We live in an age where even a film with characters made of felt can be considered propaganda. No doubt you will have stumbled upon this recent news report from Fox News anchor Eric Bolling accusing feel-good nostalgia behemoth The Muppets of brainwashing our children with a left-wing, anti-capitalist agenda. I wish I were making this up:
Now, for the time being let’s ignore the obvious irony that Disney, the studio behind The Muppets, is itself a massive American corporation, so any anti-industry message the film may or may not carry will look a little weak next to the $160 million its generated for the cash swimming pools of American businessmen. But let’s just stop for a moment and consider what we’ve come to: we’re accusing the Muppets of lying to us? Muppets aren’t very good political mouthpieces, because, y’know, they’re goddamn puppets. You would think that any attempts at Muppet-based indoctrination would be undone somewhat by the fact that they have glued-on eyes. I fail to see how wocka wocka is some kind of liberal environmentalist rallying call.
I suppose if you can find a subterranean political agenda in The Muppets then you can find it in anything, and all this talk of enterprise-hating puppets has made me paranoid. I keep seeing hidden messages everywhere, even (perhaps especially) in places where they would make the least sense. If the liberal media could co-opt Kermit into feeding us a big old dose of tree-hugging and same-sex marriage, could videogames have been secretly conditioning me into a muesli-eating, electric car-driving communist all these years? Look, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you.
The only problem with this conspiracy theory is that videogames tend to be, by and large, painfully right-wing. Some of the most popular gaming franchises to date – your Modern Warfares and your Battlefields – feature the most jingoistic rhetoric you’ll see in any medium. It’s all very America, f*ck yeah. They may occasionally indulge in fleeting moments of futility-of-war thematic handwringing, but it usually comes off feeling a bit token. Both Gears of War 3 and Modern Warfare 3 tried to inject some emotional gravity into their stories by killing off main characters in the third act, but all the strained oh, war is hell nonsense felt a little cursory considering the relish with which the characters take part in murder when they get on the battlefield (which is most of the game, incidentally). Mostly, though it’s Western Imperialist-o’-clock in the modern shooter genre, and you often steamroller through a vast catalogue of foreign nations policing the world. Homefront even manages to throw in a little bit of mild xenophobia.
But the liberal media is too devious to announce its intentions so flagrantly, and they choose to hide their agenda in plain sight. Consider, for example, the Mario games, which imply that a foreigner can come into our country, take all of our good British plumbing jobs, and romance a Princess. True to its sniveling, leftist leanings, the games also push a bit of an anti-royalist message with the Bowser character, an impotent and archaic relic of a forgotten kingdom. Mario, the (probably illegal) Italian immigrant who hasn’t even bothered to learn the language (have you noticed how bad Mario’s English is?) is shown routinely trouncing the monarchy in these games, and that can’t be a good message for our kids. Do you want an Italian plumber to murder the Queen, England? Is that what you want? Because that’s what will happen if you allow your children to play this propaganda.
Similarly, the Sonic the Hedgehog games have been pushing an enterprise-hating, anti-capitalist agenda on impressionable minds for generations. The game is basically a Green Party revenge fantasy – you play a Gaia-worshipping ecowarrior hedgehog in a quest to destroy industry and free enterprise. Eggman is the demonized captain of industry in this scenario, and Sonic sets out not only to destroy all of his robots, but also steal his wealth in the form of golden rings. Never mind that Eggman is an entrepreneurial go-getter of which capitalism could be proud, or that his robots probably create jobs for decent, hard-working woodland creatures. I’m sure Sonic will probably take those gold rings and distribute them evenly amongst his friends like the filthy commie he is. It might as well be Lenin the Hedgehog.
The game that I worry about is Tetris, because it’s clearly a communist brainwashing tool left over from the Cold War. There’s something so furiously addictive about Tetris, the endless arrangement of blocks and cubes to form rows, that I feel like something is being imprinted onto my brain. The pixelated Kremlin to the side of the screen should be a dead give away – it must surely be only a matter of time before some kind of trigger from Moscow comes and our Manchurian Candidate programming will kick in. What else could the rows of multi-coloured shapes contain except subliminal messages conditioning us to rise and overthrow democracy?