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I don’t fucking care if you like it | by maryann johanson

Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (review)

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The Passion of the Horton

Aghast is the word. It’s not a word that should be applicable to anything Seussical. But this is what I felt as I stumbled from my Saturday morning screening of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! and immediately hied myself to a bookstore to pick up a copy of the Ted Geisel children’s book upon which this is based. Because I could not imagine that the gist of what was up on the screen was actually present in the book. I mean, I’d read it as a kid, but, you know, kids don’t pick up on subtext, and maybe there was something I’d missed as a tyke.
But no. I didn’t miss anything. If there’s any “agenda” at all to Geisel’s book, about a kindly elephant who learns of very, very tiny people living on a speck of pollen and devotes himself to getting them to safety even as his fellow jungle residents scoff at him — hearing voices? tiny people? *snort* — then it is merely this: It is its own reward to be nice to people, even if they don’t look like you. Stretch it all some more, and maybe Geisel, writing in the 1950s, was creating an extremely heavily veiled parable about racism. Maybe.

And what has Hollywood done with this gentle plea for tolerance? It has been turned into something that looks astonishingly like far-right propaganda about how Christians are a persecuted minority — as if this were 100AD in the Roman Empire — and loudmouthed atheists are ruining everything. I know the movie industry is supposed to be full of evil liberals out to kill God and everything decent in the world, but there honestly doesn’t seem to be any other way to interpret the ham-fisted and weirdly confused allegory about conformity — it’s both good and bad! — and principle.

Would that that were a joke. But what’s really insidious here is that the script — by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who also wrote Bubble Boy and the new College Road Trip, which proves that there is no sin you can commit that will cause Hollywood to shun you — follows the story of the book pretty closely. It’s in how they flesh out a brief picture book into a feature-length film that the weird ickiness comes, in all those little — and some not so little — extrapolations that expand it. The titular elephant (voiced by Jim Carrey [The Number 23, Fun with Dick & Jane], who manages to refrain from the excessive and distracting Jim Carrey-ness that often mars his performances) is far more besieged by the creatures of the jungle here, led by the harpyish Kangaroo (the voice of Carol Burnett: The Trumpet of the Swan), who goes on a rampage of indignation over Horton’s attention to the speck. Daurio and Paul’s escalation of Kangaroo could have retained her mocking of Horton while still going in any one of several different directions, but where they take her is into an unpleasant parody of atheists. “If you can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it doesn’t exist,” Kangaroo rages — something she does not come anywhere near saying in the book, and something that is a strawman characterization of secular religious nonbelief. (No atheist would deny the existence of, say, neutrons.) “Horton is a menace” is Kangaroo’s justification for her attempts to squash the pachyderm, a “sick” influence on the children of the jungle. Except he isn’t, as far as we can see — he’s not, for instance, advocating that the speck theory of creation be taught in the public schools of the jungle. But Kangaroo is the villain — she’s the unreasonable one here. If the screenwriters really wanted to demonize her, they could have simply renamed her Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

But that’s all as nothing when your jaw drops to see how far the movie goes in inventing more story on the speck side of things, in the tiny world of Whoville, where the dimbulb Mayor (the voice of Steve Carell: Dan in Real Life, Evan Almighty) is the only one who can hear Horton. He runs around the curlicue city — it’s really a shame that the tone and attitude of the film is so vile, because the animation really is gorgeous — yelling that the sky is falling but that the big invisible voice in the heavens will save them all if only everyone listens to him. Did I mention the big dubyas– I mean, Ws all over the place, like in the Mayor’s office? True, the Mayor is an idiot — “I’ve been called a boob, several times,” he says without, apparently, any regret — but his people are even dumber, barely noticing all the upheavals to their world (like the fact that the sky shifts, in mere seconds, from day to night, day to night, as Horton shades and unshades the speck with his ear). And they will only be saved once they accept that the Mayor has a direct line to God– I mean, Horton, and because of that hotline, the Mayor, and the Mayor alone, has an understanding of the threat facing all of Whoville. Before that happens, though, the Mayor comes under scoffing, too: “You’re finished,” a councilman tells him. “No one believes you. No one supports you.” Will the people of Whoville stand by their belief in democracy even if it means they’re doomed? Or will they come to their senses and accept that the Mayor knows what’s best for them, even if he is an idiot?

Needless to say, none of this is hinted at in the book, either.

Perhaps the worst thing, from the perspective of someone who doesn’t want to see reason so utterly turned on its head like this, is that if you argue with the film, you invariably end up sounding like Kangaroo, because the way this sweet story has been adapted leaves no room for anything else. Geisel’s book was ambiguous enough in its essence that it can be, and has been, appropriated by people all over the political and philosophical spectrum. (Antiabortionists, for instance, love that “a person is a person, no matter how small” line.) But this movie, in its attempt to expand on the book, instead diminishes it, reduces it to something that cannot be seen except in one narrow sense. It has taken a timeless work and turned it into a cheap artifact of this immediate moment. We’ll still be reading Dr. Seuss a century from now, but this desecration of him will be long forgotten.

MPAA: rated G

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • Jordan Short

    It’s funny. . .

    Out of all of the reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, you were the only one (that I saw & I scanned them all) who came to this conclusion about “religion” and “God” being forced upon the audience.

    Sounds like you came into the viewing with some preconceptions. . .

  • cheffy

    Wow, talk about reading way too much into things. How about reviewing the movie for the movie itself… not trying to read into what it might mean.

    #1. It’s a kids movie
    #2. It’s not trying to go above any ones head

    Sometimes a tree is just a tree. And sometimes a kid’s movie is just a kid’s movie. What probably threw you was that it wasn’t full of bathroom jokes so you assumed there must be something more too it.

    Please… this isn’t a movie review it’s a misplaced political tirade.

