Democrats & Liberals Archives

Rated E for Environmentalism

Things were simpler when I was a kid. When it came to movies, parents just had to worry about their kids being exposed to nudity, foul language, and violence. “Mom, can I see Conan the Barbarian?” “No way, that Austrian muscleman is a bad influence!”

Now parents have to worry about a whole new threat: unlabeled environmental content.

I’m referring, of course, to Happy Feet, the new animated feature about penguins that has gotten conservative critics’ panties in an uproar. I admit upfront that I have not seen the movie. (Sorry guys, I’m not dropping $7.50 just to be more credible.) So I’ll let the critics speak for themselves.

Michael Medved: The endearing creatures on screen face the deadly menace of leopard seals, killer whales and, most of all, human pollution, overconsumption and exploitation.

We all know there’s nothing scarier than overconsumption. That’s why I would never take a child to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Those places are scary. I’m always afraid somebody’s chair is going to break and send shards of wood all over the place, maybe sticking in someone’s eyeball. It would be just like that Arab dude getting a knife in the eyeball in True Lies. (I don’t usually watch these kinds of movies, but I couldn’t wait to see this one when Bob Dole said it was “friendly to the family”.)

Neil Cavuto: I though it was like an animated ‘Inconvenient Truth’, half-expected to see an animated version of Al Gore pop up.

Come on now, we all know that “an animated version of Al Gore” is a contradiction in terms.

But all kidding aside, I can guy why these guys are threatened by kids being exposed to mainstream scientific thought. It makes them look like extremists. Better to show a guy with a bad haircut explaining how human beings co-existed with dinosaurs.

Glenn Beck: The director of the film publicly has said that he changed the original screenplay to amplify the environmental themes and that, quote, "You can't tell a story about Antarctica and the penguins without giving that dimension.” Call me crazy, but, yes, you can. And if you're going to include those themes, the least you could do is tell me, a parent. Tell me about it first, OK, so I know I'm walking into propaganda.

Fair enough, Glenn. Let’s include environmentalism in the rating system. Think about whether that is really what you want, though. Those little tykes are pretty darn environmentalist these days. An “environmentalist content” warning could have the same effect on them as those CD-label warnings have on teenagers. Be careful what you wish for.

For those of us cursed with a memory, there is a real hypocrisy to all of this. Remember March of the Penguins? Conservatives loved that one.

Michael Medved: …the motion picture this summer that most passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing.

Gee, Michael, that sounds conservative propaganda. Which is OK. I just hope they warned people, because it’s the least you can do.

Bonus: Here is the best review of Happy Feet I found. It probably wasn’t written by a conservative.

Megan Seling: Happy Feet is about a f***ing adorable penguin named Mumble. Mumble's a little different from all the other penguins. See, all the other penguins can sing—but poor little Mumble screeches like nails on a chalkboard as soon as he opens his mouth. But what Mumble can do, is dance. And boy can that motherf***er's feet fly! He's like Fred Astaire on ice! With uh... feathers! And a beak!... Who cares what happens—have you seen the penguins in this movie!? EEEEEeeeeeeee! They're so cute!

Megan, if I wasn’t married I would date you just to hear your movie commentaries. I don’t even care if you look like Jabba the Hut. I’ll buy you the extra-large popcorn bucket.

Posted by Woody Mena at December 3, 2006 10:08 AM
Comment #197508

Happy Feet is a good movie for all ages. Funny, good story, good characters, great animation, etc. The environmentalism in the movie is okay, but it was a little strong for kids.
When I see a movie with my kids, I enjoy the adult humor, but I also try to see it through their eyes, see it ina context that they understand. I found myself thinking, “Wow, humans are really dangerous and scary, I hope I never run into one.” Fortunately, the movie had a happy ending. The UN, in the end of the movie solving all of humanity’s problem, was a bit…fantastic, but its that kind of movie.

Posted by: JoeRWC at December 3, 2006 11:08 AM
Comment #197509
The UN, in the end of the movie solving all of humanity’s problem…

Interesting. Was there an evil walrus who tries to stop them?

