Maybe, for your own sanity, you just shouldn’t look up other people’s opinions on the internet. If you are reading this then you may have already made that mistake…. Heck, you already got THIS far so let’s stick together like birds of a feather… It is not often we get to write about a movie, let alone a kid’s cartoon based upon a computer game. I made the mistake of looking this one up on the Internet Movie Database and glanced through the public reviews. What an eye-opener. It is a measure of how much the alt-right has bent reality around their world-view that punters (who support Donald Trump-and-his-ilk in the USA) think this movie speaks for them. No, seriously. Of course to any simpleton this tale of a misfit under-dog rapidly rising to save his people from thieving piggies can be made to fit any situation. It is the fact that these dullards do this using the most inappropriate example just takes my breath away. I was astonished at the utter lack of irony or introspection.
The 97 minute Sony Pictures Entertainment Angry Birds Movie was something I took my daughter to see at the cinema when it was first released in 2016. It was enjoyable enough and we have subsequently watched it through a few times after its release to satellite. Then it became a bit addictive… Who knows why. Maybe the combination of Black Sabbath and Limp Bizkit on the soundtrack. Maybe the wacky references “The Shining” and “The Full Monty”.. Who knows but it has grown on us so much I thought I would look it up on the IMDB.com to see how it fared with the rest of the general public. And when we say “general public” we are forced to mean the North American public. Wow. Lesson One: yup, regardless of context this movie has quickly turned into a family favourite and was earning fave reviews across the internet amongst ordinary families who enjoy movies. There is comfort in knowing it isn’t just you. Lesson two: there are plenty of whack-jobs on the internet (who knew?!)
Stepping back for a second: for those of you who don’t know anything on this topic a brief intro: Angry Birds started out as a simple video game by Rovio Entertainment in which small round birds are fired with a catapult at various poorly balanced architectural features occupied by nefarious green pigs. The objective being to destroy the pig fortifications whilst using as few of your birds as possible.
Its popularity was so immense that they turned it animations and finally this feature-length big-budget movie. You might find it hard to believe that such a limited premise for a plot could be spun out into a feature-length CG animation but they pulled it off. Well, nearly. The running gag of the movie is that the flightless Birds of Bird Island are NOT angry. In fact they define their very culture around the corner-stone principle of their placid and peaceable nature. This ends with the arrival of the green piggies. Suddenly the Birds find themselves ill-equipped and lacking leadership when the bad piggies steal the Bird’s most precious possessions. To set everything straight they need to unleash their anger. Stepping up is our unlikely hero – a bird called Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), who has anger enough to fit the bill.
Superficially this enjoyable romp is your typical underdog-saves-the-day kinda thing that Hollywood churn out en masse. Very similar themes appeared in the equally enjoyable family film “Trolls” [DreamWorks Animation 2016] in the same year. However consideration of the plot reveals some slightly more disturbing undercurrent. Scratch the surface a little and you start to wonder what kind of lesson is it for our children when we celebrate ANGER as a desirable reaction? One of the buildings destroyed by the Birds on Piggy Island is “Hamnesty International” – an obvious pun based upon human rights champions Amnesty International.
The other main hero in the movie (however unlikely) is a “Mighty” Bald Eagle (voiced by Peter Dinklage known for voicing Captain Gutt in “Ice Age: Continental Drift”). The Bird Island population look up to Mighty Eagle as their deity, saviour and guardian. Since such an Eagle is the national symbol of the United States of America this has lead directly to some horrible results on the pages of the IMDB. Several punters concluded that the movie demonstrates the “importance of Patriotism” and even that Red represents Donald Trump.
So is The Angry Bird Movie a stealthy alt-right propaganda piece? Are we to believe that these cuddly cartoon birds can be identified as the current incumbents of the White House? Are the bad piggies representative of the liberal-left conspiracy to enslave the white master race under the yoke of human rights?
Such conclusions reveal more about the culture of the alt-right and their supporters than it does about this movie. Our evidence for this is the movie itself. Exhibit A: the bad piggies main cultural import to Bird Island is a Cowboy Show. I will let that sink in. A COWBOY show… The “Mighty” Eagle himself is retired (gag: “mostly just tired”) and lives by himself in an orgy of self-obsessed-narcissism. He collects faux trophies to past glories, looks at himself in a mirror that distorts his reflection in a manner that makes him look awesomely muscular, all the time whiling his time away disco dancing and singing karaoke. When they need him to help he lets them down preferring to rest on his laurels and just be an inspiration.
Quite… Hard to see this as a glowing testimony to the spirit of the American way is it?
The Birds of Bird Island are, from the pigs’ point of view “simple” and “quaint” (read: “backward”). They quickly introduce the Birds to the modern world in the shape of polluting motor vehicles, loud music, barbecues, helium balloons, explosives, cameras, social media, trampolines and, yes, catapults. Whilst the Birds are distracted by these modern wonders they pigs make off with [spoiler alert] the Bird’s children, in the shape of their eggs.