  • cheffy

    Followup: W is for the Who’s from Whoville. Whoville was created long before the year 2000.

  • postman

    Wow, this was kind of painful to read. I was going through all the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and this one really sticks out like a sore thumb. I know it’s just your opinion, but I have to say I was squirming in my seat as I read your review. I’m embarassed for you, because I think alot of people will be heading over to your page to read this. But may be that’s all you wanted.

    Either way, this was a ridiculous review. At least you admit in your bio that you drink way too much. You should probably avoid posting review to children’s movies after doing so, though.

  • west

    I have to admit that the points you brought up are one’s that I commonly notice in movies, and yes they get under my skin, but I have to also admit that you failed to really review the movie. Your point was worth mentioning though.

  • http://www.pittswork.blogspot.com Harrison

    So much for just enjoying a family film that isn’t laced with inneuendos about all things garbage. Good nor evil is done in isolation, but by no means does everything have to be viewed as political or religious manipulation. Enjoy the film, enjoy Seuss, and please just enjoy positive and redeeming messages.

  • Cosmo Brown

    You say the movie can only be seen in “one narrow sense.” Yet in reading the reviews, it appears that you’re the only one who saw it in that narrow sense. So which is narrow-minded, the movie or the reviewer? I’d have to go with the latter.

  • Edmund WE Hughes, JR

    Let me guess; you’re not religious, and any movie with a Christian appeal or overtoes is abhorent to you. (Were you also offended by Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia? – both have Christian themes and influences.)Christians are usually the ones that are accused of intolerance and paranoia, but in this case your are identifying yourself as being a paranoid Secular Progressive who is overly sensitive to the theme of a movie that “may” have Christian influences.

    I have not seen the movie, but I have three kids and own most of the Dr. Seuss books. Many Dr. Seuss books have Universal themes that are shared by several religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, etc. I’ll reserve final judgement until I actually see the movie with my kids, but I won’t be worried or insulted if I pick up on a Christian theme – better a Christian theme than some politically-correct, Fascist, directive from Al Gore, Mike Moore, or other deranged, Secular Proggressive nut job.

  • bobby

    I saw a preview screening of this film and after reading your review all I can say is Wow!!!. I think you are completely off base. I think that the movie is really true to Suess’ original intent. I do not think there is anything off base in how the kangaroo “rages”. In the original book, the Kangaroo and monkeys are seen caging Horton and ready to throw the clover into Beezlenut juice, just like the movie. If that isn’t an intense moment for a children’s book, I don’t know what is. The animals were not just mocking him. I remember being really scared by that moment as a child. So I don’t think the film makers got this aspect wrong. If anything, I think this is the most faithful adaptation I have seen of anything done by Seuss on the big screen and I would rank it closely with the old chuck jones films.
    I also enjoyed the way they fleshed out the characters of whoville. I found that i cared about the mayor and his family. It makes the drama of the story more powerful, when you have an emotional attachment to the characters, while not destroying the dynamics of the original book.
    I do not think this is a right wing movie. If anything, I think it gives an interesting look at the way good individuals can become a very dangerous mob, when their leaders prey on their fears. I do not think this is a left wing movie either. In the end, I think the movie adheres to the original message of tolerance.
    I think you really missed the point on this one. One moment you are saying it is pro christian, the next you are saying it is Anti Bush. Maybe the W in the mayor’s office stands for Whoville. Perhaps you should leave the reviewing of sweet children’s movies to someone else. You are trying to read into things that aren’t there.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m embarassed for you, because I think alot of people will be heading over to your page to read this. But may be that’s all you wanted.

    Yup, that’s it. This review isn’t actually reflective of what I think of the film, it’s just a ploy to get people to visit my site. Geez. You’re on to me. What shall I do?

    Many Dr. Seuss books have Universal themes that are shared by several religions

    Yes, of course that’s true. But as I said in the review, there are attitudes in this movie that are not in the book.

    I won’t be worried or insulted if I pick up on a Christian theme – better a Christian theme than some politically-correct, Fascist, directive from Al Gore, Mike Moore, or other deranged, Secular Proggressive nut job.

    So, then, you *would be* worried if you picked up on an attitude in the film that wasn’t in the book and that you disagreed with? Would that be different than what I’ve written here?

    Followup: W is for the Who’s from Whoville. Whoville was created long before the year 2000.

    Oh my goodness? Really and truly? Well, then, that negates everything I’ve written. Because everyone knows that something cannot possibly have two meanings at the same time. And filmmakers adapting books never, ever interpret those works through new lenses.

  • snead

    Finally! I thought I was the only one who saw it! Though you forgot to mention how the pink clovers clearly represent the right-wing’s fear of the sinister gay agenda! Oh, and how convenient that Vlad the eagle has a Russian accent — like we’re not supposed to see this thinly veiled attempt to scare us by raising the spectre of the communist menace! And the “leaf bugs” that Horton claims to study, as if we couldn’t recognize a marijuana plant when we see one! Be strong, sister. Don’t let the bastards get you down. And keep watching the skies!! Keep! Watching! The! Skies!

  • MaryAnn

    One moment you are saying it is pro christian, the next you are saying it is Anti Bush.

    No, I’m saying it’s pro-Bush. The Mayor of Whoville — the Bush stand-in — claims to talk to God… and he actually does! And his talking to God is what will save the people of Whoville!

  • Elodie

    Wordy drunken tirades have no place in children’s movie reviews! Funny that most of the bad reviews on Rotten Tomatoes come from New York – cultural wasteland.

  • Peter

    The script was done by the guys that did Bubble Boy and College Road Trip soooo ……. I think a tree is just a tree here, although I’m pleased that it had your reaction. I’ll point it out to my kids now so they can taught correctly about the true meaning of the story. Thanks!