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 3, 2006 11:17 AM
Comment #197511

Let’s try the evil walrus again.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 3, 2006 11:18 AM
Comment #197513

This is just another typical lefist hollywood attempt to indoctrinate our children. We need to clean out that commie den once and for all.

What this country needs now is more Rambo movies. Show our kids what one American is capable of doing to our enemies. Hasn’t anyone noticed that recruitment is down in our volunteer army.

We need to rid ourselves of all this crap about human polution, overconsumption and exploitation. We don’t use the term filthy rich just for the hell of it. So which is it? Do you want your kids to be successful financially or do you want them to live in a healthy,clean enviroment? Those who run our economic system say we can’t have both so we have to chose wealth with filth or health with poverty.

Posted by: jlw at December 3, 2006 11:23 AM
Comment #197514


Not being critical of your post. Just describing the movie.

There was an evil seal who tried to eat the heroes (gasp), but they got to land (phew) and proceeded to out run him in slow motion a la football highlights (ha,ha).

BTW, its okay to anthropomorphize heroes and villians. Its been done for along time (Aesop’s Fables), and more recently, the left anthropomorphizing terrorists.

Posted by: JoeRWC at December 3, 2006 11:28 AM
Comment #197520

Only a neo-con could turn a childrens cartoon into something other then what it is. Most movies have some kind of message in it. Some are out right lies ( see path to 9/11) or the terminator (end of the world) and so on.

Posted by: Jeff at December 3, 2006 11:57 AM
Comment #197530

I read Medved’s review and decided to not make it a priority to see the movie. But my high school freshmen girl and 5th grade boy put the screws to me. You have to work hard not to enjoy the movie. I see Medved’s point, however, in the end it was a good bonding momemt for the family. Good post.

I’d love to see a post from you Woody on Rap Music, teens, and dancing! ;)

Posted by: Edge at December 3, 2006 12:38 PM
Comment #197533

I found myself thinking, “Wow, humans are really dangerous and scary, I hope I never run into one.”

JoeRWC-I found that out years ago as a child watching Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters. This is certainly not the first nor will it be the last to paint humans in a dangerous and scary way-oh by the way I think humans can be dangerous and scary-I wonder if I learned that from experience or if buried that in my memory from Walt Disney’s Bambi movie.

Posted by: Carolina at December 3, 2006 12:55 PM
Comment #197536
I found that out years ago as a child watching Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters.

Funny I was thinking about the same thing. Most animated kiddie movies have some kind of traumatic event happen, often involving parents biting the dust. Nothing new there. And you’ve got the implied environmentalism too.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 3, 2006 1:12 PM
Comment #197538


You beat me to the punch. I’m sure if Bambi were released today that Glenn Beck or some equally intelligent Neo-Con would explain that it’s liberal propaganda aimed at gun control.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 3, 2006 1:22 PM
Comment #197549

What kind of rating would “Old Yeller” get?

Posted by: Rocky at December 3, 2006 2:39 PM
Comment #197550

When my kids were little, I watch a lot of cartoons. I have long blames Walt Disney for the unreasonable animal rights.

And yes Kansas - Bambi is a potent anti hunting propaganda.

A play is a wonderful means of propaganda. Henryk Ibsen something like that more than a century ago, and then wrote plays to influence society. George Bernard Shaw also did this openly and Bertold Brecht developed into a communist art form. The playwriter and now the screenwriter has always been at the forefront of the propaganda fight. The writer of the play gets to create all parts. He can create the scenario and write the “villians” with just enough flaws, so that the viewer thinks that he discovered them himslef.

All the propaganda possibilty goes double with animation. You can not only create the words, but also whole worlds and impossible scenarios. The U.S. recognized this way back and commissioned Walt Disney to make propaganda cartoons, incluing one aimed at S. America called The Three Caballeros (1944). You may have seen it.

Animals obviously cannot talk. An animator can make them talk and put his word into thier mouths. He can give them emotions they do not possess and knowlege they would never have.

