Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not so happy with Happy Feet

On Sunday afternoon, I took my three-year old to see the new film Happy Feet. While it was highly entertaining, I was distraught by the presence of several things, most of which are standard fare for modernity, but seemed terribly out of place for a film marketed for young children.

  1. Charged Sexuality: The movie starts with penguins, well, one penguin actually, singing a Prince song. So we hear "You don't have to be beautiful... to turn me on." Now... maybe I am just becoming the old Curmudgeon here, but I cannot imagine any children's movie anywhere where it is necessary for anything other than light switches to be turned on. The blatant sexuality is actually a problem in many children's movies. Watch The Little Mermaid for example. That film oozes sexuality in just about every scene.
  2. Organized Religion is evil: In essence Mumble, the penguin who doesn't fit in, is ostracized by the chant-loving, Scottish brogue bearing elites. Mumble's father begs him to change and in an echo of the modern day debates of homosexuality being a choice or genetic, replies that he won't. Of course the religious authorities don't just stop there, they blame his licentious dancing as the reason their god, the great Guin, has brought upon a fish shortage. Mumble sets off with a rag tag group of friends to find the aliens that Mumble is sure is the cause of the fish shortage. Their journey takes them to the Forbidden Shore, where as the emerge from a dark tunnel and into the bright sunlight, they see in their path a church high upon the hill, and the angle shifts so we can see the environmental desolation over which it stands. Everything in this wasteland is polluted and rusty, falling apart. This disaster is clearly the place where the narrator Lovelace is found to have earned the plastic six-pack collar that he has been calling his talisman. But the image that I saw was one where the Church is blamed for bad environmental stewardship and I was reminded of the anti-environmentalist rationale of Christians who use the verse from Genesis "have dominion over the earth and subdue it." Certainly there is a need for the Church to be honest about its poor stewardship of creation, but in many parts of the Church environmental stewardship is an important part of their mission.
  3. Salvation comes from human government: When the fishing depletion is made known through Mumble, humanity's (the aliens) response is to set up a no fishing zone around Antarctica. While Mumble's grabs their attention, it is clear that government saves. Here is one more instance where the idea of progress toward utopia through human effort and authority is problematic, especially in conjunction with the above point.
There is to be sure some discussion about Mumble as a Christ figure, despised and rejected, standing against the religious authorities of the day to bring in a new community... but that community, the Church, is to be seen in continuity with the People of Zion. Clearly in Happy Feet that is not the case. There is an old, dated authority structure which needs to be removed. That is what Mumble does, and its replacement? Something that depends upon humanity for survival.

God help those dancing penguins.


1 comment:

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

Interesting comments. I haven't seen the movie. You are right about sexuality in many children's movies, TV shows. I remember one great TV show where the parents would do a lot of winking and more, etc. at each other when the TV kids had left the room, but there sat my kids, watching this stuff.

Allegories supposedly aimed at children have a long literary tradition. I guess they aren't really for the children.

I thought there was an awful lot of violence at the movie last year based on Lewis. [And in numerous other children's movies through the decades.]