  • j

    having worked on the film, i can assure you the directors never meant any of these things you claim they tried to hint at. you are merely making parallels of story themes that happen to relate to a million things. like Nostradamus predictions, he can say something vague, and it becomes true. this was meant to be faithful to the book and fun for kids. nothing more.

  • Chris

    I’ll echo what’s already been said: sounds like you go into situations looking for things that you hate, yet love to complain about….even if it isn’t really there to begin with.

    If all the things that stick in your craw disappeared tomorrow, would you really be happier? Or would you be bored and/or depressed?

  • MaryAnn

    Yup, again you guys are amazingly correct! I went into a Dr. Seuss movie looking to be offended, so I found stuff to offend me. Wow. It’s astonishing how well you people know me. Simply astonishing.

    Of course, it couldn’t possibly be that I see something that you all didn’t because I might generally have a different mindset than some people. Because we all know that everyone thinks exactly the same about everything. And beloved children’s authors never, ever have to write books to explain that, you know, maybe that’s not the case…

  • MaryAnn

    New York – cultural wasteland.

    That would be New York, yessiree.

  • Yo

    I’d love to meet some of Mary Ann’s friends and ask them how often they have to deal with this scornful, self-righteous side of her when all they want to do is go out and have a nice time. I mean, look at her face. That’s not even a smile! It’s more like a self-assured smirk. She looks like a bitch who can’t wait to tell someone that she sees past his B.S.

  • http://www.thelion.fm B.

    Mary-Ann,

    What kind of reviewer feels the need to retort public comments on his or her review? And sarcastically, at that. I don’t think I’ve seen, in all my years as a journalist and radio station manager, such PETTY vitriol!

    You have a responsibility to include in your review everything intelligent that you have to say about a movie and to not insult your reading audience when they respectfully disagree with your assertion (which, perhaps alarmingly, is shaping up to be exactly opposite of what everyone else has written, apparently irrespective of political affiliation or religious predilection).

    Combing through your reviews, I have yet to find one that criticizes a film for overly secualrist or leftist overtones that fail to match the source material. We’re all subject to our biases, but at least call a spade a spade. It’s obvious what “side” you fall on even before you analyze the film (“I know the movie industry is supposed to be full of evil liberals out to kill God and everything decent in the world”…). This is a weakness. While I consider myself a liberal, I appreciate honest critiques of entertainment that, over time, do not display an obvious bias.

    I’m sorry, but this review smacks of amateurism to the point that it requires a clarification or retraction, not half-witted retorts at people who are obviously not as eloquent or educated as you are.

    Pick on someone your own size, please; and for pete’s sake, at least make sense.

  • Doa766

    I haven’t seen this movie yet, but I have to admit that every time a kid’s movie tries christian overtones I found it absolutly disgusting

    like santa giving a knife to a 6 year old in Narnia so she can go to war packing

  • http://www.spellweavers.com Colleen

    MAJ, I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I plan to, but the munchkin is going tomorrow. And, I’m sure when the dvd comes out I’ll probably end up seeing it.

    It is unfortunate the writers felt they had to add to the story to make what they felt was a good movie adaptation. And it doesn’t sound as though those additions are like The Grinch, supporting various parts of the storyline that were already there. It sounds as though they may detract from the storyline instead.

    I’m less concerned with the possible Christian overtones, even though I’m not Christian. I’m more disappointed in the fact they didn’t stay true to the actual story. I don’t recall a mayor in the original text?!?! I don’t recall any over- (or under-) tones of politics. I don’t recall any religion. All I recall is a general statement of tolerance, and a possible idea of people being so caught up in their own little world they don’t see the possibility of anything or anyone outside their sphere.

    As well he touches on the vastness of the universe… for example what if the earth is not the only inhabited planet throughout all the universes. What if our universe is a dust speck to someone? What if the swirling dust specks going by are inhabited by smaller beings. If you REALLY felt like delving into an attempt to translate, you could get into both Christian and Scientific theories.

    BTW, haven’t seen this much reaction to one of your reviews in quite some time. :) Keep up the great work!

  • MaryAnn

    We’re all subject to our biases, but at least call a spade a spade.

    I have never, ever pretended not to be biased, or to hide my biases. Would you prefer that I did?

    And I’m not allowed to respond to comments on my own Web site? Are you serious?

    I don’t see a lot of “respectful disagreement” in these comments. I do see a lot of namecalling, lack of understanding of what I wrote, and a general lack of understanding of what film criticism is about. And most of this from people who have not yet even seen the film.

    I’m happy for people to disagree with me. In this instance, I expect it will be the general response. But I certainly will defend my opinions. I don’t see why I shouldn’t.

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t recall a mayor in the original text?!?!

    There was a mayor, but he’s a much smaller character — no pun intended — than he is here. Whoville has been greatly expanded here.

    If you REALLY felt like delving into an attempt to translate, you could get into both Christian and Scientific theories.

    Exactly. The film could have been more inclusive and more open and more ambiguous in its attitude. The filmmakers chose not to go in that direction.

  • Dale Jarrett

    Wow! your review really hurts. I see many flaws in your attack. First off Hollywood is a free thinking state of mind and would never ever propose the act of God in His state onto a kids movie in the way your proposing. Disney…maybe…but Hollywood…never. Hollywood loves the idea of Karma and whats good for you will help others. Hollywood rarely if ever even mentions the idea that there is any type of deism out there that controls this world except in the supernatural such as mythology. which might i add…is NOT a godhead. they are spiritual beliefs of nature or the atmosphere or carnal beings of the heavens that can send lighting down if your bad. You are on a rant and i can tell from your writings that you are the crazy far left writer who believes that there is no God and shouldnt be any trace of Him in all areas of our daily life. Well ma’am…you are WRONG! God was one of the key instruments in Americas foundation and as we drift farther and farther away from Him, the more are country crumbles. Are you afraid of God? Because the day will come when you will meet him face to face and then all of your pre-concieved notions will be wrong and you might be on the wrong side.

