Sunday, June 27, 2010

A libertarian tale of toys in peril
Tom Smith

If you are a kid movie consumer, you should go see Toy Story 3.  The market agrees with me, appropriately enough. (Some spoilers ahead.)  How often will you see a movie from Disney that affirms private property, republican-libertarian principles and cleverly undermines collectivist cant?  Somebody got off the reservation at the Mouse. Or maybe it's Pixar that's responsible for the goodness? (The Disney/Pixar combo also did The Incredibles, another libertarian, almost Randian classic) Or maybe this is a sign of a tectonic shift in the American zeitgeist.  Let's hope.

For those of you who are not going to be watching an animated movie about toys, the basic story is that Andy is off to college and his toys accidentally get donated to a day care center.  At first it looks an ideal retirement, a kind of rainbow (it even, very un-PCly, has a rainbow on its sign) commune where all the toys are played with by all the children instead of just being Andy's.  (The property message is not subtle.  The name Andy is written in sharpie on Woody's shoe.)  The daycare seems great at first, but it quickly emerges that it is in fact a hellish gulag, presided over by a fuzzy on the outside but hateful, wounded and nihilistic on the inside, fuzzy, purple teddy bear and his minions, including a none-too-brightl Ken (as in Barbie and).  To make a long story short, Woody bravely returns after escaping from the day care center gulag, leads his friends in a daring Stalag 13 style escape, and after a series of thrilling, diabolically clever and highly improbable perils, the good guys prevail and the evil doers get theirs and then some.  Woody and the other toys you know get given to a deserving child personally known to Andy in a morally creditable donative transaction and the day care center toy world gets put under something like a republican form of government.

Just in case you think I am making this up, at a climactic moment, Barbie (who turns out to be smarter than she looks and she is of course a hottie) proclaims (I paraphrase) "Government should not be based on the threat of force, but on the consent of the governed!"  Everything in the movie is very clever, the dialog, the physical comedy, but this moment of double-irony coming from Barbie is particularly so.  It is as if she is saying -- you think this movie is too heavy handedly libertarian?  Well here is the message then, in your face!  The other toys exchange glances as if to say -- who knew this chick read books? And by putting these words in Barbie's mouth, the movie removes by self-deprecation the criticism that it is taking its theme of family plus private property equals freedom and fulfillment too seriously.

And there is only one oblique and pretty funny dig at Christianity from Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, who I infer are Jewish.  So I guess Mel Gibson was not involved in this production.

The villains in the movie are works of genius.  These guys are completely alive to the potential creepiness of toys.

Who goes to a movie from Disney expecting the deep underlying values of freedom, family and property to be affirmed in a way that is hip but manages to evoke the innocence of childhood at the same time?  Whoever is in charge of making sure what comes out of Hollywood erodes the soul and promotes socialism really missed the boat on this one.  The movie seems resolutely non-religious, but an unmistakable metaphor for Hell makes its appearance.  The resolution of what you might call the theological drama of the movie is so clever, ironic and lighthearted, if not ultimately profound, I don't want to spoil it.  Some very smart people worked on this movie.

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Tom Smith


Very interesting post. I had similar thoughts after watching Toy Story 3

Posted by: Josh Blackman | Jun 27, 2010 3:55:39 PM