Environmentalism and Children’s Entertainment
When I was a kid in the 1980s/90s, children’s movies and TV shows with a hardline pro-environmentalism message were common place. Think FernGully, Captain Planet, Widget the World Watcher, The World of David the Gnome. It coincided with a wave of environmental awareness in the 1980s with the discovery that human activity is destroying the ozone layer (I remember a joke in Full House about how Uncle Jesse used so much hair spray that there’s a hole in the ozone layer above him wherever he walks) among awareness of other ecological disasters.
Environmentalism faded into the background throughout the 1990s* until acknowledgment of man-made climate change and its serious impact in the mid-2000s made environmentalism a mainstream issue again. Of course this time around, an enviornmental stance is a staunchly political one and so a children’s movie carrying a hardline pro-environmentalism message is viewed by many as controversial and ‘left-wing indoctrination’ (eg. The Lorax, Wall-E).** Tis a shame. I’m kind of glad I grew up when I did.
* Environmental messages still showed up in children’s fare during this time but in less direct ways. See, for example, Disney’s Pocahontas (1995) and Tarzan (1999). Of course, a soft pro-environmental stance is a common subtext in Disney films stretching back to Bambi (1942). Kind of unavoidable when a lot of your characters are lovable talking animals.
** Maybe you agree that politics should stay out of kids’ movies, but I think it’s unavoidable. We will inevitably be sending messages to our kids through their entertainment seeing as we already attempt to hold up some moral code on what is appropriate for children or not. Politics, whether we like it or not, shape that moral code. Hopefully the gun lobby doesn’t realise how staunchly anti-gun so many kids’ movies are. Where will the indoctrination end!