  • George Glass

    OH MY GOD! You are a lunatic! Too much wine indeed.

  • MaryAnn

    Please explain in what way I am a “lunatic.”

  • Adam

    If you would have done your research, you would know that the original intent of Horton Hears a Who was to apologize to the Japanese for Geisel’s previous political cartoons which stereotyped them as a small, insignificant nation. Seuss himself admitted to being too stereotypical at times, especially when deadlines loomed and the easiest way to get a cartoon done was with a cheap stab.

    After WWII, the Americans and other allied nations debated quite a bit about the fate of Japan, and after a visit to the country, Geisel wrote a children’s book trying to remind people the people are people no matter how small. Which, is why the book is dedicated: “For My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan”

    So the book, nor the movie is about abortion nor Christianity, nor George “dubya” Bush for crying out loud. I think you’re trying to sound more intelligent than you really are, which is just a sham writer who doesnt do their research.

  • ashok

    Thanks for the review, surprised that a lot of “critics” have failed to see what you saw. I will probably stay away from the movie, I cannot take any more right wing agenda.

  • MaryAnn

    So the book, nor the movie is about abortion nor Christianity, nor George “dubya” Bush for crying out loud. I think you’re trying to sound more intelligent than you really are, which is just a sham writer who doesnt do their research.

    What the *book* is about and what the *movie* is about are not necessarily the same thing. “Research” has nothing to do with the matter.

  • MaryAnn

    Thanks for the review, surprised that a lot of “critics” have failed to see what you saw. I will probably stay away from the movie, I cannot take any more right wing agenda.

    You’re welcome, but as these many commenters are pointing out, just because I see something doesn’t mean everyone will. It doesn’t make the other critics wrong for not having seen it.

  • http://www.toddsuomela.com/ecec/ Todd Suomela

    Wow, you struck a nerve with this one!?

    Just for a bit of balance I’ll say that I’ve read a lot of your reviews over the last year and I don’t agree with all of them but I come back to read them because of your clear opinions and willingness to share them despite the slings and arrows of outrageous commenters. So keep reading those subtexts and questioning those hidden agendas.

    Good luck with the struggle.

  • http://www.koalawallop.net Newbs

    Wow,

    I was going to disagree with you on a couple points (like pinpointing McCarthyism as a major catalyst for the theme of tolerance), but it seems like you’ve got your hands full here. At cursory glance, I’d say most of those responding with such vitriol are doing so from their own religious perspective. Don’t get too involved in responding — it’s likely they’ll never be back to read what you’ve said.

    An excellent review, as always, MaryAnn. Stick to your guns. This is why my wife gets jealous when I visit your site. :)

  • Maddie

    It is interesting to compare your insights to the review posted on Salon. Rather than claiming the movie is an assault on reason, they claim the movie is thoroughly in support of it. (Rather than relying on faith, Horton and the mayor search for evidence, and scientific imagery is scattered through the film, for example.) Did you see some of this as well, or do you think Salon is not just wanting to out-and-out proclaim the movie as a religious allegory, and scrambling for any evidence they can find?

  • http://www.dvillage.org Ken Patterson

    Personally I think that it is wrong to expand somebody else’s work to a size that it wouldn’t accommodate on it’s own.

    The children’s books of Dr. Seuss are truly fit for half-hour, or maybe an hour long medium. The only cinematic Seuss that fit the length requirement was actually written by Seuss himself as a movie – that being The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. and that seems to have a highly split appreciation.

    MAJ, thank you for saying what you actually feel about a movie.

    To your readers I have this to say: If you find a reviewer is not to your taste, then you are perfectly within your rights to not take their advice. In fact you can then gauge what movies you’ll like by what they don’t. But like with any form of journalism, it is best to get your information from more than one source and not to believe what any one person or news agency says – because there will always be some bias (political, religious, social, &c…) that can not be avoided.

  • Dawn

    I find most of these comments offensive to the reviewer. I think MaryAnn has made some cogent observations of the movie.

    I highly recommend the nay sayers to check out “The Political Dr. Seuss”, an independent documentary of Ted Geisel’s work (including the so-called children’s books). I think that after viewing that film, many of you will understand what MaryAnn is discussing. Dr. Seuss’s stories have always been somewhat political.

  • t6

    Hey MAJ,

    Great review, as ususal.

    Clearly you’ve upset some people, but whatever. You understand concepts like reader-response theory and subtext…too bad not everyone does.

  • Brenna Dougherty

    MaryAnn,

    As a secularist like yourself, I respectfully disagree with your analysis. I see Horton as an advocate for “the little guy,” an Al Gore figure protecting The Mayor from the Sour Kangaroo and Vlad, hyper-conservative (remember, Rudy is “pouch-schooled”) enviromental terrorists. Like the Mayor’s higher-ups, when confronted with Horton’s passion for the tiny eco-system, they insist that there is nothing to see, that Whoville, a stand-in for our own enviroment, (or in Seuss’s original intent, the persecuted minority) is not in trouble. But eventually, even Horton’s pleading isn’t enough. It’s Jo-jo’s… the little guy’s, shout for big government change, that gets everything on the right track. Don’t consider Horton as God. Consider him Wellstone, or any other politician who’s been elected to speak for those with small voices.

  • rt

    The reviewer is hugely ignorant of Christian persecution worldwide. I would suggest visiting persecution.net for an overview of the many life threatening conditions for Christians worldwide – just for being Christian.

