Any film—no matter the genre or target audience—faces criticisms and controversies. However, children’s films typically face the most forms of backlash and criticism. Children and how they think about the world are susceptible to be influenced by media and movies, whether we like it or not. Their minds are innocent and ready to be sculpted, and their parents are quick to protect them from the messages of the media. Often times, children’s films have strong underlying ideological messages. The Lorax is an example of a children’s film that does this overtly by promoting an environmentalist agenda. Although The Lorax had a strong implied environmentalist thesis and faced some controversy, ultimately the positives of the film outweigh the negatives.
Dr. Seuss first wrote The Lorax as a book in 1971, and it was adapted into a movie in 1972. However, in 2012, an even newer version of The Lorax was released that was somewhat controversial. The newest film is about a young boy who lives in a world where everything is manufactured, and there are no trees or any forms of real nature. The boy, Ted, begins to wonder where all the real trees went when his love interest expresses her longing for a real tree.
Ultimately he finds a man called The Onceler, who was the cause of the extermination of trees. The Onceler tells Ted a story of how The Lorax tried to warn him not to cut down the trees and that this would ruin the environment. The Onceler tells Ted that he did not follow The Lorax's requests, and instead went on to cut down trees for his own profit - he made "thneeds" out of the trees. The Onceler finds that the money and the fame did not satisfy him, and that he regretted ever cutting down the trees in the first place. The Onceler then gives Ted the last real seed that can grow a tree, and Ted fights against the boss of a huge corporation to grow the tree in the middle of the town, Thneedville.
Despite the controversies, there were many positives to this film. First off, even if the message was enforced one too many times, the message was a positive one - to protect the environment. Teaching children that cutting down trees and leaving trash in the environment can hurt animals and the ecosystem is a positive one. The movie showed this positive message by portraying how hurt the animals were once all of the trees were gone, and how disrupted they became when The Onceler first arrived in their forest.
The film also portrayed the positive message of how important family can be. Ted's grandma ultimately is the one who tells him to find The Onceler and she helps defeat the businessman in the end of the film. All in all, the positive messages were to protect the environment and stay close with your family.
However, there were some negatives to the film. The Lorax is a film that has a strong implied environmentalist thesis that upset both leftist and conservative viewers.
On the one hand, during the whole film, the message of commercialism and manufacturing were thrown in your face. Although it may not have been shown in a positive light, consumerism was heavily portrayed throughout the film. These messages are conveyed because of how the town of Thneedville is portrayed, everything is plastic and manufactured. In the beginning of the film, the citizens even sing a song that says things like, "we buy it fresh, it comes out of this machine," and "it's where the smog, trash, and chemicals go." Now, adults can see the irony in this. However, children often miss messages of irony like this, and they could misunderstand the environmentalist message. They may only remember how much the citizens loved industrialization during most of the film.
Another negative that some saw was that the film portrayed businesses, especially lumber companies, in a negative light. Personally, I take no offense to this, since it is true - lumber companies do jeopardize the health of our Earth and its nature. However, it did, "plainly demonize the so-called 1 percent," which I thought was a bit unfair. The villain was Mr. O'Hare who owned the corporation O'Hare Air. Due to this, children might begin to associate evil people with rich businessmen, which doesn't correlate in reality.
The Lorax also faced criticism due to the fact that it was so environmentally driven. Many claimed that the film was shoving environmentalist views down children’s throats, and I would agree. Besides portraying that capitalism is awesome during the beginning of the film and how everyone needs a Thneed, The Lorax went on to portray strong messages of conserving nature and protecting animals and forests. Many stated that because of this, "Hollywood was trying to indoctrinate our children." Many parents believed that the film overstepped the bounds of a children's movie and was too driven by ideological agendas. I would agree that the film did overdo the ideological agenda by shoving the "tree-hugging" spirit down the throats of viewers.
However, this theme of protecting the environment is a positive one, so I don't see why so many members of the public were bothered by the film. The intended audience was children, who the film reached with lighthearted humor and relatable characters like Ted. Parents also were a subtle target audience of this film, as the film used irony to promote the saving of trees and the environment. They used irony by creating a town that was obsessed with consumerism and industrialization, but due to this fact it was made of plastic and everything was manufactured, which caused pollution, etc. Ultimately, this irony was a tactic that could only be understood by adults.
Besides irony, the filmmakers seemed to rely on the pathos appeal the most to convince children and adults to protect the environment. The film was emotional in that the animals were extremely hurt and sad after the trees were cut down. Who would want to harm such cute and fluffy creatures? It was also emotional because The Onceler ended up alone and his family disapproved of his greedy actions. Another emotional aspect was the call to action that the film beckoned. The Onceler said to Ted, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." After showing all of the destruction that the corporations and businessmen caused in the film, this message pulled at the heartstrings and was very effective.
Overall, I believe that this message was the strongest in this film. Destroying forests has negative consequences, and unless someone enough to stop this destruction, nothing will get better. This environmentalist viewpoint came across the most prominently throughout the film. The filmmakers used cute animals and pretty trees to convince children that forests were worth saving. I believe that although there were many negatives to the film, this message of saving the environment is extremely positive and outweighs the negatives.
For this reason, I chose to rate the film at 3 nachos. It does shove saving the environment down your throat, but this is a good message. Although they overdid the portrayal of this message, it is something that kids need to learn. I would recommend children to watch The Lorax, since it is beneficial for young people to understand that the environment is important.