Popcorn Politics

Jack Atherton - bio|email 

Okay, now I understand why we can't drill for more domestic oil, extract clean coal or build nuclear power plants. I just saw WALL-E.

The premise of this brilliantly animated movie is that Earth has been made uninhabitable by capitalists whose discarded wares became toxic waste. The only survivors are a bug and a robot resembling Woody Allen (who was even funnier playing a robot in his own Sleeper). What refuse remains on Earth is visited by another robot, that will remind you of Angelina Jolie in one of her more murderous moods. We're then treated to a love story, or make that a romantic triangle involving the two robots - and Al Gore.

Because, yes, WALL-E is the latest broadside in Hollywood's propaganda war. In truth this is nothing new. Warner Brothers and Columbia turned out a torrent of leftist films in the depths of the Depression, with good reason. On the other hand, you could argue that Louis B. Mayer's immensely popular Andy Hardy movies were propaganda too, celebrating middle-class, middle American values.

Seventy years later we still have leftist polemics. But where are the Andy Hardy films? Where are the "biopics" that in the old days honored inventors and businessmen - capitalists! - like Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison and, if they were made today, might extol a Bill Gates?

Conservatives claim that Barack Obama enjoys a staggering advantage in this election because he's supported by the mainstream media: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Time, National Public Radio and - perhaps most important -- the Associated Press, which is cut and pasted in newsrooms across the country. By contrast, conservatives dominate the FOX News Channel, some less widely read newspapers and journals and, most important, talk radio shows like Rush Limbaugh's, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats want to shut down through a return to the so-called "Fairness Doctrine."

Paranoia?  Well, in 2004 Evan Thomas, an editor and political writer for Newsweek - and no conservative - predicted on the PBS show Washington Week in Review that liberal media bias would be worth 15 points to Democrat John Kerry.

But the influence of liberal journalists is nothing compared with the reach of Hollywood. Animated films these days are not just the province of children, they're aimed at adults of voting age. WALL-E is liberal Hollywood's furious indictment of business, though its case is far from airtight. The film's human victims of capitalist consumerism are portrayed as passive fatsos imprisoned in Laz-e-Boy lounges. But which party seeks to keep its constituents infantile, fat and happy  -- the one that applauds personal responsibility and entrepreneurs (big and small) or the one that promises a redistribution of income to pay for ever-ballooning social spending?

And, by the way, isn't Hollywood a big business too? Don't moviegoers fork over nine bucks or more for a ticket, and quite a lot more to fatten up at the concession stand? But at least Hollywood doesn't coarsen our culture. Certainly not. For that WALL-E blames Wal-Mart.

Don't worry, I won't tell you how the movie ends. I walked out - to write this column.