Conservative pundits have been excoriating Hollywood for making ‘liberal kids films’. They contend that filmmakers are training young impressionable minds with all sorts of subversive, anti-American ideas.
For example, the hit film ‘Dr. Suess’ The Lorax’ is really nothing more than an anti-capitalist rant filled with ecological themes unsuited for young minds. Really? That’s the best they can offer up? A criticism of a rather poorly made film that has abused its source material and is using a car manufacturer to promote itself.
‘The Lorax’ is allegedly based on Dr Suess’ well regarded book from 1971. Placing the book in its time, rivers were catching fire from pollution, American’s life expectancy was expected to drop due to air pollution, trash populated every road and the country looked like one big dump. Writing a book decrying our arrogance when it came to nature was not only smart, it was needed.
Now 40 years the film has been made. This time it was made by the same folks who gave us ‘Despicable Me’. Rather than sticking to the Suess story, new characters are added, plot twists are added and pop culture references abound. In short, the film is what the book tried to warn us against – a plastic world where reality is considered unappealing. Dr Suess is most likely spinning in his grave. He’s probably wondering why he gave control of his estate to his second wife who seems to have been watching too many reality TV shows and wants her moment of riches.
But how far off the mark are these conservative critics? Consider how the film’s marketing people are sending a plastic ensconced Lorax to elementary schools across the country not to promote the film, but to sell Mazda cars. Yep, get your parents to test drive a Mazda and we’ll donate to the NEA (the National Education Association???). It’s good for the environment. Its good for you. Oh, the cars get 35mpg. (BTW: My 1999 Honda gets 40. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?)
So what is this much ballyhoo boo-hooing really about? It’s about the pundits (and I use that word loosely) making a name for themselves. Its about getting traction in the easily distracted media who fail to do their due diligence. It’s a story. It’s loud. Who cares if it is wrong headed?
Today at 1:30 EDT, I will be taking about this and other kids films on WGBH’s The Callie Crossley Show. Please tune and let us know what you think. Has quality critical conversation in this country gone the way of the Truffula trees?