The cartoon format is even more ideal because anyone who objects can be easily ridiculed.

Conservatives often underestimate the value of this as propaganda. I know liberals do NOT. They are very careful to use that media and stop others. They edit out references to religion. They edit out sexist or non-PC elements. The Bugs Bunny cartoons you see on TV today are edited versions of what you would have seen in the 1950s. They even edit out references to tobacco.

I understand that liberals would sell their point of view in secret, but they really cannot be too surprised when somebody points it out

Posted by: Jack at December 3, 2006 2:57 PM
Comment #197553

Take a look at how seriously they take something silly like Veggie Tales.

The difference is that the liberals are the establishment. They can usually produce what they want. Sometimes movies like “The Passion” get past them, but usually their power is enough to check non-PC messages in the idea stage. If that doesn’t work, they can always censor w/o much attention being paid.

Posted by: Jack at December 3, 2006 3:18 PM
Comment #197555

I’ll bet it was the nasty liberal establishment that got CBS to cancel the Reagan mini-series.

Posted by: KansasDem at December 3, 2006 3:41 PM
Comment #197563


No. It was the liberal establishment that thought it was appropriate to produce such a hatchet job in the first place. They suffered a setback because 86% of the population today likes Reagan and his supporters were vigilant.

It is not a monolith and I do not see a conspiracy, just a syndrome.

You know that today most Americans are practicing Christians many go to church regularly. How many lead “good guy” characters on prime time are openly religious?

Ironically, the fairest shake I think conservatives have gotten on prime time was the overtly political “West Wing”.

Liberals tend not to notice this because it supports their world view.

Posted by: Jack at December 3, 2006 5:15 PM
Comment #197580

I always appreciated that West Wing treated the issues relatively fairly. I remember one episode where some interns were debating how to sell tax policy, and one of them came up with some sort of over-the-top conservatives are greedy line, and the Sam character went ballistic. He didn’t mind having to pay higher taxes under a progressive tax system, but he resented being called greedy. Moments like that abounded in West Wing. I really liked the Republican presidential character played by Alan Alda, too. Nice twist — he was an ethical conservative who did not believe in God and feared that the Christian Democrats would use that against him. Excellent series that, unfortunately, became a bit less excellent in later years.

Anyway, Jack, what about 24? I liked that series too, but, man, you couldn’t call most of the main characters liberals.


Penguins! What is it with the damn penguins? Everywhere you look there are penguins, now. If I weren’t such a bleeding heart, I’d encourage the seal clubbers to go after penguins, too.

Posted by: Trent at December 3, 2006 7:07 PM
Comment #197583


I don’t just don’t know if that is true. I mean, the specific examples you point out support your case, though I don’t know how deliberate it is. I mean, if you figure out that cartoons about animals make money, then your chief characters need to be sympathetic or you have no story. At any rate, I never really liked Bambi anymore than I liked ET — the sentimental needs to be treated with great care; otherwise, it’s just, well, sentimental.

But, you know, when I go see action movies, the sympathetic characters often resort to violence, or torture, or bend the rules, etc. I would not characterize most of them as liberals, you know. Again, I don’t think a certain political point of view is necessarily behind it; I just think for the sake of excitement and drama action movies favor a certain type of character. I mentioned 24 in the previous post — Jack doesn’t strike me as a bleeding heart.

Of course, there are some artists with a political agenda. Brecht was a good example. The Irresitible Rise of Arturi Ui is classic. Orwell, too, had politics in mind when he wrote. The success of such works, though, depends entirely on artisty.

If you want to claim that the left in general produces greater artists than the right, I don’t think I would dispute that, though I think it’s irrelevant to political arguments.

Posted by: Trent at December 3, 2006 7:21 PM
Comment #197588


Hollywood has a lot of right-wing stuff too. Remember the 80’s? A lot of variations on “Heroic American Kills Commies and Brown People”. Remember “Red Dawn”? That managed to go after commies, brown people, loose borders, gun control. Maybe the UN, too? I haven’t seen it in a while.