  • http://www.dubhsidhestudios.com bronxbee

    “I’d love to meet some of Mary Ann’s friends and ask them how often they have to deal with this scornful, self-righteous side of her when all they want to do is go out and have a nice time.”

    as one of maryann’s closest friends, i can assure you that we all enjoy her intellectual openness, her sense of humor and her strong opinions. we don’t always agree with her — but we all enjoy intelligent discourse from every side and opinion, and we don’t limit ourselves or anyone else in discussion. our idea of a “nice” time is one where 6 or 8 of us see a movie, and spend the next two hours enjoying a meal, dissecting the film and expressing our opinions — on many, many topics — as vociferously as she does hers. i don’t know what your idea of a nice time is — but our brains have a good time whenever maryann is around.

  • Mark

    Wow! Such a quick reaction! From the first trailer on I have never once even considered going to see this movie(doesn’t matter if my kid wants to go or not). The trailers were awful, and more about who is voicing the characters, as opposed to the actual movie itself. Throwing in the “made by the same people who made Ice Age” didn’t help either, as I thought the first one was crap. IMHO, very few CGI movies outside of Pixar are worth seeing.
    Thanks for a very “interesting” review Mary Ann. Thats all I, and anyone else, can really say without having viewed the movie. Then again, I do agree with you most of the time, so who knows.

  • doubleored

    Wow, seeing all these comments it both makes me sad and happy at the same time. Sad because some people have lost all manner of respect for someone else’s viewpoints even if you don’t agree, and happy that we are still able to express those viewpoints.
    I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the film yet so I’ll reserve judgement on that respect, however I wanted to give you (Mary Ann) a big thank you for having the courage to post what you think, and not what you ‘think’ people will want to hear.

  • dib’n

    couldn’t the theme just be a pro-”use your imagination” one?
    i also do not understand why you see this as a pro-Christian message instead of a pro-religion message in general.
    i have not seen the movie, but i plan to. i will attempt as best as i can to see if i can pick up on any hidden agenda that may be present.

  • MaryAnn

    Did you see some of this as well, or do you think Salon is not just wanting to out-and-out proclaim the movie as a religious allegory, and scrambling for any evidence they can find?

    and

    I see Horton as an advocate for “the little guy,” an Al Gore figure protecting The Mayor from the Sour Kangaroo and Vlad, hyper-conservative (remember, Rudy is “pouch-schooled”) enviromental terrorists.

    I don’t not see where you’re both coming from — the “pouch-schooled” line *is* pretty potent — but I don’t think it balances out what I saw as an overwhelmingly neoconservative attitude, that democracy is bad and women are useless and that deviating from the norm as long as you’re the one who gets to define what the norm is.

    I have to admit that I was almost tempted to try to shoehorn my reaction into the kind of response that Salon came up with, because I really didn’t want to see what I was seeing, and I found it hard to believe that Hollywood, which is supposed to be so liberal, would spawn something like this. But that would have been dishonest on my part. I had to go with my gut. As overly intellectual as I am accused of being here, it really was an emotional reaction that I had to go with. Okay, it was an emotional reaction to something intellectual, but still.

    And just to be clear, I am NOT suggesting that the Salon critic was being dishonest or wrote a review that does not represent the critic’s honest reaction. I’m just saying that my review does represent my honest reaction.

  • Grimmy

    Sounds like the Reviewer is seeing all kinds of Whos everywhere. Explains her intolerance for a different viewpoint.

    Since Antony Flew’s book (There is a God) came out, atheists have been in full attack mode. The spectacle of them accusing Flew of being a senile dupe … was not a pretty sight.

    I suppose their defensiveness is due to their worldview’s underlying lack of scientific or rational basis (as ex-atheist Flew exposes for all to see) all the while claiming the exact opposite.

    The Inquisition, boogeyman of our age, killed 2,000-4,000 over 350 years, while atheistic, anti-God regimes in the “modern” age killed over 120 million in just decades. Another reason to be defensive.

  • MaineRoad

    This is the best thread ever – gonna have it printed out and laminated. Really.

  • MaryAnn

    The reviewer is hugely ignorant of Christian persecution worldwide.

    I know that people are persecuted for their religious beliefs around the world. But it is not happening in the U.S. — well, not to Christians, anyway; Muslims may have a strong case for complaining about it — and that is the context in which this story is set.

    couldn’t the theme just be a pro-”use your imagination” one?

    No, because imagination is not involved here. It’s a matter of whether there *are* actually tiny people living on a speck or a giant elephant living in the sky. There’s no leap of faith involved.

  • jenn

    After seeing Hollywood’s horrific version of the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat, you couldn’t pay me to see this. Didn’t any of the posters on this site see how they perverted the previous movies? A person could hope this one would be better, but from the trailer this looks even worse. I feel bad that the Seuss legacy is tainted with this garbage. His books are still popular and relevant. I hope the rest of his family enjoyed the money they made from selling out.

  • Chris Kah

    You don’t seem to have an agenda at all? Oh, wait a minute…

    Is there a reason you needed to attack Christians (none of those things that you mentioned I see in the Christians that I am friends with) when you are reviewing a movie that is not a Christian one?

    I’m utterly confused.

  • MaryAnn

    Explains her intolerance for a different viewpoint.

    I am not intolerant of others’ viewpoints. People can believe whatever they want to believe, as long as they’re not trying to force it upon others. I am railing against intolerance, and against this film for being dismissive of tolerance.

    Since Antony Flew’s book (There is a God) came out, atheists have been in full attack mode

    I have no idea who Antony Flew is. And I “attack” nothing except the idea that only Christians can be moral and only Christians are in possession of the rules for right living, which they are trying — and often succeeding — in forcing upon those who do not share those beliefs.

  • MaryAnn

    You don’t seem to have an agenda at all? Oh, wait a minute…

    OF COURSE I have an agenda. EVERYONE has an agenda.

