Let’s face it: Netflix has a Queue capacity of 500 titles for a reason. We browse, we see something interesting, we add it, then it’s promptly forgotten, until eventually the wealth of titles sitting there that we know we’re supposed to be interested in is just too overwhelming. If only there were someone willing to watch all those movies for us, both old and new, and let us know which ones were really worth our time. If only there were someone willing to go… Through the Queue.
This week’s choice: The Lorax
Dr. Seuss was certainly a visionary, capturing the imagination of children through rhyme and whimsical imagery, while conveying (in this instance) an underlying message to value the environment. That’s not what Universal Pictures’ version is entirely about. Apparently that surprised some people. True enough there’s some talk of trees, but if you stop just a moment and listen to me, you’ll realize there’s far more for you here to see: a tale ostensibly about Ted and Audrey, is really a tale of what it means to believe.
Audrey is a girl who lives in the city of Thneedville, where rampant consumerism drove everyone to live behind protected walls and purchase bottled air, no longer made naturally clean due to the absence of trees. Audrey dreams of seeing a tree, idealizing these imagined things that only older folk tell stories about. Ted is a boy desperate to win Audrey’s attention, and the moment he realizes she cares about trees, Ted sees the opportunity to wend his way into her heart.
Ted sets out on a quest to find a seed to plant, risking his own life and safety for something he only vicariously has any interest for. Ted ventures outside the walls to speak to a mysterious character known as the Once-ler, who sees something in Ted that’s worth trusting. The Once-ler sees Ted is idealistic, that he is passionate and willing to fight for a cause, where the Once-ler had previously given up hope, or felt defeated.
As Ted ultimately returns to Thneedville he must face off against the corporate forces which don’t want Ted to disrupt their grip on the economy. Ted and Audrey together flit through the city, evading goons in search of a simple patch of dirt which has the power to make both their dreams come true. The mystery of this movie isn’t the message of Seuss then. It’s the following revelation: idealism is the impetus of love.
Audrey expressed to Ted what she desired, what she most wanted to see from life, giving Ted the opportunity to express his feelings for her, to participate in something and pursue a cause to prove to both Audrey and himself that his feelings for her were so great that he’d go to the ends of the earth and back, that he would risk everything. Simply to give her what she desired. Had Audrey not expressed her ideals, Ted would never have had that opportunity.
Had Ted not cared passionately for a thing, for any reason, he never would have met the Once-ler, who would have remained locked in his tower, despondent and believing that there was no one out there who had the power to change the world. Ted’s dogged pursuit of his mission led the Once-ler to believe that there was cause for hope, that the planting of one single seed could return something beautiful to this barren world. All of this began simply with Audrey, to whom Ted returned, to grow a mutually desired thing.
The book’s message of environmentalism may still be there, beneath these layers. If you examine this film more closely you’ll see that the true idea here expressed is that caring and fighting for something, in and of itself, is a valuable thing. In Seuss’ message the valuable thing worth fighting for was the trees. In Universal’s message, the valuable thing worth fighting for was the heart of Audrey. In either event, aren’t those concepts fundamentally the same?
If you care to see some change in this world, whether striving for trees or for love, without the expression of that desire no one around you will rally to your cause. Without voicing to the world what it is that you want, only then will it most certainly never be found. If we each speak as Audrey, of dreams that are seemingly impossible, only then might we hope to strike a chord in some Ted, who has the power to create the sort of world in which we want to live.
So watch The Lorax. And remember what it’s like to fight for something. Remember what it’s like to believe.