Assessing the midterms is child’s play
If indications hold true, voters Tuesday will deliver a powerful rebuke to the Obama administration and its plans to transform America. Also, “Toy Story 3” will come out on DVD. These two events are not unrelated.
Last summer’s Pixar blockbuster — one of the best American films in a decade — was a similar rebuke, not perhaps to the Obama White House specifically but to its underlying ideas. The fact that the film was such an immense hit, earning back over half its estimated $200-million budget in a single weekend, should have served as a warning that Americans, though they might like the president personally, do not share his agenda.
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.
By the time the full agenda of Sunnyside is revealed, even the shallowest of the toys — Barbie, of course — defiantly cries out the credo of our Declaration of Independence: “Authority should be derived from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force!”
What follows is an escape adventure as thrilling, funny and touching as any Hollywood has ever made.
Which brings us back to the midterm election, which may also be the beginning of a narrow escape indeed — a narrow escape from a leftist culture that has sought for 40 years to people and shape our imaginations with Lots-o'-Huggin’ Bears, Big Babies and sissified men; an escape from race-baiters and gender warriors who have sought to take away our pride in our heroic cowboy past and replace it with a droning litany of our all-too-human sins; an escape from an intellectual and political elite who have attempted to destroy our Space Age optimism by selling us environmental hysteria, guilt and fear.
Most of all, let’s hope this “Toy Story 3” election is the beginning of an escape from the smothering notion that we are helpless victims who need to live in a daycare state that supplies our every need. Perhaps then we can return to the great American conception of ourselves as loyal, courageous and resourceful individuals fashioned by our creator to be free, and well able to find our own way to infinity and beyond.
Andrew Klavan’s latest crime novel, “The Identity Man,” has just been published.