Then there’s the song. That famous jig from Mos Eisley Cantina band. It’s everywhere on TikTok, with videos from the app’s most famous creators blasting various images of Lego Star Wars characters to unsuspecting TikTok fans. The platform has become an infinite scroll of blue-ringed profile pictures. Videos with the #LSW hashtag (an acronym for Lego Star Wars) amassed 908 million views as of Thursday afternoon.
“I’m scared,” wrote another TikTok user.
Nothing to fear. It’s just an inexplicable, impromptu celebration of a beloved video game series. There’s no “movement” or “rebellion.” This isn’t some political statement. And the only thing it says about Gen Z is that its sense of humor is even weirder than that of millennials.
It happened sometime after last week’s New York Times article about the “Hype House,” a Spanish-style mansion in a gated Los Angeles neighborhood filled with TikTok stars. Part of the Lego Star Wars movement started as a satirical, tongue-in-cheek response to the sudden, national recognition of class differences within the TikTok space. A small petition even circulated to say that the Lego Star Wars community was “sick of being underappreciated and overlooked by the Hype House,” and users asked others to join the “Resistance.”
The Washington Post interviewed the journalists of Meme Insider, a meme trade publication that tracks online trends, about why Lego Star Wars is such a potent meme, particularly on crowded platforms for the youths, such as Instagram and TikTok.
“It’s just an awesome game,” said Jackson Weimer, 21, the social media manager for the magazine.
Weimer explained that memes of Lego Star Wars work just like memes of Minecraft or Super Mario Bros. These were popular, fun and wholesome games that people of many generations played growing up. The current trend on TikTok can be chalked up to a nostalgic celebration of a children’s game.
The targeted Hype House members, including its most famous star, Charli D’Amelio, got in on the fun. YouTube megastar David Dobrik changed his profile picture on Instagram. Social media marketing celebrity Gary Vaynerchuck did it. Beauty YouTuber and makeup celebrity James Charles made his own version of Princess Leia. Even The Washington Post joined in.
There’s also an Instagram profile created just to help users pick out their pictures.
In 1999, Star Wars was the first intellectual property to partner with the Lego Group, timed with the release of “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.” The first Lego Star Wars game dropped in 2005, retelling the entire prequel trilogy. A game retelling the original trilogy was released a year later. Both titles were released on every major platform at the time.
The games had two important ingredients that made them exceptional and accessible. First, the games were made for children. Hence, they were extremely easy. Players can’t “die” and there is no game-over scenario. You simply respawn back into the game. This made the game accessible for families. Anyone from infants to grandparents can play along, as controller skill was no longer a factor.
The second ingredient is that the games featured bitingly smart satire. Developer Traveler’s Tales rewrote the Star Wars stories with incisive self-aware humor that eventually made its way into the blockbuster “Lego Movie” Hollywood franchise. The quick wit displayed in those films first appeared in the prequel Lego remakes. Some people even confuse the game’s cutscenes for a Lego Star Wars movie (that doesn’t exist … yet).
The games also allow you to pick almost any Star Wars character in existence, and different versions of them. For example, you can pick Yoda or Ghost Yoda. The vast Star Wars lore gives users a plethora of faces and factions to pick from.
The sudden explosion of Lego Star Wars memes coincides with the release of “The Rise of Skywalker.” Later this year, all nine films of “The Skywalker Saga” will get the Lego treatment. A spokesperson for publisher Warner Bros. Interactive said they’re not ready to release any new information on the upcoming game yet.
“I remember it being one of the first games I played as a kid,” said 18-year-old New Yorker Joe Maddalena, who created a Lego Star Wars post on TikTok with 1.1 million views. “I have great memories of me and my sister playing for hours.”
Maddalena said the “movement” was just another way for social media users to feel like they’re part of something.
“Everyone came together as a TikTok community and became like an army,” Maddalena said. “It was crazy to see how fast it gained popularity. We would all comment on bigger creators’ posts until they joined too, and we managed to get some of the biggest influencers on the app to join us.”
Nathaniel Maynard, 19, of Florida, said the memes brought him back to when he was 8 years old. He remembers coming home from school every day and firing up the game on his PlayStation 2. He, too, has no idea how the “movement” started. He just saw the trend and hopped on. His video has more than 340,000 views.
“I joined the LSW movement because I thought about how TikTok can get a little hateful at times, and I knew if I could spread this memory with people, it would bring a bunch of us together,” Maynard said.
Like any popular social media platform, TikTok has growing issues with harassment and bullying. Some users use the “Duet” feature (which allows for a picture-in-picture response style format) to make fun of other users.
“It’s so funny because even though everyone had a different childhood, we all came together and shared a memory that most of us had forgotten about,” Maynard said.