Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stealth Propagandists in the Culture of Death

Those seeking to form the attitudes and outlooks of this culture had better be careful. There's a stealth propagandist working against their post-modern agenda, and it is not only subtly effective but charming and profitable as well.

I'm speaking of Pixar Studios.

First we had the unapologetically pro-family blockbuster The Incredibles, a fun and fast-paced tale of fidelity, parenthood, and right vs. wrong.

Then we had WALL·E, a celebration of the nobility of duty, diligence, and hard work. It not only exulted the lowly and simple - not an uncommon theme these days, but still refreshing to see - but took a Swiftian satirical swipe at consumerism and self-indulgence that made some of us quite uncomfortable.

And now we have Up.

If you didn't see this animated wonder on its opening weekend, I don't want to spoil your fun. You can stop reading now and go see it (the 3-D version is worth it). But if you don't mind hearing a few "spoilers", or you've seen it, feel free to continue.

The movie's protagonist is Carl, whose shares with his life-love Ellie a longing for adventure and excitement. But after their childhood meeting, the story of their adult lives from marriage to widowhood is told in poignant silent form, nothing but vivid visual vignettes of their life together. (There is a similar "silent" stretch in WALL·E - could the world of masterful computer animation be resurrecting the art of silent film?) When the story resumes with dialog, Carl is an old curmudgeon who picks up the earnest young scout Russell, and the main portion of the film progresses.

The first bit of stealth propaganda lies in the scenes that summarize Carl and Ellie's life together. First, their married life is portrayed as a rich and joyous union. Second, children are seen as a complete blessing - envisioned in the clouds, lovingly prepared for, and eagerly anticipated. The brief but heartwrenching scene in which a doctor delivers the news that there would be no children for them causes Ellie to dissolve into tears - and some of the audience as well. The remainder of their story is still good, but clearly only as good as they can make it, living as they are under the shadow of infertility. Ellie's eventual passing leaves Carl with an emptiness which he has no idea how to fill.

Young Russell is simply a kid looking to get his badge requirements signed off, but as he and Carl end up on their adventure and get to know one another, it slowly emerges that Russell's home is broken. His father used to come with him to scout meetings, and they used to sit on the curb outside the ice cream shop and count cars - but now there's Phyllis, and dad isn't around much, and doesn't have time for doing things with his son. Not much is said because not much needs to be said. The topic is not just painful, but shameful, and one can feel Carl's shame that any fellow adult would treat a child so.

So first the movie portrays not just marriage but childbearing in a completely positive, healthy light - so much so that the loss of the childbearing component hits the viewers as the tragedy it is. Then it goes and shows divorce from the child's perspective, laying bare the brutal damage it does to the innocent. Then the film has the audacity to go and get critically acclaimed, even earning raves and a top rating from our local liberal movie reviewer. See what I mean about stealth propaganda?

It's clear from such stories that we humans are hardwired to just know that certain things align with the order of creation. It is right and good for men and women to marry, and to accept children as the incarnation of their love. It is a tragedy, not a blessing, when those children are denied. No boy should ever have to explain to a stranger that his father's companion is not his mother. No matter what excuses our minds and tongues make, our hearts know better, which is why they respond to tales such as this.

Which is why I say that the propagandists of this culture had better watch out. If they're not careful, all the work they've done with their nihilistic comedians and anti-heros will be undone by the story writers and animation wizards of Pixar, who put out stories echoing themes that people just know are right. Stories about lifelong love and fidelity. Stories about the challenges and blessings of raising children. Stories that speak of things like divorce as they should be spoken of - in hushed and shamed voices. Stories that resonate with the human heart, and will be unconsciously absorbed and made part of the viewer's attitudes.

And furthermore, Pixar will make a tidy profit doing it.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

I just saw Up today- I totally agree with your comments here, it really was a spectacular movie, the best I've seen in a long time.