    Is there a reason you needed to attack Christians (none of those things that you mentioned I see in the Christians that I am friends with) when you are reviewing a movie that is not a Christian one?

    So, what makes a movie “Christian”? And do you honestly believe that because your friends don’t do a certain thing that other people are not doing it?

  • bobby

    Aside from the argument of race or religion, there are many moments in history where individuals have been persecuted for their ideas. The issues that seuss and the film makers of Horton have addressed here are not exclusive to the right wing christians. Gregor Mendel and Galileo are perfect examples of people whose brilliant ideas scared people and led to persecution. If you are reading this to be all about evangelical propaganda, I think you are really missing the mark. Lack of tolerance is a problem that our species has faced since we walked on this tiny little speck and troubles us to this day. I think it is especially timely to tell a story like this when there is so much anger and fear towards people with different beliefs, whether they be political, religious or social. Afterall, what is so wrong about telling a story that teaches children to respect life.
    I happen to be a left wing Bush hating democrat from the cultural wasteland that is New york City, and I loved the film. I did not find it to be preachy.

    In the end of the day, it’s a sweet movie, that made my family laugh.

  • Greg Peterson

    The review and sarcastic comments strike me as ludicrous, but that’s not what prompts me to write. No, it’s the bit of bilge Grimmy spewed. Let’s fisk that dawg, shall we?

    Since Antony Flew’s book (There is a God) came out, atheists have been in full attack mode…

    Antony Flew’s book elicited a monumental yawn from atheists, and I haven’t heard about that book being very influential anywhere. The “full attack mode” actually started well before, with Harris, Dawkins, and Dennett, among others. And it came partly in response to the faith-based initiative of the 9/11 attacks on America. Atheists are tired being vilified while atrocities are committed in the names of various Bronze Age myths.

    The spectacle of them accusing Flew of being a senile dupe … was not a pretty sight.

    Wasn’t really much of a spectacle. One major article, basically, that pointed out that by his own admission, Flew had lost much of his edge, including his powers of memory. That Flew appears to have been manipulated for ideological and perhaps monetary gain is an even less pretty sight.

    I suppose their defensiveness is due to their worldview’s underlying lack of scientific or rational basis (as ex-atheist Flew exposes for all to see) all the while claiming the exact opposite.

    Please don’t mistake exasperation for defensiveness. Look, it’s one thing if having an imaginary friend helps you through the tough times. No harm, no foul. But many religionists make claims that yes, science does contradict. The age of the earth and history of life on it, for example. And theism is philosophically bankrupt. I defy you to provide a single reason why I or anyone else should accept belief in a god. Just one. Not a threat like Pascal’s Wager, not an appeal to faith, not some pissing contest about which side is responsible for more genocide (atheists lose, OK? In sheer numbers, atheistic regimes are responsible for more deaths than the Inquisition, Crusades, witch burnings, jihads, etc. I will stipulate that. That has nothing to do with whether there is a god or not. And since there is not reason to think there IS a god, that leaves the challenge of preventing religionists AND atheists from committing genocide–since no one else is going to). A reason. Give me any kind of reason that existence of a god is more probable than not.

    The Inquisition, boogeyman of our age, killed 2,000-4,000 over 350 years, while atheistic, anti-God regimes in the “modern” age killed over 120 million in just decades. Another reason to be defensive.

    Covered above and stipulated to. Atheist regimes killed many, many people. They did not, however, become genocidal out of too much reason, but out of too much faith–in the system of Communism, and its leaders. Even science, the one activity that should always strive for a pure objectivity, was captive to Marxist philosophy (in the form of Lysenko, who rejected evolution as not Marxist enough and thereby was responsible for crop failures and famines).

    I have a degree in biblical studies from an evangelical college, earned while studying to become a Baptist pastor; I worked for Billy Graham for years. For every Antony Flew (who you seem to idolize way too much, by the way–I think that whole phenomenon is a huge yawn), there are many more pastors and theologians who abandon faith because they have the integrity to admit that reason forces them to conclude its falsity. Perhaps someday you will have that bracing realization and feel embarrassed by what you have written.

  • Kris Mills

    I’m going to take a shot in left field and guess that you are atheist. If not an atheist, then agnostic at best. Here’s the deal, Christian’s get slandered by all types of media. Look at Happy Feet, it’s a giant liberal anti-Christian propogandized movie and I heard no complaining about it. In this country, it seems the liberal ideal is, “You can be whatever religion you want! Except Christianity.” It pisses me off when you people who don’t worry at all when a movie is anti-Christian get so damned indignant when a movie bashes you. Well, imagine that! Another opinion exists beyond the ACLU. If you want to trounce movies with an agenda, watch Pocohantas, Happy Feet, or Ferngully. Those movies were sickeningly liberal. Good grief. You are as close minded as you think a Christian is. Get over it.

    -Kris

  • Luke

    I could go on a long rant like some of the other people who posted comments but in the end it all comes down to 3 simple words: GET OVER YOURSELF!

