Listen, Jena, I don't like talking about the moral of Green Eggs and Ham. We all loved that book long, long before we realized the doctor was teaching us not to refuse new experiences. Now that I know, I can still enjoy the book, and even learn from it, but not if someone starts talking about its message or moral. Now that a film adaptation of The Lorax is in theaters, I'm seeing way too much about the movie's message and not enough about story, that spoonful of sugar that helps the moral go down.
On March 2, NPR's Andrew Larpin wrote about a little controversy surrounding a new ad for Mazda's new SUV, featuring the Lorax and other characters from the story who seem to approve of the 35-mile-per-gallon clunker. Obviously, for a story like the Lorax, which mourns the loss of trees, this is a strange choice. But for a production company, trying to profit from a film as much as possible, this seems pretty straight forward. The movie was made at worst to cash in on the Seuss name and at best to tell a fun story.
Usually organizations post "the views expressed do not necessarily represent" disclaimers when they're afraid a speaker might say something bad. Maybe film producers should post the same kind of thing on movies with potentially valuable messages, just to clear the air. Maybe Avatar should've started with a note explaining that Fox in no way planned to back the anti-colonial, green statement made by the film. That way, when Avatar grossed millions and gave nothing to support such causes, no one would be surprised.
Likewise, Fox news pundits attacked the recent Muppets movie for being propaganda, because the villain of the piece was an oil tycoon. When asked about this at a press conference, Kermit replied (really) that it'd be a strange propaganda piece, since the Muppets roll around in an SUV for much of the film.
I know that many stories offer answers and lessons and I think most of my values were developed in reading. But I don't like hearing about the lessons. Stories demonstrate opinions and truth the way cooking eggs would. If, in a film, an egg is left on the stove and burns, one could say there's a lesson in there about good cooking, wasting power, the futility of homemaking, whatever you want to talk about. Stories aren't soapboxes to stand and preach on. If they were, we wouldn't need soapboxes once they'd been emptied of soap.