Politicized Cartoons Rant

Some friends of ours recently went to go see the movie Cars 2.

Now, I loved the first Cars movie. When I saw there was a sequel coming out, I was very excited to see it. That is, until our friends informed us that the main villain is “Big Oil.”


Big Oil? As the villain in a cartoon?

I have to say, using a kid’s movie to push an agenda really ruffles my feathers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a moral to the story. For example, the first Cars movie. All about how  helping each other is more important than winning or something along those lines.

And the Toy Story movies, with their emphasis on loyalty and friendship and stuff. I love that, and I think it’s nice to have an entertaining film that makes a point.

Where I get angry, though, is when what could be a perfectly good movie gets so inundated with politics that the movie is lost and all you see is a commercial.

Granted, I have not yet seen Cars 2, so I can’t say precisely how annoyed I’ll be by the politics, but I have seen others.

For example, Happy Feet. Why does a cute little penguin movie have to be one long diatribe against the evil humans who are destroying the earth?

Or Pocahontas. Why did they have to change history and ruin the reputation of a strong, historical figure in order to make a cartoon about a wishy-washy tree hugger?

Why can’t kid’s movies just be kid’s movies, without attempting to brainwash our youth into a liberal mindset? What is the world coming to when parents have to censor movies because the morals taught are not ones they want their kids learning?

And even if we agreed with the agenda being pushed, why is it the entertainment industry’s business? Shouldn’t the parents be teaching the kids their values, rather than letting their movies tell them what to think?

Yes, of course. And I often find myself explaining to my kids why something they saw in a movie isn’t correct and doesn’t line up with what we believe or with logic and common sense.

But it annoys me that I have to. It irritates me that I can’t take my kids to a movie just because we want to do something fun together, and that I’ll have to spend the drive home and the days following undoing the damage that is done by the messages that are sent through what should be an innocent amusement.

I’m done now.

But feel free to express your own rantings in the comments!

About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

11 comments on “Politicized Cartoons Rant

  1. My Dearest Avily,

    I feel your pain. I also am happy that your children have some adult input. This is a very important thing that many children don’t get because the parent is too busy elsewhere and then they can’t understand why the children grow up with warped thinking. If you want your child taught a certain way then you must be a monitor to the input they receive! Being a parent is a very demanding job. Just because a movie say’s it is a cartoon doesn’t mean that it is for children.I had to sit down and watch movies and cartoons with my children and answer many questions. If there was violence I had to explain that you couldn’t just jump off of a tall building and not get hurt. How many times have you seen boys put a so-called cape on and jump off the couch trying to emulate their favorite hero. You have to be there to make sure they are not climbing too high.

  2. We saw it with the kids last weekend. The spy/big oil plot was the most convoluted mess I’ve ever seen in a family movie. I’m still not sure I understand the motive of the villian, and I’m sure the entire thing flew over my kids’ head. Thankfully, there was another “theme” in the movie about accepting your friends as they are. Not sure why they couldn’t have expanded that theme a little more and left out the other. The only thing the big oil theme gave them was more cool (and marketable, right?) cars. Maybe the villian should’ve been Big Hollywood and their relentless drive to sell toys while sacrificing plot? The first movie had emotional resonance at the end. Because of the “plot,” this one had nothing.

  3. You said it, Avily! Thanks for the heads up!

    I was thinking of taking my daughter for an outing to the movies today, and Cars 2 would probably have been on the list.

    I don’t like the current fad of political criticism in Hollywood any more than you do!

    I left the theater after Happy Feet with a sour taste in my mouth, because I knew that the premise of the story was false, but now there would be lots of children out there believing it, and parents with no discrimination (am I also allowed to accuse them of gullibility?) who would encourage their kids to believe these lies.

    Here’s what I’m going to tell my daughter when it becomes necessary to bring this subject up :

    My main complaint with the demonization of “Big Oil” is that Big Oil is an industry. Not every person or business associated with Big Oil is bad. I’m sure most of them have many admirable qualities, even when they hold their costs down and keep their profits as high as possible, because that’s what corporations must do, if they’re going to stay in business.

    Big Oil is vital to our economy and our mobility, and therefore also to our success as a nation. Tearing down those parts of our economy that actually work is doing our enemy’s work. So then I wonder, whose side are these Hollywood producers, scriptwriters, and actors really on? When they demonize vital contributors to our way of life, I don’t think they’re on America’s side, and I don’t think they’re on mine.

    I think we should hold the individuals and corporations involved accountable when they step out of line and do things that cause damage and death. But then I think we should hold every individual and corporation accountable for their wrong actions, even in Hollywood, no matter if they’re conservative or liberal. And I think we should reflect on the fact that we’re all sinners who can only be saved by God’s grace working in our lives, and hold ourselves most accountable of all.

  4. Wow. I hesitate to say anything. But having been an environmentalist since my youth, I must, as you say, express my own rantings:

    I grew up in an area of California where 35 miles of shoreline were polluted by a 200,000-gallon spill from an offshore oil rig. And given the circumstances surrounding the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I actually don’t have a problem with a movie depicting “Big Oil” as a villain. (Even though I am tired of the trope of the big bad businessman who is out to ruin everyone’s life for the sake of profit.) But stories need conflict, which usually involves villains, and the powerful — whether businesspeople or politicians — are easy choices as villains because people love to hate them.

