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The interwebz has been roaring in the wake of Eric Bolling’s “Follow the Money” segment that accused the creators of “The Muppets,” Roland Emmerich and Hollywood at large of brainwashing the minds of the kids of America. According to the program, the film is doing its part to spread the red (subliminal Marxist programming) by luring the wee ones in with the endearing felt-made friends, and the charm of Jason Segel, only to unleash the grander liberal agenda when they are distracted by unmitigated delight.
The Fox Business Network and Media Matters show explained that the selection of a “successful business man” (Tex Richman) as the primary villain in the film is indicative of a large scale campaign to ensure that the upcoming generation is teeming with little Lennons and Lenins (either John or Vladimir will do). The ideal populace will also be sprinkled with Rasputin – for flavor.
Proselytizing! Well, if one network would know it when it sees it...
For those who have not seen “The Muppets,” Richman is an oil tycoon who has nefarious plans to raze the Muppets studio and drill for the black gold that lies beneath. The benefits are twofold: an end to the gang's cheery rapport along with an influx of cold hard cash! In truth the character, like much of the film, is rather overtly aware of its own anachronistic nature. He fits with the tone of the whole of the film, which notes that it acts like a 50s musical come to life in modern day Los Angeles. In fact Walter (new Muppet and brother to Segel’s Gary) mimics Richman in a tone that is reminiscent of an old Edward G. Robinson baddie, to which Amy Adams responds, “Do people even talk like that anymore?” This exchange takes place in the clip that Fox used to illustrate its point about the film by the by.
The lower thirds in the “Follow the Money” program read: “Are liberals trying to brainwash your kids against capitalism?” To reiterate the query Bolling (in a shining display of the objective journalism we have grown to know and love in our modern media) asked guest Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center, “Is liberal Hollywood using class warfare to brainwash kids?” Gainor responded, “Yeah absolutely, and they’ve been doing it for decades.”
Gainor went on to list several films that also attacked the oil industry including, “Syriana,” “There Will Be Blood” and what he referred to as “the Al Gore-influenced film," Roland Emmerich's “The Day After Tomorrow.” The “expert” claimed that these films ignore the purpose that oil serves in reality: lighting hospitals and heating homes. Host and guest go on to, in essence, attribute the Occupy Wall Street movement to an overindulgence in TV and “The Matrix” (which they believe proposes that mankind is a virus “ravaging” mother earth).
The choicest portion of the segment comes at the close when Bolling shares the tale of his poor family’s response when they would come across a wealthy community member when he was a child. His mom and dad would say, “See that guy? He started a business, he worked hard, you can be like that one day.” If only his own parents hadn’t been so lazy!
I don’t doubt that Bolling felt inspired by his parents and that is all well and good. It simply seems like an equally childish, black and white picture of wealth in America, though. The difference of course is that the stereotype in the kids film...knows it is presenting a comically limited image.
As it is to be expected several entertainment journalists have had their say on the matter, with the overwhelming consensus being that Fox is out of its mind. I actually found watching the segment hilarious...until it made me sad. I will not argue that Tex Richman (portrayed by Chris Cooper in the film) is a caricature; the film indeed references his cartoonish nature as we have mentioned. And filmmakers clearly do utilize the medium to express their political perspectives.
Aside from Fox’s “media expert” needing a crash course in the larger themes present in “The Matrix” trilogy, it is the methods that are employed to deliver the messages that I find tragicomic. They repeat inflammatory phrases, make large logical jumps, present sweeping claims with cursory “evidence” and regularly engage in ad hominem arguments. We will not even touch the intrinsically capitalistic nature of show business. We will point out that one of the properties in question is a narrative film with puppets and one (at least in theory) is a news program.
We aren’t saying anything new, of course. This has been the nature of our public dialog for as long as many of us can remember. Fox, like Hollywood, wants to make money. There is an appetite for this sort of hyperbole and they are there to feed it.
Jon Stewart pointed out the distinction between comedy and news programming years ago in his now famous appearance on CNN's “Crossfire,” but the discourse seems to have gotten more polarized, more like a 24 hour comedy sketch than adult conversation with the passage of time. Perhaps there is a place for a discussion about a cinema’s role in geopolitics; I certainly believe that there is. This program, however, is not it.
When the comics (the jesters and the fools) are the ones consistently making the most sense, we can be sure that we really have devolved into the cultural equivalent to a Shakespearean tragedy.
Here is the segment in question:
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