For me Dr. Seuss wasn’t a big part of my childhood. Not that strange considering I grew up in The Netherlands and English is a foreign language for us. Which means that his materials aren’t as widely spread here as they are in the United States.
You do come across Dutch translations of his books and of course the odd movie from the United States. But that’s just noise compared to Dik Trom, Puk van de Petteflet or Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek. Now those are big and recognizable parts of my childhood (yeah I’m old, shush).
That’s why I was so confused when the movie The Lorax became available and the response to it in the media, especially from Fox:
Sure, there’s an environmental message in the movie; the story makes that really obvious. It’s about Ted finding out that the girl he likes, Audrey, wants to see a real tree. So Ted goes out to find a tree for her and along the way discovers the story of why they are gone. His little journey of discovery ends up changing the town Thneed-Ville and in the end he manages to bring back the trees:
And yes, the movie is a bit heavy-handed in its lessons; it’s not exactly subtle. But the environmental message it gives is sound. If you have a business that relies on a natural resource you as a business need to take care of that resource if you want to continue to exist. That’s just sound policy to protect that resource and not lose sight of that.
The movie also has the second message that polluting the environment isn’t a good idea. Not for your business, nor for the residents of Thneed-Ville. Who since the loss of their trees have had a little issue with air quality and other things like a polluted water supply:
I just couldn’t understand it why Fox would push the story that this movie is “anti-business” or is “indoctrinating our children.” Their host Dobbs went as far as saying that “the president’s liberal friends in Hollywood [are] targeting a younger demographic using animated movies to sell their agenda to children.”
Like, what? How do you even get that from the movie? All this just left me one choice: see what the fuss was about and watch the movie. It all clicked when I saw the following in the movie:
Fox news is basically the Once-ler, blinded by their perception that they’re doing a good thing. And anything that might be a potential threat to what they see as a good thing must be bad and is dismissed. It’s such an apt description of what happens in these kind of situations. You see it all the time that good people end up doing something that turns out to have negative consequences, often it is unintentional. But then something makes them turn a blind eye to it or belittle the damage they’re causing. As the Once-ler puts it “how bad can this possibly be?!”
Well, very bad as he ends up chopping down every single tree. Wrecking the beautiful surroundings of Thneed-Ville and leaving the residents a polluted environment.
He knows he has made a mistake when the last tree falls. Ever since that last tree fell he has lived with the regret and guilt of what he caused. But it also meant that he played a role in eventually repairing the damage he caused. Slaying a few personal demons and laying them to rest.
Which also serves as a reminder to those with a more environmental leaning. A lot of folks that are harming the environment don’t see themselves as evil and often aren’t evil. They think they’re doing a good thing for the world and our communities. It’s just that they are, for whatever reason, blind to the negative consequences. That’s something I often see that is forgotten in discussions about the environment. You’re always dealing with other people who think they’re doing the right thing, they don’t have the goal to destroy the world.
Of course, I have no doubt that there will be a few out there that are going to do what they want the consequences be damned. But in my experience those are not in the majority. Just keep that in mind when you’re dealing with other folks, they might be your allies if you’re honest and polite.
But that’s also what makes this movie dangerous to some. It humanizes everyone, those that are (inadvertently) doing damage, those that are trying to prevent it, and the regular folks caught in between. The movie shows that everyone can make mistakes and in the end not working together can result in disastrous consequences. Which brings me to the following quote that’s shown at the end of the movie:
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
This is probably the most dangerous message in the entire movie for those that do not want change.
I created this post somewhere in late 2012 after seeing the movie. It’s just that I finally took a moment to turn the notes I had into a post.