  • dib’n

    the fact of the matter is that the Whos need to use their imatination to understand things that are happening outside of their immediate experience. In the land of Whoville, no one has experienced an elephant first hand just as no one has experienced being on the surface of a planet outside of our solar system. We can see the effects that this planet has on a it’s parent start but we can not observe it directly. The Whos are also unable to observe Horton directly but are defintely able to observe the effects of him existing.
    from Webster – imag·i·na·tion: the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality
    faith just takes imagination a step further by requiring an element of trust that this object outside of out experience really does exist.
    A person tasting a food can only imagine what the taste is like. People can describe it to them, they can compare the taste to something else that the person many have eaten, or list off the exact quantity of every compound contained within the food. None of this is sufficient to convey to me what a strawberry tastes like, or how exactly i will react if i were to eat one (with my severe alergy). i can imagine what the taste is like. i have to have faith in the fact that it is delicious, sour and sweet, and generally something that i am missing out on not being able to eat.
    Someone falling in the air has no way of knowing that gravity is still there, but they have faith that when they will hit the ground, or some surface.
    We did not understand that there were organisms in the depths of the ocean, but we could imagine them.
    We see the sun, but what tells someone with insufficient understanding that the sun is much larger than the earth and very hot and that the earth actually moves around the sun. We feel the heat and have faith that it is from the sun. We are told that the earth orbits the sun, and imagine things like relative size and orbital path ect.
    Just because the other animals can’t see or hear the Whos doesn’t mean they aren’t forced to imagine what one may look or sound like.
    Just because some instrument could, possibly, one day observe something unknown does not mean that those without the instrument are not forced to imagine that the unknown object exists and what its characteristics are.
    Just because something is not directly observable yet doesn’t mean it won’t be eventually.
    Thank you for reading and considering these ideas, whether or not you agree.

  • bobby

    I like Horton. He’s cute

  • JT

    Reading some of the comments here.. this old image is still true as ever.

  • Greg Peterson

    Bobby, exactly. That’s what I was trying to say.

  • Larry Word

    Congratulations. You got me to look at your review. It was only one of a few I took the time to skim through. And to think it was all because of your summation of what your you thought this movie was forcing on people. God forbid if anyone were to catch on that other movies like this, such as Winnie-the-Pooh, were actually created to push a religious agenda rather than entertain kids of all ages. At least you were upfront when you disclosed you drink way to much wine while you think about the inconsequences of movies. Cheers.

  • jeffrey

    to the movie reviewer:

    the review sounds more about some internal struggle or outrage, rather than an actual movie review.

    resolve your personal issues, because this movie obviously stirred them up for you…

    it simply is a movie you are not comfortable with…and that is fine. everyone has personal tastes. everyone has their own ways of “viewing the world”…shaped by their own life experiences from birth to the present…their own perceptions.

    you are entitled to your personal view and you have the right to express it. but it doesn’t mean it is any more accurate a view than anyone else’s.

    it was an interesting read.

    i will say i haven’t seen the movie yet….but your review really makes me want to see it more, just to see if it is as ‘heavy’ handed as you say.

    you say “skip it”, but it is more likely now that i will see it. that makes me curious about my own internal motivations. why do i want to see it now? probably curiosity. also from what i have seen in the clips/previews…it does look like a beautifully animated movie. and also, when i first heard “Horton” speak in the Preview, i didn’t know it was Jim Carrey until it was said. it was so “Un-Carrey” like.

    thanks for the review.

  • Greg Peterson

    Jeffrey, it’s human nature to want to do things we’re told not to do. Mark Twain once quipped that if God wanted to keep humanity safe from sin, he should have told Adam and Eve not to eat any snakes.

  • jeffrey

    to the reviewer again,

    i was reading through my original comment and fear i may have come off sounding sarcastic and scolding. maybe not. i apologize if that is there. plus i read through the other comments and saw some of the more overtly scalding comments toward your review…and i try to be more accepting of others and just let people live life (though i sometime fail at that effort, since i’m only human).

    if anything, your review just got me thinking. so thank you.

  • aviv

    Just wanted to say I haven’t seen the movie and don’t intend to (the trailers didn’t interest me in slightest, and I’ve never been much of a Seuss fan to begin with), but I still enjoyed (as always) reading your review.

    I don’t know if I’d see the same stuff as you do were I to see this movie, but bravo for not being afraid to voice your own observations.

    I hope you have a thick skin, though, what with all the nut jobs out there who seem to think mean, personal attacks on a writer are valid reponses to a review they dislike.

    Keep up the good work, MaryAnn!

  • Patrick

    Hmmmm, not sure I want to enter this debate :P

    I will say though, I hate when films add a religious undertone, such as Hellboy. I really liked that film up until the end and then it started to get preachy “Don’t forget who you are!”. Blah.

    Though I’m not sure, entirely, why you choose to respond to the haters out there. I’d just let em’ be. They’re gonna hate no matter what, that’s what they do.

  • Moe

    As Djimon Hounsou recently yelled:

    “NEVER BACK DOWN!”

    Keep up the good fight, MJ.

    Us regulars will be here long after these idiotic right-wingers who’ve hilariously fooled themselves into thinking that they’re a persecuted minority cry and leave.

  • DG

    Hey Mary Ann,

    I only saw the preview for the film and I got the concept that it was going to use Christian allegory when the Mayor made a comment about hearing a voice from a giant invisible being.

    I shook my head and said, “I’ll pass on this one.”

    From the comments I’ve read, it sounds like some people get really upset when you critique their religion. It just goes to show how thin skinned we’ve become as a nation, and how quick people in the majority religion can be when someone critiques their angry man in the clouds beliefs.

    It’s sad that a kids movie is being used to promote a political agenda.

    But hey, this too shall pass.

    Cheers.

  • http://catslash.livejournal.com Cathryn

    Damn, and here I thought the “No Country” thread had gotten nasty. Quit having opinions, MaryAnn! Opinions are bad! Especially when people obviously have NO CHOICE but to read them, no other source for opinions that might be different, and no brains to think for themselves with instead of blindly accepting what others tell them!

  • joe

    I totally agree with all the Mary bashing, her review on No Country for Old Men is reason enough (for me anyways) to bash her! Just kidding Mary Ann! Interesting how crazy people can get OVER A MOVIE! GET A FREAKING LIFE PEOPLE!

