Michael Medved, the Wile E. Coyote of “film critics” (airquotes intentional) runs off of another cliff having moved on to chasing penguins instead of road runners.
In America’s ongoing culture war, with ferocious combatants grabbing every available weapon to strike at each other, innocent children and adorable penguins simultaneously qualify as collateral damage. Recent controversies involving environmental and gay-marriage messages in Hollywood cartoons and storybooks for young children show that in our current climate, even the youngest kids and the most endearing denizens of Antarctica can become targets and instruments of powerful propaganda.
Oh dear. Whenever I hear Medved talking about culture wars I reach for my gun, because it must mean that the Silly Season is upon us. Harken to the call of the Medvedloon calling out to well-meaning but dullish common-sense mummies and daddies everywhere.
On the eve of our annual holiday season, Warner Bros. released the lavish animated extravaganza Happy Feet, featuring the voices of Robin Williams, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Elijah Wood in a PG-rated story about a tap-dancing penguin. The studio promoted the picture as a feel-good frolic for the whole family, featuring an endorsement quote that promised, “Adults and kids alike will be dancing in the aisles.”
Unfortunately, the marketing never acknowledged the movie’s unmistakably alarming, discomfiting and politically potent elements â€” enraging no small number of unprepared parents. The endearing creatures on screen face the deadly menace of leopard seals, killer whales and, most of all, human pollution, overconsumption and exploitation. In the advance screening I attended, one worried mother of a 5-year-old took her anxious, fretful, anguished little boy from the theater during the film’s relentless scenes of cute and cuddly penguins in intense pain and deadly peril. The next week, a correspondent who called himself “MikeP29p” wrote on my website: “Unfortunately I read Michael’s movie review a day too late. We took our kids ages 6 and 4 last night because they wanted to go because they saw the commercials. I thought an animated movie about penguins would be OK. One of the darkest most disturbing movies I have ever seen. Needless to say, my 4-year-old was terrified.”
Needless to say, these children are probably unaware of the complete works of the Marquis de Disney from the doggy snuff film Old Yeller to the brutal murder of Bambi’s mother to the incarceration of Dumbo’s mother:
…and who could ever forget the hubris of Simba which leads to the death of his father Mufasa:
Show me a classic animated Disney film and I’ll show you dead parents, threat of abandonment or death, vicious grabs for power, juvenile delinquency, drug usage, lying, evolution, jealousy, gluttony and miscegenation, disrespect for parents, and a single woman living in sin with seven men.
Of course, many parents might not relish the idea of exposing their kiddies to a “view of hell,” no matter how much they agree with a movie’s propagandistic purposes …