By: Ellie Mulvaney and Irene Cohen
Many children’s movies are made with themes that are much less superficial than the frivolous, kid-friendly plots that house them. Often, messages and lessons are disguised in how the characters interact and the way conflict is resolved in order to teach life skills in an intertwining way. ’The Lorax’, originally written by Dr. Seuss, and directed by Chris Renaud, is no exception.
The story follows one Ted Wiggins, a teenage boy living in a seemingly perfect town, though one that is almost entirely artificial. In his quest to find a real tree for the girl he likes, he travels outside the gates of town, against the wishes of the mayor, and antagonist, Mr. O’Hare. He finds a barren and dead landscape, and a man by the name of The Oncler, who retells the story of how his business ruined the surrounding land, resulting in the fake city with no real plants that Ted lives in.
In this, the viewer sees the once thriving ecosystem that once existed, and the Lorax, a creature who protected it. As The Oncler went against the Lorax’s demands to leave the trees alone, we can see the depleting resources for the animals who live there, and the further destruction as the company becomes more large scale. By creating these animal characters, that children come to befriend during the former half of the film, it builds their empathy for when these same animals eventually have to leave what was once their home due to the pollution.
The film even includes a famous Dr. Seuss quote spoken by The Oncler; “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” By teaching children the importance of their actions and their own effect on the world they live in, ‘The Lorax’ film effectively helps raise an awareness of oneself in the future generations, and an understanding of the human footprint on our planet.
Much like in the real world, the depletion of these natural resources, the Truffula trees, and resulting pollution is not the goal, it is a mere side effect of the Onceler’s greed. The Onceler doesn’t care about anything other than his objective of being as wealthy as he can possibly be, no matter the consequences.
In the beginning of the movie, the Onceler is not respected by his relatives because of his lack of his success, but as the plot progresses, and he makes more and more profit off of the Thneeds he produces, he begins to gain their respect. This criticizes our society’s standard of success, because even though his production of these Thneeds is devastating the environment, it doesn’t matter as long as it is “helping the economy.”
In the song “How Bad Can I Be?” it is explicitly stated by the Onceler what he thinks is important in life. It says:
The people with the money (people with the money) Make this ever-loving world go ’round
So I’m biggering my company, I’m biggering my factory, I’m biggering my corporate size.
Everybody out there, take care of yours and me? I’ll take care. of.
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.
This is an excerpt from the song. We see that the Onceler knows that the people in power are the people with the money, so he will continue to expand his company at the cost of decimating entire forests of Truffula trees and polluting the ecosystem. He believes he should be able to continue this pollution in the name of his company without anyone criticizing him so he can continue generating profit.
All of this ravaging of the ecosystem results in the extinction of Truffula trees, which were the main source of oxygen for the people of the town. Since this natural resource is now scarce, Mr. O’Hare takes advantage of this and commodifies oxygen, a basic right. He begins to sell bottled oxygen to the citizens of his town, something that was once free and natural is now just another commercialized item.
‘The Lorax’ movie cautions its viewers of what capitalist greed could ultimately lead to. When those in power are those who control the economy, society will not progress. To be in control of the economy, you first have to let go of human decency in order to exploit and ruin the lives of others. Basic human rights should never be commodified or considered a luxury.