Today I participated in a LUG display at a local museum's Halloween event (I went as The Eleventh Doctor, btw). It was plenty fun displaying MOCs and interacting with the public, as it always is. But there was something about the way people looked at the creations that seemed a little short-sighted: They couldn't reach their creativity past licensed themes.
Example One: The Rancor. I displayed a six-module long Pharaoh's Labyrinth, including a hollow pyramid with a tomb and an excavation attacked by a mummy army starting outside that to tell a little narrative before getting into all the dangerous rooms. This included The Doctor and TARDIS landing somewhere he'd rather not be, the Stargate and cast in a perfect Egyptian setting, and a Munchkin Level 8 Gazebo which few people noticed. The fourth room was more Munchkin Bricks minifigs attacking several monster-types. This included a Rancor. But as people saw the Stargate and the TARDIS, they noticed the Rancor as "Star Wars" instead of just "monster! AHHH!" to my dismay.
Example Two: The Exuberant. I love showing off my SHIP because I put a lot of work into it, plus big things get attention. But among several original space MOCs, they suddenly see this big thing and immediately ask what it's from. Uhhh, my mind? It's not "from" anything you might have seen on TV, the movies, or a video game. (Unless you can spot the slight inspirational points I took from Stargate Atlantis' Aurora and Orion.) It's a microspace SHIP for LEGO's 1998 Exploriens space line, and I had complete creative freedom in building it.
Example Three: Jurassic World. My Bubble Helmet Retronaut is the most fun I've had building Bionicle in years (because it's been years since I properly build Bionicle). Now, I'm not entirely jaded that people started mentioning the theme where I took his bubble helmet from, but there comes a point where it's not being inspiring as NPU and instead being a distraction for mentioning where parts are from. Luckily my Steampunk Sleigh didn't have that same problem, much.
Bonus example: The LEGO Movie: I also had Emmet and Wyldstyle in peril in the Labyrinth, and kids were calling it "LEGO Dimensions" and "The LEGO Movie," to the point of asking why they're here instead of, say, the Wild West or the City. Note to self: No more off-hand nods to fun.
At this point, I'm reconsidering how I want to display the Pharaoh's Labyrinth at BrickFair next week, if at all. I could parse it down to Stargate and TARDIS vignettes. Scratch the Munchkin Bricks and monsters. But there might be a better crowd there, as BrickFair VA was very promising in people enjoying those portions. I'm definitely staying away from things that might distract from the overall feel of building whatever you want, so the Rancor is out and I'll give the monster dungeon more narrative with less busyness. I think I'll replace the Rancor with this guy, and rubberband a Bionicle mask to the head.
And hopefully something can be figured out for the public to appreciate genre-mashing.