The whole action movie genre is pretty fundamentally right-wing. The underlying message is that the best approach to a problem is to shoot people.

Semantic point — if it’s onscreen, it’s not “secret”.

(Dan Brown may disagree, but he’s an idiot.)

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 3, 2006 7:52 PM
Comment #197589


Isn’t one of the major tenets of Jackism (to coin a phrase) that conservatives care just as much about the environment as liberals? Maybe we should call Happy Feet right-wing propaganda…

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 3, 2006 7:56 PM
Comment #197590

This just came to mind. The Lion King, I think, is one of the highest grossing animated movies ever, but its world view is entirely dog eat dog (or lion eat gazelle, I guess). Someone figured out how to make predators sympathetic.

Posted by: Trent at December 3, 2006 8:02 PM
Comment #197591

Oh, what the hell, I might as well do this before it occurs to someone else. Here’s my favorite Bambi movie.

Posted by: Trent at December 3, 2006 8:20 PM
Comment #197598


Not to drift into the meaning of art argument, but who decides what an artist creates. If you go to any great museum, most of the work you see is commissioned. Great artists such as Michelangelo worked on commission. Somebody else assigned them their topics and sometimes even managed their work.

It is very hard to portray the free market in simple movie terms. Nobody really can track how a pencil is made, if you have to find all the suppliers and sources. It is much easier to have an evil big firm just set the prices.


I note that you consider fighting communists a right wing preserve. Most of those movies do not involve killing brown people however. The biggest villains of the 1980s tended to be non-specific Nazis-like thugs, Russians or white South Africans.

Red Dawn probably fits into a right wing pattern and so do the Dirty Harry movies. But in many of the action or spy movies, the real villain would turn out to be a renegade American or some big American company.

When they made a movie about Clancy’s book the sum of all fears, they made the villians white supremecists instead of Arabs.

I am glad there is Jackism.

I believe the desire to protect the environment is bipartisan, but the preferred solutions are different. The left pushes big government planning and control. The right prefers incentives and market forces. We need both kinds, but how to make the mix is the conflict.

The animal rights movement tends to be a leftist preserve. I believe in preserving species, but it doesn’t bother me at all if how many individual animals become coats and cutlets. The logical end for bambi is the frying pan, maybe a nice pair of moccasins, presuming he has done enough to preserve the health of the species. In the natural world, he would end up killed by a mountain lion of wolf pack. No animal lives to old age.

Posted by: Jack at December 3, 2006 10:13 PM
Comment #197602


OK, the brown part is a bit off-base. As the for the Communists… well let’s just say that a conservative is more likely to enjoy seeing commies bite the dust.

I don’t have any problem eating Bambi. He had a nice “free range” lifestyle while it lasted.

People do get oddly sentimental about animals. We pamper the cute and cuddly ones, and eat the rest. There’s no logic to it.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 3, 2006 11:01 PM
Comment #197604

There’s no denying that patronage is behind much great art, though of course, not all. I guess you are implying that it’s easier for movies with leftist themes to get produced? Maybe; I don’t know. In a way I think I’m more cynical. Take all this penguin stuff for instance. I guess it got started with that March of the Penguins movie (I didn’t see it). It’s success lead to lots more penguin stuff.

Maybe this is eye of the beholder stuff. To me it seems that in most cop movie we’re given a sympathetic view of cops suspending rules of evidence etc to get the bad guys and it’s liberal lawyers who are presented as misquided if not actually evil. Anyway, you know, I like a lot of this stuff — I like great movies, but I’m happy if I’m just entertained.

I guess I see it as just the marketplace at work. Oh, I’m not denying that some producers, writers, actors etc. have a liberal agenda, or that others have a conservative one, but the stuff has to be successful or money for future projects dries up. I guess you see a conspiracy of some sort?

