The Corner

The Toy Story 3 Election

My favorite example of 2010 election analysis? It’s this article in the Los Angeles Times by Andrew Klavan, on that well-known wingnut movie Toy Story 3, whose DVD was officially released on Election Day:

Consider the premise of the film. Andy is going off to college, leaving his toys behind. Chief among those toys — chief among the figures that have peopled and shaped the boy’s imagination — are two iconic figures of American culture, a cowboy and an astronaut. The cowboy, Woody, representing the heroic mythos of the American past, is a paragon of age-old virtues: loyalty, indomitable courage and resourcefulness. The astronaut, Buzz Lightyear, representing America in the Space Age, is a figure of hilariously boundless optimism, determined to go “to infinity and beyond.” Both of these virile, lovable archetypes are anachronisms, most familiar to those of us who grew up before the radical transformation of American culture that began in the late 1960s.

Woody, Buzz and their fellow toys are hurled into precisely that transformed culture when they are donated to a daycare center deceptively named Sunnyside. Here, they meet the modern American paradigms: Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, Big Baby and the shallow, metrosexual Ken doll. At first, the toys are deceived by the center’s all-welcoming appearance, especially the pervasive symbol of so-called diversity. “It’s nice!” one toy remarks on arriving. “See: the door has a rainbow on it!”

What’s more, Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear promises the toys that they are entering a better societal model than the old-fashioned family, one that is free, especially, from the grief of ownership. “No owners means no heartbreak,” the bear says. “At Sunnyside, we own ourselves.” Maybe he should’ve thrown in something about redistributing wealth and taking over the means of production, but it’s a kid’s movie, so never mind.

Soon, however, the toys find out that the hope and change of Sunnyside are all illusion, a mask for a two-tiered system of high-living corrupt overseers and their abused underlings. “This isn’t a family,” one toy shouts. “It’s a prison!” Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear, the exemplar of compassion, is a bitter tyrant. Big Baby, compassion’s coddled and perennial victim, is an overbearing monster. And Ken, with his wardrobe full of costumes from the 1960s and ’70s, is a vain, empty and unmanly tool of his evil masters.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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