Strong Female Characters: Wyldstyle

For those of you that don’t know, Wyldstyle is the main female character in the phenomenally successful 2014 film, The Lego Movie. The plot revolves around a seemingly ordinary little Lego man who is mistakenly identified to be the Special: the most important, most interesting person in the Universe, master builder, and sole saviour of the ENTIRE WORLD (no pressure). Wyldstyle is the mysterious woman (and accomplished master builder) who drags him on his quest – despite some serious reservations. The film was a smash hit, winning several awards and raking in millions at the box office, with a sequel and three spin-off films already planned. As for Wyldstyle herself, she’s been hailed as both an interesting and well-developed character and a role model for young girls everywhere.

But does she measure up to the hype? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

For the most part, Wyldstyle is usually in control of her own destiny. Typically, in stories that revolve around a prophecy and a Chosen One, it’s very easy to have the story be led by random events, not by actions of the characters, but this isn’t the case in The Lego Movie. When we first meet Wyldstyle we see her actively looking for the Piece of Resistance that marks out ‘the Special’ – she’s not waiting around for the prophecy to come true. She does take orders from Vitruvius but he’s not the one who controls where she goes or what she does – the overwhelming sense I got from the movie was that he trusted her judgement enough to let her make those calls. What’s more, after Emmet is revealed to be the Special – and after her separation from him – Wyldstyle is still making her own plans and following through with them. I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 1

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

We don’t hear a lot about Wyldstyle’s hobbies, but it’s safe to assume from the way she dresses and her reaction to the song that Batman wrote for her that she’s into a lot of alternative stuff. Listen to it here and let me prove my point:

Her goals and beliefs are much more clearly defined. She wants to stop President Business from taking over the Universe with the Kraggle and she firmly believes that she is the one who has been chosen to do it.

SCORE SO FAR: 2

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

For the most part, Wyldstyle is pretty consistent. She’s brave, a bit of a show-off, intelligent, creative, values her freedom, cultivates an air of mystery and is secretly insecure. Her skills are very consistent too. All throughout the film she’s shown to be a master builder – someone who can dismantle the Lego structures around them and use the pieces to make whatever they can imagine. Wyldstyle is one of the best – she can adapt to almost any situation and literally make something out of nothing.

SCORE SO FAR: 3

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

A brave, mysterious woman with the power to create anything she wants must fight to save the world – and confront her own prejudices along the way.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

Wyldstyle’s love life is brought up at almost every opportunity. For most of the film she’s dating Batman, but Emmet has a crush on her, and this means that there’s much more of a focus on her love life than you would expect in a movie about saving the world. The scenes illustrate her character and the nature of her relationships very well, but it does slow the plot down.

My clever use of this slo-mo gif means I can use the word 'literally' and be COMPLETELY ACCURATE (image: giphy.com)
My clever use of this slo-mo gif means I can use the word ‘literally’ and be COMPLETELY ACCURATE (image: giphy.com)

However, for the most part, Wyldstyle’s decisions aren’t influenced by her love life – what really motivates her is her desire to stop President Business. Even when her love life is brought up, it’s usually because of a reason that pertains to the plot: for example, when Batman runs off to party with the Star Wars characters, abandoning both her and the rest of the heroes when they need to fight off Lord Business, the scene rapidly turns into a discussion of their relationship. Even though it is a really prevalent feature of the film, Wyldstyle’s love life is usually only brought up when it’s relevant to the plot and doesn’t actually feature into all that many of her decisions. I’ll be generous and give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

For an hour and a half movie where most of the characters are Lego people, there’s a surprising amount of character development. Over the course of the film, Wyldstyle recognises her own snobbery towards normal Lego people who haven’t been recognised as master builders and learns to see past it. She also starts to overcome her own insecurities when she opens up to Emmet and tells him her real name – and that she thought she would be the Special all along. That’s some believable development for someone who’s made of yellow plastic, so I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Wyldstyle actually has several weaknesses, all of which are acknowledged by the other characters and hold her back. She’s judgemental, insecure, impatient, demanding and doesn’t take kindly to being overlooked – she has plenty of flaws to choose from.

One of which is dating this guy. (image: giphy.com)
One of which is dating this guy. (image: giphy.com)

SCORE SO FAR: 7

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

Wyldstyle is a real influence on the plot. She’s the one who initially goes looking for the Piece of Resistance, she’s the one who gets Emmet into trouble, she’s the one who brings him to Vitruvius, Cloud Cuckoo Land and the master builders. She also influences the plot on a smaller scale too – with her master builder skills she gets Emmet into and out of trouble and eventually helps him realise his own innate talents.

SCORE SO FAR: 8

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

Wyldstyle relates to gender stereotypes in a really interesting way – there’s quite a few different layers to her character. On the surface, she’s brave, creative, resourceful and unafraid of taking action – not something you normally see in a stereotypical female character – but she’s also really invested in her relationship, can be seen as a bit of a ‘clingy’ girlfriend, and uses her love life to give herself validation. Most aspects of her personality are dialled up to eleven and played for laughs, and this in itself adds another layer. These parts of her personality can’t just be looked at as quirks – they become a commentary on the way that women in movies are treated.