Posted by: Trent at December 3, 2006 11:15 PM
Comment #197622


Yes. Movies take tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to make. The studios simply can’t afford to churn out propaganda. They would go broke. The marketplace rules.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 4, 2006 8:59 AM
Comment #197633

Woody and Trent,

Yes the marketplace rules. And for movies that have big funds behind them, they must attract viewers from across the full spectrum of society. That means LCD reighns.

Lawyers are evil because most of society conservative or liberal feel that they are. Similarly, cops are heros for the same reason. Soilders and firemen get the same treatment. Really, these archetypes aren’t that different than the cute and cuddly animals that become hereos in cartoons.

There is a reason that the coyote was the villian and the road runner the hero right?

Posted by: Rob at December 4, 2006 10:05 AM
Comment #197647

I was always on the side of the coyote. I think most adult men would like to see the roadrunner get it between the eyes.

Posted by: Jack at December 4, 2006 11:51 AM
Comment #197650


“I think most adult men would like to see the roadrunner get it between the eyes.”

The coyote was a pretty benign villain, because everybody enjoys a good pratfall. It’s been part of comedic routines for centuries.

Parents have begged for a “G” rating on just about anything for years, and now they have a problem with the message their children might get?

Pablum, with or without a message, is still pablum, and, message or no message, it’s still the parents responsibility to control their own children’s viewing habits.

I do have to say that while I do enjoy some “action adventure”, most in this genre stretch any sense of credibility to the breaking point.

Posted by: Rocky at December 4, 2006 12:28 PM
Comment #197670

I’m Popeye the sailor man. Toot Toot. I’m Popeye the sailor man. Toot Toot. I’m strong to the finish cause I eats me spinch, I’m Popeye the sailor man. Toot Tooooot.

Popeye was my favorite. He taught a little ugly guy I know that he didn’t have to take any crap from the big Brutus that lived up the street. I think I am still in love with Olive Oyl.

Posted by: jlw at December 4, 2006 3:56 PM
Comment #197674

While we are all free-associating here, I wonder sometimes why penguins and ducks look so funny, especially when they walk. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that their bodies are really designed as much for swimming as for walking. When they get out of the water they’ve got these big ol’ flippers that don’t work very well on land.

When penguins swim, on the other hand, they almost look graceful. Almost.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 4, 2006 5:26 PM
Comment #197688


I am SO glad that our politicians could drop all that worthless crap they were doing to fix SS and health care to stop the evils of cartoons.

This is sad, really sad.

While we are at it, why don’t we go ahead and waste tax dollars spent on political wages to debate wether Barney the purple dancing effing dinosaur is promoting homosexuality by not having a proper anatomy.

Seriously now, does it even matter THAT much?

Also I think Megan s by-far the best movie critic I have ever known of.

Cheers cheers for Megan.

Posted by: Bryan AJ Kennedy at December 4, 2006 7:29 PM
Comment #198511

Is there propaganda in movies? Duuuuuuhhhhhhhh!!
Everything from product placement(a from of propagahda) in movies to cartoons, and cartoons are the worst. Back in the early ‘40’s Superman was there to kick Nazi butt, and protect “the American way”. Kid’s are like a sponge that soaks up everything, if you keep pounding it in their little heads that the sky is falling they will soon start to believe it regardless what they hear from their parents. When I was younger, in the ‘70’s, all I heard was what the nukes where doing to the planet, that if we didn’t stop we would have nukelr (Bush taught me that word)winter. All the litter was going to have us buried, and the urban sprawl was going to take all the land that is used for growing food.
Well, we have global warming instead of winter, I can walk outside of my house and see about the same amount of litter I saw fortyfive years ago.
And as for urban sprawl, yeah, the towns are bigger and the roads wider, but there is still food on my plate, maybe BECAUSE the towns are bigger. We have things now I couldn’t have imagined 45 years ago. The great thing about children is when they grow up if they think for themselves they will see that the sky is NOT falling, that life will be the same ol’ same ol’ and just enjoy things that they see and hear as entertainment.

Posted by: Doughball at December 9, 2006 9:22 PM
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