they think it’s this huge convoluted mess, but in reality the key is to keep it simple enough so that everyone reading can fill in their own ideas.  People will find what they are looking for and don’t have to be led to deeper levels.  Then you add in some hard points in your plot.  Events that can’t really be interpreted other ways.  The bad guy does something bad.  Like threaten to kill someone’s parents.  These ‘hard points’ make sure the story moves in the direction you want it to.  The rest is just playing with Legos.