The Once-Ler Wins Again (our take on The Lorax)

By Elizabeth Wheeler, Staff Attorney

As an environmentalist and the mother of a three-year-old, you can imagine my delight to learn that The Lorax would be Hollywood’s big kid’s movie of the year. My son has never seen a movie in the theater, and I thought that this might be our big opportunity. Much to my dismay, The Lorax movie and everything surrounding it appear to be more of business as usual than the liberal agenda indoctrination that Lou Dobbs is making it out to be. 

Let’s start with the movie itself. The AV Club gave it a C+. Not quite a failing grade, but not one that makes me eager to rush out and see the movie, either. The New York Times also gave it remarkably low marks. But what is most disheartening to me about the movie itself, as portrayed by these media outlets is summed up in the AV Club’s analysis:

“In Seuss’ book, The Lorax has a frustrated pathos, and the story focuses on his pleas on nature’s behalf as it’s destroyed around him; here, he’s a neutered punchline in a series of height gags.”

In no way am I compelled to expose my son to this type of mentality. Portraying environmentalists as the punchline of jokes only perpetuates the stereotypes about who we are and what our motives are. It’s time that we put a new face on environmentalism – one that shows that it is OK to speak up against the status quo and ask our fellow human beings to take good care of our planet. Apparently, Hollywood has refused to do just that.

But it doesn’t stop there. While Dr. Seuss’ original The Lorax was a resounding call for increasing conservation and decreasing consumption, today’s movie is merely a marketing vehicle, eschewing the original’s intent. IHOP, Target, Pottery Barn Kids are some of the many national brands that have jumped on The Lorax bandwagon. Perhaps the most egregious endorsement is the movie’s partnership with Mazda to sell that company’s latest crossover SUV. As far as automobiles go, it isn’t that great. Getting 26 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway, it doesn’t even touch the most-efficient vehicles in the U.S., let alone the 52 MPG EU standard that went into effect in 2012.

I’m not opposed to The Lorax being used for commercial purposes; Whole Foods and Seventh Generation, two companies that promote sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyles, are also co-marketing The Lorax. But cars – especially SUVs — are inherently damaging to the environment. If The Lorax could pick, wouldn’t he rather promote solar panels, or wind energy, or bicycles, or recycled handbags… anything else but an SUV? I think this year, we’ll opt for a private screening of WALL-E and skip the theater altogether.