It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
No, it’s Astro Boy – the liberal messiah come to rescue the future from the polluting, warmongering, science-hating, tax-cutting, poor-oppressing, patriotic, capitalist, evil clutches of President Bush!
At last, a superhero for the ages, the perfect son of a god, who died and rose again to cleanse the land of wicked, red-state energy!
And, yes, I’m speaking tongue-in-cheek. And, yes, this film really does go that overboard to make its snide disdain for all things Bush, conservative and Republican just that obvious.
And I’m not even a fan of President Bush. I thought his administration was a colossal disaster. But the glaring politicization of this cartoon flick by Hollywood leftists was jaw-dropping in its flagrancy.
To be clear, there are two strong metaphors that play throughout “Astro Boy.” The first is surprisingly messianic, a parallel to the story of Christ, which – were it not for the blatant political themes – would have made the film a fascinating spiritual study.
In the floating cloud paradise (a phrase the film actually uses) of Metro City, the heralded architect of the idyllic land, Dr. Tenma, crafts in his workshop a robotic son, Astro Boy.
Of this son, the father croons, “You’re perfect, perfect.”
But just as Astro Boy is beginning to discover his marvelous powers, the father rejects the son (or as Christ called from the Cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”), and the boy descends into hell – in this case, a creepy robot graveyard on “the surface” – where he eventually leads the captives free. He even brings a fellow robot back to life with the power his father gave him.
But in Astro Boy’s quest to vanquish the prime evil of the land, he must sacrifice himself, give his very life to rescue humanity.
And yet, just as society mourns the loss of their savior, he rises again, gaining ultimate victory over his foe and forging the mission forward to be the protector of his people.
Hmm. Sounds familiar. Almost like … Jesus.
“Astro Boy” – were it not for the political potshots – could have been an inspirational science-fiction story with noteworthy messianic themes, much like “Star Wars” or “The Matrix” (though I know these films introduced very unchristian themes as well, their parallels to the Christ story were undeniable).
Alas, another, stronger metaphor permeated “Astro Boy.”
The political worldview of the filmmakers began in the movie’s opening narration, explaining how society polluted the surface of the earth to a wasteland, thus necessitating Metro City’s rise into the clouds. A second environmental plug comes shortly into the film, with a dig against nuclear energy.
The prime target of the political metaphor, however, is the character of President Bush – er, I mean, President Stone (voiced by Donald Sutherland).
Stone only cares about one thing: getting reelected. And to achieve his goal …
“I cut taxes for very influential people,” he muses, insisting it will get him votes.
“Declare war; this is going to get me reelected!” Particularly a war against the lower class, the people who live “on the surface.”
And the theme of his campaign, plastered across the city hall for all to read: “It’s not time for change.”
Oh, if only there were a candidate of hope and change to save us from President Stone … but I digress.
President Stone’s fascination with the power of the red core vs. the feel-good, kind, blue core (it’s a consistent theme of the story) could have easily been a veiled metaphor for states that vote Republican vs. Democrat in the presidential election.
But no veiling was needed for some of the other messages of the film, including Astro Boy’s allies, the Robot Revolutionary Front, who plaster Lenin and Trotsky posters on their walls and celebrate when others are “quaking in their capitalistic boots.”
The most egregious political potshot in my mind, however, was the insulting insinuation behind the name given to President Stone’s most frightening weapon. His nuclear-option, massive machine of devastation that terrorized even the soldiers in his army was diabolically dubbed … “The Spirit of Freedom.”
Perhaps the moviemakers figured the politics would go right over our children’s heads in this cartoon film. Perhaps they were softening up our kids to their worldview. Or perhaps they were just chuckling to themselves as they threw in their snarky little liberal jokes.
Regardless of their motivation, however, I, for one, did not leave the theater laughing.
- “Astro Boy” has some adventure peril and violence, including robots battling, buildings falling and so forth, but shouldn’t be too frightening for a PG audience.
- The death of a child early in the film presents a sober theme, but the boy merely disappears in a flash of light, leaving his cap behind. The film doesn’t dwell much on the death itself, but does linger over the father’s grief.
- The film’s only sexuality consists of a character receiving a hypodermic shot in his bare behind (seen from the side) and a bikini-clad gal sunbathing. Astro Boy also comments when machine guns emerge unexpectedly from his “butt,” and President Stone mentions he has had multiple wives.
- Profanity is virtually nonexistent, with one use each of “O my God” and “kick butt.”
- The film doesn’t contain any overt religious or occult themes, other than the messianic metaphors discussed above.