Penguins, not politics: Happy Feet has no liberal agenda

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The Warner Brothers movie Happy Feet is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the upcoming Academy Awards. And with the high quality of the film’s animation and its star-packed cast, Happy Feet just might win. It was pretty much a win since it first debuted in theaters.

After its second week at box offices around the world, Happy Feet grossed approximately $100 million in the United States, alone.

From the movie posters that show penguins romping through an Antarctic wonderland, moviegoers might expect a light-hearted animated children’s movie. However, a backlash from media pundits like Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and CNN’s Glenn Beck depict a different picture.

Cavuto and Beck both called the movie an animated An Inconvenient Truth, and Cavuto went as far as to say, “I half expected to see an animated version of Al Gore pop up,” on his November 21 broadcast.

Yes, there are undertones of a failing global climate due to a polluted and exploited Earth: One of the movie’s characters becomes insane after getting his neck caught in a plastic ring from a six-pack holder; an over-fished ocean threatens the penguin tribe with famine. But do these representations go beyond the scope of truth and benefit the arguments of a particular political agenda?

In a world where animation software evolves at such a rapid pace, movie audiences want to see the results of new technology. The “next big animated movie” is released almost monthly, and audiences fall in love with the movies that best mimic life. The animated movies that win awards are often touted as having realistic graphics.

Is it any surprise, then, that movie creators try to present a life-like experience, even to children? Probably not. There wasn’t noticeable backlash when Finding Nemo depicted remnants of Word War II weaponry buried beneath the sea. There was no outcry from the American Obesity Association when recently released Monster House told the story of how the spirit of a morbidly obese woman possesses a house and wreaks havoc on a neighborhood.

Happy Feet similarly alludes to the realities of Antarctica’s climate: A decreasing population of fish has been officially documented by numerous global climate agencies, and there have been multiple occurrences of wildlife being caught in litter.

The fact that these same environmental conditions are presented within the frame of a children’s movie doesn’t mean that the movie’s creators are trying to present a biased view of environmental policy.

Moreover, a general want for a stable and sustainable environment is not a want held by only Democrats. I never thought of the general Republican agenda to be one of malicious environmental intent. When the GOP supports clean-energy decisions like nuclear power and wind energy, it doesn’t depict malicious intent, either.

That pundits like Neil Cavuto and Glenn Beck, who typically pride themselves on their conservative political prowess, would so readily label the movie a piece of liberal fodder comes as a surprise to me.

If a political agenda lies in the subtext of a penguin movie, it does so only because those who notice it place it there themselves. My five-year-old cousin has a hard enough time keeping his shoes tied. I doubt then that he worries about which political party favors a clean environment. He doesn’t go to animated movies to see what issues are affecting Congress; he goes to them because they’re animated, and in the case of Happy Feet, because the movie is about penguins.