    As for “Happy Feet” and “Pocahontas,” my reaction is very different from yours. I thought the former was straightforward (humans can both create and solve problems) and the latter took a girl who’s usually a bit player and “token female” in the historical narrative and portrayed her as a strong woman living by her values. I didn’t see an “agenda” or a “commercial” in either of those movies. But then I suppose it all depends on your point of view. I mean, *what* is wrong with being a tree-hugger?

    To answer your rhetorical questions, “And even if we agreed with the agenda being pushed, why is it the entertainment industry’s business?” I would say that filmmakers, like visual artists and writers, produce works out of their own worldview. Some say films like “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof” have an agenda. Maybe they do. Maybe Picasso had an agenda when he painted “Guernica.” Maybe C.S. Lewis had an agenda when he wrote “Out of the Silent Planet.” Philip Pullman certainly had an agenda when he wrote the “His Dark Materials” series, and has been quite vocal about it.

    We complain when movie and TV producers create works without substance. How, then, can we complain when they create works with substance, just because their views differ from ours? Freedom of speech means Philip Pullman and Ben Queen (the “Cars 2” screenwriter) have just as much right to their agendas as we have to ours.

    • Very good points.

      And for the record, I have absolutely nothing against environmentalism. I agree that we do need to be responsible with the planet, and teach our kids the same. I don’t allow my children to litter (“That belongs in a trash can, don’t just drop it on the ground; if everyone just threw their trash on the ground, think how ugly it would be”, etc.) and I recycle whenever possible. I don’t agree with irresponsible practices.

      Where I have a problem is when they sneak it into children’s movies. The examples you gave, such as “Facing the Giants” and “Fireproof” are intended for thinking, adult audiences. I’m not familiar with Philip Pullman, but certainly you’re right about C.S. Lewis. But again, C.S. Lewis wrote for more mature audiences. I have no problem with movies that push an agenda when it is geared toward someone who can think through the issues. I’ve seen a number of them, and while I may be annoyed that a plotline was so against my own way of thinking that I couldn’t enjoy the movie, I recognize the right of the writer to say what he wants to say. Certainly as a Christian writer, my own writing reflects my worldview. But it feels to me almost like an attempt to brainwash children into a certain way of thinking when they blatantly demonize or glorify a particular political viewpoint in a movie marketed to children.

  5. I have to say, I mostly agree with Kristen. Definitely with that last paragraph. “Substance” means message, whether we want to admit that or not. And that message may not be something we agree with. If we want the freedom as Christians to put our message out there, then we have to allow others to do the same.

    And while I do think Big Oil gets some hits that aren’t entirely deserved, at the same time I think sending the message that humans can do damage to the environment is a good thing. We need to take responsibility for the planet God gave us to care for.

  6. Kristen, I’ve also been known to hug trees–I climbed a great many of them in my youth. Rather hard to do without hugging them occasionally! 😉 I grew up in the jungle, which gave me a great appreciation for and love of trees.

    But–I can’t disagree with you more on this. I think it’s horribly sad that all of that beach was damaged in that manner. People in positions of power have to make good decisions, because when they don’t, their bad decisions cost all of us. And they should be held accountable. But this rant, as I understood it, was not about a beach getting trashed.

    As a writer, I’d like to see a “REAL” villain; a personal villain. “Big Oil” is just too nebulous and impersonal. Attacking Big Oil in the press or in the movies or elsewhere also promotes an attitude that is unreasonable toward all people associated with anything that might be construed to be “Big Oil,” which I believe is in violation of God’s command to love our neighbors. What’s more, I give thanks every time I’m able to fill up at a gas pump, because the ability to gas up my car is essential to my mobility.

    And, I’m enough of a freethinker that when everyone else starts dumping on someone, that makes me narrow my eyes and say, “Sez you. And just what should we be dumping on YOU for?” Which yes, I know, is not that nice of me, but it is scriptural (“let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and all that). I’ve got this huge problem being quiet when confronted with attitudes that lead to witch-hunts, especially when I’m convinced there aren’t any real witches being hunted…

    Here’s how I would explain the impact of this situation to my son or daughter:
    First I’d say; pretend you’re from California…

    “Coloradans LOVE to hate Californian transplants, and since we’ve lived in Colorado, we know why! Californians are THE rudest and most DANGEROUS drivers on the road! They do not respect the speed limits or traffic signs. They do not respect the lives or safety of other drivers. They do not respect fog, snow or ice, with sometimes ridiculous, and sadly, sometimes fatal consequences for them and for others.”

    (By now at least one child has already forgotten that they’re supposed to be Californians and they’re jeering. AT Californians!)

    “They find their way into public service positions where they inflict extra costs on everyone for EVERYTHING. The state parks in Colorado used to be free. NOW there are guard posts at every entrance, mounting costs, and it’s “all the Californians’ faults!” Native Coloradans are seriously peeved and insist that Californians have disenfranchised them from their own wilderness!”

