For those of you fortunate enough to have avoided exposure to this rare form of cinematic cancer, “The Emoji Movie” was released Friday. I’ve not seen the film, but I’ve heard from most critics and friends that it marks the end of the great Western tradition — what began with Homer ends with “The Emoji Movie.” The film’s mere existence is offensive on a variety of levels, but my resignation didn’t turn to anger until I read an interview touting its progressive ideology.
T.J. Miller is an alumnus of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and is the lead voice actor of “The Emoji Movie.” I hesitate to say ‘star,’ because there are no stars in “The Emoji Movie,” only black holes sucking light and joy out of the universe. But I digress.
In an oddly tense interview with The Huffington Post, Miller was asked why he chose to do “The Emoji Movie” in the same way I might ask someone why he chose to do meth. “[W]e have very few weapons in the current administration,” Miller answered, “and one of them is to target a younger demographic and try and help them understand and adopt progressive values.”
First of all, the idea that liberals like Miller have “very few weapons” against President Trump is absurd. I’d like to ask T.J. what weapons he doesn’t have now that he did have during the Obama administration. He can still vote. He can still exercise his freedoms of speech and assembly. Congress, the courts and a variety of grassroots campaigns have all mounted effective resistance against the president’s agenda, so it’s not as if the only brave souls standing up to totalitarianism are the cast and crew of a propaganda cash grab for kids.
In fact, Miller and his ilk have far more weapons than conservatives ever had against Obama. Liberals enjoy a virtual hegemony over the movies, music and TV that we all consume, and when they find themselves out of power, they take full advantage of that bully pulpit. An anti-Trump rant is standard fare at almost every concert these days.
Last time a Republican was in the White House, this revolt of the entertainment establishment got so bad that Michael Moore was actually viewed as a brave critic of George W. Bush instead of a tinfoil-hat nutjob. Say what you will about Dinesh D’Souza, but at least he never won an Oscar or got a standing ovation at Cannes.
If Trump supporters are especially defensive, it’s only because they find themselves under attack every time they turn on the TV. Miller’s attempt to use “The Emoji Movie” as anti-Trump propaganda is only the latest example.
On its face, the movie seems non-controversial. The film’s moral, according to Miller, is that “the best you is not the you that you’re doing for everyone else, but the authentic you.” We all grew up hearing this exact message from a whole panoply of animated films, and I always regarded it as apolitical. Unfortunately, nothing is allowed to be apolitical anymore.
For a postmodernist, every aspect of life is a power struggle between competing narratives, which means that everything matters. What you watch, read and listen to, and the things you do in the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom are all suddenly charged with political ideology.
Both sides have fallen into this way of thinking. In May, Trumpkins were bemoaning the cancellation of the Tim Allen sitcom “Last Man Standing,” which they saw as one of the few ‘Trump-friendly’ TV shows in existence. A few weeks ago, a small minority of “Dr. Who” fans became bitter after the casting of a female Doctor, perceiving the decision as an attempt to impose a liberal agenda on their favorite show.
Such paranoia is unhelpful, but it is important to be aware of the ideas being presented and to be able to sense when a movie deteriorates from art into propaganda.
To demand that our entertainment be devoid of ideological content would make for vapid art, but to speak of a kids’ movie as a weapon will only kick off a massive arms race.
The two sides will rush to weaponize every available cultural resource, tossing subtlety and nuance by the wayside in their efforts to convey their messages. There will be Trump-friendly shows and liberal-friendly shows, Trump music and lib music, Trump movies and lib movies.
With a little imagination, you can draw the line already.