In the ultimate show-down between Birds and Pigs to recover the eggs King Mudbeard (aka ‘Leonard’ voiced by Bill Hader known for voicing “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “Inside Out”) tells his followers that the Birds are “repaying their friendship” with an “unprovoked attack“. It is really hard not to recall the way in which modern Western Nations have used over-whelming technical and military superiority to crush small third world nations in the name of self-defence. Indeed was Tony Blair who defended the Iraq War with the excuse that boiled down to “they started it”.
It is all so reminiscent of the kinds of resource-extraction that developing world nations have endured for so long at the hand of neo-imperialists. Africa would be the richest continent on the planet if it actually owned all of its own natural resources. Yet we go to these places and we expect the right to plunder without any consequence. In “The Angry Birds Movie” there are numerous attempts by the birds to rescue the eggs, the Piggy King repeatedly expresses outrage that the birds should want back what was stolen from them. Mudbeard pervades a sense of entitlement. He genuinely believes these eggs are his. He reckons that the eggs are bought and paid for in exchange for the pig’s kindness. It is the level of delusion & chutzpah that we normally reserve for the idiots who believe that Brexit means “getting their country back”. The piggy king decries an attempt to liberate the eggs asking “what is he doing up there?” (referring to the rescuer) “this is a civilised buffet” (referring to the egg banquet he plans).
“Civilised buffet”. The birds see it differently. These aren’t just eggs. These are their children. Their children have been kidnapped. Hardly the act of enlightened or civilised people. Yet at no point do the kidnappers seem cognisant of their crime. They appear genuinely baffled that these birds should want their children back as if unable to understand that another species would have similar parental feelings. That is what it must feel to be crushed under the heel of western power.
So, regardless of the misinterpretation of a couple of the more disturbing undercurrents, this movie turns out to be pretty regular Hollywood fare – and a highly liberal one at that. The pigs, although well disguised, still represent your typical Patriotic-uber-Nationalist-Republican-American bad guys. They corrupt the simple and clean lives of the developing-world Birds with their modernity then steal everything they Birds have. Red emerges as unlikely hero because HIS hero (Mighty Eagle) proves to be such a useless disappointment. He leads the birds on a voyage to take back what is their’s from the pig’s big city with the only weapon they have: the catapult that the pigs gave them. (Let that sink in. Think aeroplanes and skyscrapers.)
Red maybe all things to all people: Che Guevara, Noam Chomsky, Osama bin Laden, you name it. Hero or villain he is no Donald Trump. Red is not a Patriot and he displays no Nationalist zeal for Bird Island. What he shows is empathy for the parents who lost their children. He cares not a jot for the cultural norms of the Birds but he feels pain for the lives of others despite never having experienced being a parent himself. This ability to empathise and sacrifice his life for the sake of other people’s children paints him purely into the liberal-hero mould. He doesn’t go into battle for his King and Country. He doesn’t give a shit for all that. He cares only for the people around him with which he has next to nothing in common with. He is the outcast who wins the big battle against the pigs because he controlled his anger and formed a clever plan to get back the eggs.
It may well be the well-disguised genius in this family movie that people can identify whatever they like into the folds of its plot. Undoubtedly little of this was top of the minds of the story-writers. They just wanted to create a commercial entertaining movie. The main artistic thrust is in the mixing up the cartoon bad guys and cartoon good guys in such a way that the movie defies simplistic interpretation. It remains, for want of a better word “clever” even if it lacks some sophistication. Certain elements of the plot are a big let down and, let’s face it, quite dumb. Red never seems to be that ‘angry’ about anything and there wasn’t even a hint at a romantic sub-plot for him. Oh well, maybe there will be an “Angry Birds 2” movie to look forward to.
Out of this we can conclude that the new-alt-Right still display all the shallow insecurity that we note from the Trump Presidency. They desperately crave normality and acceptability. They see themselves writ-large as heroic knights-of-old battling liberal dragons in epic tales on the big screen. They prefer this fantasy to the reality in which they are adrift and out of touch. This modern alt-Right is more like the pub closing time drunk shaking his fist at the world whilst urinating down his trouser leg. He will limp away to spend the rest of his evening with his tin-foil hat on masturbating to the grubby porno-sites on his old desktop computer. All the time blaming the world for his misfortune and dreaming of the day that his super hero powers will be unleashed. Obstacles MUST be removed from everything he is entitled to. For he is entitled to whatever he wants. Those obstacles are all the educated people, tolerant people, different kinds of people, those of colour, of different sexual orientation, foreigners, women, etc. Basically everything the alt-Right drunk is NOT. This is the world he fears and he supports any fellow lunatic who promises to make all THAT go away.
The tragedy is that if that were to all go away the drunk would awaken to a sobering new world in which the lunatics are in charge of the asylum and he has no one else to blame other than himself and others of his ilk. Their world will collapse around them without the foundations of civilisation held together be the glue of culture and education that he so despises. They must be destroyed before they destroy everything. We should be angry too.