This song is an amazing success precisely because it's a ridiculous failure. Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi’s message is hopelessly broken.
- If the queen is good, skeptics will never take her word for it — she keeps talking about evil, imprisonment, and execution.
- If the queen is evil, skeptics will never fall for her lies — she can't stop herself from talking about evil, imprisonment, and execution.
In either case, her obsession with evil makes her more relatable. She's just like us!
Crafty rogues have entertained people for centuries, because being good is boring. The Book of Swindles was written during the Ming Dynasty in China. Reviewer Rob Moore wrote that “the success of the collection upon its publication in 1617 demonstrates that the author knew too well that the only thing better than alerting the reader to nefarious criminals is to let them in on the crime.”
Consider how many games let you be bad, knowing that your actions are wrong but letting you do them anyway. It can be as explicit as Grand Theft Auto, or as low key as a game like Donut County. The opening sequence of Donut County establishes that it is especially self-aware, as game designer Andrew Plotkin explained:
"it establishes right off that dropping people into holes is (a) wrong and (b) what you’re going to do all game long and (c) way fun. This is kind of brilliant."
Back to Lego Movie 2. During the song, the queen engages in a bunch of questionable behavior that makes it impossible to tell whether she’s welcoming her guests or menacing them. (You can find similar behavior online: someone who is using the word “ally” to describe themselves hasn't made their creepy behavior any less creepy.)
Saying “This is X” is different from saying "This is not Y." What does “not evil” mean, anyway? In the classic D&D table of alignments, you’ve only ruled out three alignments, or less than half of the available options.
But it takes more than clever writing for the Lego sequence to work.I know what you're asking. You're asking, "What alignment is my hamburger?" And I'm here to help. pic.twitter.com/IDgtfB5jUc— Kyle Marquis (@Moochava) February 13, 2016
The conflicting messages would be a waste of time if they were delivered with less energy; it would fail if the “good” parts weren’t trying hard to be believable, or the “evil” parts weren’t appropriately suspect. Tiffany Haddish absolutely nails it at both extremes of the spectrum.
Listen to the (believably!) self-righteous way she announces “I never lie!” This is in the same song where she gives away an entire planet. Compare that tone to the way she lists off adjectives that people use to describe her. Ask yourself if someone completely innocent would have nearly as much fun reciting those words.
The whole thing is amazing.