Shortly after The Muppets was released in November 2011, Fox News attacked the film for its liberal agenda. The film was described as anti-corporate, anti-oil industry, and ultimately, The Muppets were called communist. What was the cause of these attacks? The villain in the film, an oil baron named Tex Richman, attempts to destroy the Muppet’s old theatre in order drill for an oil reserve beneath it.
“It’s amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message,” said Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center. He then proceeded to blame The Muppets and its predecessors, including Captain Planet, Nickelodeon’s Big Green Help, and Cars 2 among others, for the Occupy Wall Street and environmental movements.
The Muppets are not environmentalists, and not fighting against Tex Richman solely because he is in the oil industry—the heroes of the story never use the fact that Richman is an oil baron as a means to insult him. The claim that the Muppets are communist is markedly inappropriate—communism is defined as a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, stateless and socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production. In the Muppets’ battle against Tex Richman for the ownership of the Muppet’s theatre, not a single one of these themes are promoted.
Fox News neglects to mention even one of the numerous positive messages of the film. Valuable lessons for children demonstrated in the film include the rewards of following dreams, teamwork, celebrating differences, perseverance, love and support between brothers, forgiveness, and the values of friendship, among others. Fox News host Eric Bolling later apologized for calling the Muppets anti-capitalist.
Fox News turned the attack towards two new films in February 2012, however. This time, Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax came under fire for trying to make what Matt Patrick of the Matt Patrick Show called “occu-toddlers”. Once again, Fox News incorrectly tied environmental stewardship to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Fox News claims that The Secret World of Arrietty is about the redistribution of wealth and encourages envy between economic classes. Fox featured a clip of Arrietty, the main character of the film, explaining what a borrower is to her human friend, Shawn.
“My mother, father and I are all borrowers. We borrow things like soap and cookies and sugar—things that (humans) don’t miss if they’re gone.”
Lou Dobbs responded by claiming that “Hollywood is once again trying to indoctrinate our children”. The Secret of Arrietty film was originally created in Japan, and is based off of the 1952 novel, The Borrowers, written by English author Mary Norton. Disney’s main role in the film was to dub English voices for its U.S. release. Given the international roots of its storyline, this film isn’t appropriate to stereotype Hollywood. In addition, the items that the borrowers steal go unnoticed for decades until Shawn physically sees a borrower taking a tissue in his room. It is doubtful that money is a fair substitute for the items the borrowers take, as missing monetary funds would be much more noticeable.
The Lorax is equally blamed by Fox News for contributing to the creation of “occu-toddlers”, however, environmental stewardship is not the purpose of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which focuses on income inequality and wealth distribution. In order to combat the pro-conservation and anti-corporate messaging in The Lorax, Matt Patrick encouraged moviegoers to purchase a lot of food products and leave their trash on the floors of the theatre. Once again, any positive themes of The Secret World of Arrietty and The Lorax were completely ignored.
While one if not more of the three movies attacked have pro-environmental and/or anti-corporate greed messaging, Fox News has completely ignored any virtues of the films, used incorrect terminology to characterize them, and has wrongfully blamed pro-environmental messaging in children’s movies as the cause of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. These films aren’t appropriate to “blame” for the environmental movement either—the environmental movement began well before the invention of the television, and has had many positive impacts on the United States, such as the creation of its National Parks.
If you believe The Muppets, The Secret World of Arrietty, and The Lorax have positive messaging and more films like them should be made, be sure to spread the word. If you disagree with the claims made by Fox News about these films, you can let them know here.
Photo credit: bnl.gov