    “Transplanted Californians also insist that we should vote ourselves higher and higher taxes to pay for programs that are “good for all of us”–neglecting to recall that one of the reasons why they’re no longer living in California is because…surprise!…they couldn’t AFFORD the taxes they, and other people like them, voted upon themselves for similar programs!”

    “Oh, and my personal, biggest beef with Californians? That they’ve got all of American industry by the tail and they’re twisting it, hard and painfully.

    Because of my chemical sensitivities, I have to have this one machine that cleans the air in my house a special way, and you know what? I can’t get it fixed any more! Because Californians said “You can’t sell that here!” so–Shaklee stopped making it and the replacement parts for it. Tch. This machine is going to cost me over $1,000 to replace with something else. Not an easy purchase to make now, oh no. How is creating costs like that for people like me reasonable? (Nasty Evil Villains!!!) And just how is it that California is considered so righteous that they get to violate the Interstate Commerce clause anytime they please just to protect their own industry?” (Grrrrr)

    So you see, I could conceivably write a screenplay with “Crazy Californians” as the villain/s, and it would all be true–of some Californians somewhere–but how would that feel to you?

    (remember, kids, you’re now Californians!)

    (And my kids would object and protest that if they have to be tarred for life as evil villains as “Crazy Californians,” they don’t like it at all! They don’t like being unfairly blamed for all the bad stuff other people are doing, not them!)

    I think, Kristen, that if I said all that about Californians of you personally, you’d also be deeply offended. And I understand that. You’re a Californian, but you’re also your own individual person and want to be given the benefit of the doubt as a good person who isn’t involved in all that! But you could be demonized very successfully–IF–someone wanted to demonize you!

    It all comes down to loving your neighbor as you love yourself, and remembering that when we disrespect something or someone, and particularly something that is as valuable to us as Big Oil is, that gives other people who are NOT friendly to us or to them a wedge to use against them and against us. Since Big Oil makes its profits from selling their product to you and me (because we can’t live without it), when it costs them, that cost gets passed on to us. So; we’re really the ones who wind up hurting. And that, to me, is absolutely no laughing matter.

    If we have the foresight to stop and think about what’s being said and take issue with the people who are saying it to us, in this case, Hollywood, we might have save ourselves a lot of grief later!

  7. Even as a young child, Pocahontas drove me nuts. I’ve always loved history (which would explain the fact that I’m a history major), and the fact that it changed a girl who converted to Christianity, married John Rolfe and loved England (she did not want to return to America, unlike her English husband) into a pagan, John Smith-love interest who bashes the English culture drives me nuts. Why use historical figures if you’re going to get all the details wrong?

  8. My dad won’t LET us watch a movie without, 1: Watching it first; 2: In many instances, he’ll watch it with us, and stop it to discuss things.
    Basically, we older ones can now watch a movie by ourselves (provided our dad has screened it) and we’ll rant about the small things we don’t agree with later (sometimes for days afterwards). I’d say we’re pretty harsh critics 🙂
    It is highly annoying when Hollywood tries to indoctrinate through cartoons, but, should we be surprised? They’ve already done it a million time with live action film, and older cartoons. In my opinion, there are only three options: Don’t watch any TV at all, Watch it with discernment and discuss it with your children, or watch only for entertainment, and hope your children will pick up the right thinking from Sunday School and church once or twice a week (I don’t think this one applies much to homeschooling families, thankfully).

  9. They “sneak it into children’s movies” because the parents are the ones sittin’ next to the kiddoes. They exec’s know what they’re doing. 🙂

    I’ve never seen Pocahontas but Happy Feet is a great animated film–I’m quite fond of the singin’.

  10. Looks like Pochontas is under fire here from several angles, many of which I can’t argue with. I do have to stand us as the traditional 2D animation geek that I am and say, though, that the film is a fabulous piece from both the design and character animation standpoints. I mean, c’mon, animators Glen Keane and John Pomeroy on the same project? Awesomeness. But that’s a digression.

    I am disappointed and surprised to hear that Pixar went the agenda route on this movie. That makes me deeply sad. So many of their films have managed to rise above that garbage, but I guess the Disney influence on their product is beginning to show. (And for what I mean about Disney influence, it seems to come in waves. For example, in the early part of this century, there were a lot of powers-that-be in Disney’s ranks that were very determined to push the “new notion of family,” which was represented in the tag lines for Lilo and Stitch as well as Meet the Robinsons, to name films off the top of my head that did so. Anyway, what I’m saying is that the danger of Disney films pushing an agenda, no matter what side of that agenda you stand on, is not new.)

    Anyway, all this to say, I am thankful for publications like Movieguide and Plugged In, where we as parents can go and get a head’s up as to film content before we’re in the theater covering our little ones’ ears and eyes. It’s our job as consumers to be discerning. We’d like it if it was the job of the studios to make entertainment and not seek to indoctrinate, but that’s just the way of the world. The minds of youths are where tomorrow’s norms are cultivated.

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