This all takes on another dimension when you look at the kind of stereotypes about women that you usually see in action movies. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a seemingly normal guy stumbles across a beautiful, mysterious woman who’s just a little bit dangerous. She leads him into a world he could never even have imagined, teaching him things he never could have dreamed of. Soon, he becomes a master of the craft she taught him – easily surpassing her years of training in a matter of weeks – and must use his newfound skills to save the world and get the girl.

The plots are so similar I can't tell what movie we're talking about... (image: giphy.com)
The plots are so similar I can’t tell what movie we’re talking about… (image: giphy.com)

This describes the plot of The Lego Movie, Wanted, The Tourist, and about a dozen other action films out there. Wyldstyle falls into this category perfectly – in terms of Emmet’s storyline, she’s a facilitator. But what’s interesting about the way The Lego Movie treats this clichéd old storyline is that it’s so self-aware it becomes a commentary on its own use of stereotypes. When Emmet tunes her out as she’s explaining the prophecy about the Special, it isn’t a comment on her role within the plot, it’s a comment on how Emmet sees her, and on how the action movies I listed above treat their female leads.

Another key difference in the way that Wyldstyle is treated in the story as a whole is that even though Emmet does end up surpassing her, her own skills are never brought into question as a result of this. In the typical action movie plot I described above, the hero will usually prove his worth by saving the heroine, whose incredible skills suddenly become useless in the third act for no discernible reason. The Lego Movie doesn’t do this: they’re split up for most of the climax, and Wyldstyle manages to hold her own against the Micro-Managers while Emmet goes after President Business. He never saves her, her own skills never falter, and the script doesn’t have him ‘prove’ that he’s now become better than her, which makes them seem much more equal.

In short, while Wyldstyle does fall victim to some of the old action movie clichés, the screenwriters use this as an opportunity to question those clichés. When she’s acting like a clingy girlfriend, it’s because her boyfriend Batman wants to “be free to party with a bunch of strangers whenever I feel like it”. When she’s portrayed as a stereotypical action girl, she’s not really acting like it – it’s the way the other characters see her. She may be an extremely clichéd character in some respects, but in exaggerating these clichés she is, in effect, exposing them as ridiculous.

SCORE SO FAR: 9

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

We only ever see Wyldstyle exchanging a few words with Princess Unikitty – a half-unicorn, half-cat princess who rules over Cloud Cuckoo Land. These exchanges are directly related to forwarding the plot and are never really developed in a character sense, so I’m withholding the point.

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

 

Wyldstyle is a brave, resourceful character with a range of flaws, some well-developed goals and beliefs, some solid character development and real agency. She might not have any significant relationships with other female characters but she has a phenomenal impact on the plot, raises some interesting questions about gender stereotypes and doesn’t completely revolve around her love life. She’s certainly passed my test!

Next week, I’ll be going back to one of my favourite series and examining a different character. Korra, I’m coming for you.

 

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.

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4 thoughts on “Strong Female Characters: Wyldstyle”

  1. You know…it is really interesting to read you posts simply because I nearly never agree with you. I will never do a post about Wildstyle myself. I consider her a horrible stock character. To be fair, most of the so called characters in the Lego movie are. But she is especially aggravating. I really don’t see them questioning any of those clichés, they play them straight through the whole movie, there is never a point at which I had even remotely the feeling that any of the writers saw her as more than a tool. (And really, she has hobbies and beliefs because she is dressed cool? That’s an odd argument).

    1. As far as hobbies go I think my argument stands. Writers don’t always have to explicitly say what their characters hobbies are to make them clear – and I think some subtler stuff actually works better.

      As far as the question of cliches go, that’s a matter of opinion – but even if she hadn’t passed that section, she still would have passed my test.

  2. You have a great blog here. I especially like the criteria you use in each profile. I’m not sure I agree with you on Wyldstyle, though. Have you seen this article?

    https://thedissolve.com/features/exposition/618-were-losing-all-our-strong-female-characters-to-tr/

    “Her [Wyldstyle’s] only post-introduction story purpose is to be rescued, repeatedly, and to eventually confer the cool-girl approval that seals Emmet’s transformation from loser to winner. After a terrific story and a powerful ending, the movie undermines its triumph with a tag where WyldStyle actually turns to her current boyfriend for permission to dump him so she can give herself to Emmet as a reward for his success. For the ordinary dude to be triumphant, the Strong Female Character has to entirely disappear into Subservient Trophy Character mode.”

    I think she started out as a great character, but it seems the writers ultimately didn’t know what to do with the interesting character they’d created.

    1. Thank you – I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

      I have read that article, and while I think it raises some really good points about the other female characters it talks about I didn’t really agree with the assessment of Wyldstyle. She is rescued a few times, but she’s always part of a group of people needing to be rescued rather than falling into the lone ‘princess in the tower’ cliche. As for the boyfriend thing, I didn’t really see the final scene as her asking for permission to dump him. I can see how it could be seen that way, but I interpreted her line of “There’s something I have to say to you” as her already having made up her mind. And let’s not forget that Emmett is mostly absent from the big final fight scene, and Wyldstyle is very much holding her own against the micromanagers.

      Ultimately, I think you (and the article) raise some really good points, but I’m still going to stick to my guns on this one 🙂

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