Cartoon Indoctrination: Anti-Obama Propaganda Gets Packaged for Kids

City Pulse | November 8, 2010
Riffing on the same foolhardy villain-as-good-guy-protagonist motif that contributed to the confused premise of this year's "Despicable Me," "Megamind" is a resounding flop. Two wacky babies from far off galaxies take very different paths when they arrive on Earth. As an infant, the future super-hero Metro Man lands in the lap of luxury with a wealthy family. The blue-skinned Megamind hits smack in prison. Brad Pitt is voice to Metro City's much beloved if patronizing Metro Man who must continually face off against his ex-con rival Megamind (Will Ferrell) and space-fish assistant Minion (David Cross). Megamind finally gets a leg up on his annoyingly charismatic opponent but doesn't have much of a plan for running the town, much less the world, without an enemy of Metro Man's stature to measure himself against. Jonah Hill voices a geeky television news cameraman named Hal who Megamind chooses to transform into his newest adversary using a dash of Metro Man's DNA. Local news broadcaster Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) is caught in the middle as every hero's and villain's love object. Tedious, mechanical, and thematically engineered to teach tikes the wrong kinds of lessons, "Megamind" is an animated movie parents will regret taking their kids to see. Even the 3D effects are lame.

"Megamind" opens with a lightly seeded sociological experiment involving the influence of environment over a person's life path. Handsome Caucasian baby Metro Man has lots of gifts under the Christmas tree every year as part of his adoptive parent's entitled status. Blue baby Megamind is concerned with more pressing issues, like breaking out of prison. Will Ferrell's underprivileged but intelligent misfit can be read as representing illegal aliens and/or African American archetypes. There's some cinematic sleight-of-hand that allows Ferrell to sell Megamind's ethically-challenged personality disguised inside Ferrell's signature off-kilter brand of ironic humor. It's a purposely banal approach whose neutrality is an ideal vehicle for subversive subtext.

We know from Brad Pitt's voice that Metro Man's patriotism is implacable, and yet we later discover a loose stitch in our presumption. Everyone, even Fey's Roxanne Ritchi is duplicitous. As the story hits its early surprise plot twist, we witness a reflection of America's social collapse with Mr. Megamind overseeing the carnage of infrastructure.

The filmmakers make a direct visual correlation between Megamind and President Obama during a public address speech on an outdoor staircase where giant Shepherd Fairey-inspired red-and-blue posters show Megamind's face similar to Obama's pose in Fariey's original poster. However, instead of the famous "Yes We Can" slogan, here we're openly told "No We Can't." This type of underhanded propaganda delivery system could be construed as evidence that we are living in an age of reverse-engineered misinformation, or at least message-loaded rhetoric.

"What if the bad guy won?" The film's tagline holds more than a little innuendo regarding the last Presidential election. Read this way, "Megamind" offers an apocalyptic vision of America under a leader who has no plan of action for establishing a peaceful society for the country's citizens.

There's no mistaking the rules of a game where a popular alien super-hero is loved for his Caucasian square-jawed Republican swagger. Said super-hero is temporarily knocked out of the political landscape, during which time society collapses. It's not a far stretch to read this as mirroring the Republican's loss of the White House in 2008, and their avowed return in 2012.

Whether or not the screenwriters, director, cast or crew were consciously aware that they were participating in a piece of anti-Obama satire, is a mute point. The film contains overwhelming examples of rampant societal destruction that are troubling. I don't know if "Megamind" is a dangerous film, but it is definitely one with an agenda.

Rated PG. 96 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)
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