If you hang around the right circles on the Internet, you probably ran into the story last week that Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs decried Hollywood for brainwashing our children with radical leftist propaganda such as The Secret World of Arrietty (in which tack-sized people steal what they need to survive from normal humans, aka Class Warfare), and The Lorax, which has the gall to suggest we try to keep our planet green.
It was an easy laugh, and still provides chuckles – but Dobbs’ point is not 100% without issue. After seeing The Lorax (which I’m sure no one on Dobbs’ staff even bothered to sit through), the movie promotes its politicized message far more than you would expect from a Hollywood kids movie.
The Lorax promotes its environmental message through a future hypothetical situation – it’s set in a city stacked with inflatable trees and plastic colors, providing as an oasis against its off-limits surroundings of dead grey skies covering lifeless landscapes of tree stumps. It’s a result of the Once-ler, whose business cut down every known tree to manufacture its star product, the useless “Thneed”; and it’s perpetuated by O’Hare Air company, which sells fresh air as a premium product to the smog-oppressed masses. Seemingly the only defendant of trees is the Lorax, a force of nature that won’t use his power to punish wrong-doers, but will try to convince them to do good.
You have it all right there – big business running rampant over an unregulated environment, thereby leading to its destruction. It’s made only more explicit when the Once-ler, mid-musical sequence, defends his destruction of the planet with the excuse that he’s contributing to the economy. It could come out of a campaign speech for any democrat running for office, and would be considered heresy by a large portion of the right.
But this is more indicative of the current political landscape, because of course there shouldn’t be anything wrong with teaching kids these messages, because of course there shouldn’t.
The Lorax is not a particularly dynamic film. It’s art direction is very standard by Computer Animation standards, the voice acting mostly unremarkable, and the story is not well-constructed or with any suspense. What The Lorax does do, very well, is carry on the source material’s parable designed to teach children of a very basic moral that any right-thinking parent would want passed onto our next generation – to not totally fuck over the planet.
As a cinéaste (fancy word!), I have found myself thinking about introducing to my potential offspring to my love of the movies with some its greatest moments they can appreciate. The glorified nature of Bambi, the quiet serenity of Spirited Away, the warm humor found in most of Pixar’s films.
The Lorax does not belong with any of those movies, but I’d be happy to show it to my kids. If it can take a serious issue like the environmentalism and package it into a cute, mustachioed orange half-ling that floats out of the sky and is kid-friendly, then it will have served a good purpose.