Don't be fooled by the cuddly orange critter with the adorable bushy mustache. The Lorax is attempting to "indoctrinate our children" — at least according to Lou Dobbs, who eviscerated the upcoming Dr. Seuss flick during a recent segment on Fox Business News. The film, a cautionary tale about deforestation, sells President Obama's "liberal agenda" to children, Dobbs argued. The Lorax is hardly the first kids' flick to face such criticism. Here, a look back at the Right's complaints about overly-political children's cinema:
1. The Lorax
"The President's liberal friends in Hollywood [are] ... using animation to sell their agenda to children," Dobbs claims. In the film (and the Dr. Seuss book it's based on), the Lorax speaks for the trees as part of a fable warning of the dangers an industrialized society poses to nature. Dobbs accuses The Lorax, which hits theaters on March 2, of "espousing green energy policy," while conservative radio host Matt Patrick worries that the film is "creating occu-toddlers." Never mind, says Sean O'Neal at The A.V. Club, that the book was written more than 50 years ago, before Obama's energy plan existed. Well, the Lorax is an environmentalist, and the film is political, says David Haglund at Slate. Making the connection between a liberal agenda and The Lorax "is not an entirely ridiculous thing to do — though Dobbs, of course, makes it look like one."
2. The Secret World of Arriety
Based on Mary Norton's popular novel The Borrowers, this 2010 film about a tiny homeless family that "borrows" what it needs to survive by taking from "big people" "plainly demoniz[es] the one percent," Dobbs argues. The film promotes the redistribution of wealth, pitting "the makers against the takers" and echoing Obama's message that "everyone should pay their fair share." Beware, jokes Jen Yamato at Movieline. This charming film could "lead youngsters down the slippery slope of sharing things."
3. The Muppets
Fox Business Network charged last year that Kermit and Co. are part of a liberal media plot to "brainwash your kids against capitalism." (The villain of The Muppets is an evil oil baron who plans to tear down the gang's iconic theater so he can drill for oil.) "It's amazing how far the Left will go… to manipulate your kids," says Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center. Such allegations were largely met with ridicule. "All this time," says Aida Ekberg at Gather, "everyone thought Kermit was just a peace-loving frog who just wants to sing about rainbows." Live and learn.
4. Happy Feet Two
This animated film "has a broad, lefty political agenda," says Kyle Smith at the New York Post. It hammers global warming with a scene in which polar bears cling to a shrinking iceberg. It touts vegetarianism, with penguins spooked by humans roasting chicken. And it flirts with closeted homosexuality, as two male krill in the film, voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, mimic Bert and Ernie as a pair "of unusually close confirmed bachelors." What an overreaction, politics professor John Pitney tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It's not filmmakers who are pushing their agenda on kids, but film watchers who are perceiving messages based on their political biases."
5. Cars 2
Pixar's head-of-command John Lasseter didn't even bother disguising the political agenda of Cars 2. Ahead of the film's opening, he revealed that Big Oil would be the sequel's "uber bad guy." The film's major race, the World Grand Prix, is put on by a green power advocate and promotes the use of biofuel. "Now movie directors and producers are coming out and admitting" their political bias, says an incredulous blogger at The Lonely Conservative. "I'm just glad I found out before I allowed my kids to persuade me to take them to see the movie."
With a whopping 97 percent "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, Wall-E is one of the best-reviewed films of the past decade. The "radical Right," however, didn't embrace the film quite so fondly, says Ali Frick at ThinkProgress. The movie focuses on a lonely robot's search for love as he cleans up an Earth that has been trashed by humans who have become grotesquely corpulent and live aboard spaceships run by monolithic corporations. From the first frame, "my kids were bombarded with leftist propaganda about the evils of mankind," says Shannen Coffin at the National Review. Conservative blogger Jonah Goldberg accused the film of "Malthusian fear mongering." Here's an idea, says Roger Sinasohn at Parent Dish: If you don't like the message, don't watch the movie.
7. Ferngully: The Last Rainforest
The 1992 cult classic animated film is, as its title suggests, a blatant message piece about how humans, pollution, and wanton industrialization are destroying the rainforests. It's as if Al Gore attempted to "turn an An Inconvenient Truth into an animated movie," says Danny Gallagher at Spike. Every chance it gets, the film "implores you to save the rainforest before it's too late." Roger Ebert praised the film for its "useful lesson," while Janet Maslin at The New York Times criticized it as "an uncertain blend of sanctimonious principles and Saturday-morning cartoon aesthetics."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- The lessons of Japan's latest recession
Subscribe to the Week