  • soro

    I agree with “doubleored” (and the few others). I appreciate that you wrote what you thought no matter how different it was from some other reviewers. It doesn’t seem o be what other people here seem to want to read (many of whom seem to have gotten to your page through rotten tomatoes, thus I assume are unfamiliar with your style of reviewing). You have my thanks for writing our impressions and not just rehashing the plot with some snarky comment aided at proving how clever you are or some praise that sounds pulled out of a dummies book on writing glowing reviews.

  • Eric

    I think you may have drifted off at some point… yes, Kangaroo says the line you quoted..”If you can’t see it, blah blah blah”. but she follows it up by saying that Horton is responsible for children using teir imaginations. THAT is what Kangaroo is against, not the existence of some God. She is referring to the chaos, confusion and joy that children, and man adults, find while using their imagination (hence, the can not see, can not touch theory). Maybe, instead of trying to see something that is not there, in order for you to have something to flesh out you own meager talents as a critic, you shoulf find some other profession, where you will not come across as some ignorant writer, trying to make a name for themselves in an are where you obviously don’t belong. Fee free to read anything you want in this…I am sure you will

  • bridgeofsighs

    You know, I read a TOTALLY different message from both the film and the book–I can’t believe no one else brought it up or considered it. So here it is: maybe the theme of HHAW is that by helping others–even if you can’t see them or hear them, no matter how “small” they seem–you are, in fact, making a huge difference in their lives. Think of it: we don’t think that by recycling or dropping a dime in a homeless man’s cup or making a donation to _________charity will make a difference because we’re just one person, right? But the truth is–cheesy as it sounds, call it the “butterfly effect”–one action on our part could make enormous changes on another’s. I’m not trying to sound like Pollyanna here; I have no religious affiliation. But that is the message I carried away from the story. True, the movie gave the story the usual 21st Century Gloss Update, which I hate, but I still think the message was there, even if it was accidental. I have to agree with the other posters, MJ–sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Or rather, a bad movie is just a bad movie–you don’t have to read any more into it or even justify it if it doesn’t do it for you. This was definately a bizarre review.

  • Ide Cyan

    I love that you bring your atheist perspective to your film reviews, Ms. Johanson. Thought I’d mention that, amids this dogpile of naysayers attacking you for it.

  • 2cents

    Guys, this is film CRITICISM not a REVIEW. I used to take offense when MJ red flagged a particular movie (which I thought was great and enjoyed watching) but that was until I realized that MJ is essentially a movie critic and not a reviewer. From that moment on, her writings took on a whole new different light.

    (maybe the name of her site: “The Flick FILOSOPHER” wasn’t obvious enough huh?).

  • MaryAnn

    You know, I read a TOTALLY different message from both the film and the book–I can’t believe no one else brought it up or considered it. So here it is: maybe the theme of HHAW is that by helping others–even if you can’t see them or hear them, no matter how “small” they seem–you are, in fact, making a huge difference in their lives

    I think that’s a valid interpretation of the book. With all the other crap that was ladled onto the original story in the movie, I don’t think that covers it.

  • TempestDash

    I find it intriguing that one of themes you mentioned was prevalent in the movie was prejudice against someone with a different perspective… and here’s 10 pages of comments attacking you for having a different perspective than the other reviews aggregated by rotten tomatoes.

    If this proves anything, it’s that you were close to the truth and the movie was preaching to the choir. Down with contrary ideas! Hooray for the status quo and non-questioning behavior!

    An enlightened society would at least appreciate your POV and disagree, and ideally would attempt to explain why they believe the movie intended a different interpretation.

    Instead we get drivel like: “Boy, MaryAnn was really hitting the sauce this time, wasn’t she?” As if one needs an excuse to think differently.

  • shoop

    Two comments intrigued me–MA’s remark that there’s a lot of misunderstanding regarding what film criticism is about, and 2cents insisting that MA is a critic, and not a reviewer.

    Huh, I thought. I’ll go find this out for myself. So I found that “film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films, individually and collectively,” according to answers.com. Huh, I thought (again), sounds a lot like film reviewing. Then I read a bit further: “film critics try to come to understand why film works, how it works, what it means, and what effects it has on people.”

    Well, damn, I thought. And I looked at MA’s “Horton” piece again, and son of a gun, it’s all there–she’s trying to come to understand why Horton works, how Horton works, what Horton means, and what effects it has on people. Love her, hate her, agree, disagree, suggest an AA intervention or whatever–she’s a freakin’ critic, all right. Who’da thunk?

  • shane

    I think you’re a bit out on a limb. Maybe they did intend some of the themes you mention, but it’s speculation, and it wasn’t so heavy handed as you describe. I can see how you could view the kangaroo character as a lame attack on rationalism, but compare her to the Whoville scientist who didn’t laugh or show any meanness toward the mayor when he asked, “What if we are living on a speck?”. When her predictions matched her observations, the scientist was the first to believe him. This is a movie specifically about intolerance of other peoples ideas, even when those ideas are harmless to you. That is valid theme for a children’s movie, even if it is coming from someone with a religious perspective. I know Christians cry persecution in all sorts of improper situations, but atheists really do live up to the straw man sometimes and I think we would do well to remember it. All the other stuff about the mayor being George W. Bush just seems too crazy to me.

    But I just want to say, it’s because of reviews like this that yours is my favorite movie site. You obviously love movies and analyzing every little thing in a way only geeks would care about. I hope you keep doing it for a long time.

  • MBI

    Wow.

    I think your analysis is incredibly flawed. I find that most everyone have made these points already, but to reiterate.

    1) Neither Horton or The Whos represent God, or faith, or anything like it. They are representative of other people. Their existence is proved when they make their physical presence known — not a ridiculous miraculous set of events that one can interpret as being a sign of God a la “Signs.”

    2) I left the film thinking of this movie as one of the leftiest kids movies I’ve ever seen. Kangaroo is clearly a Maude Flanders-esque parody of Middle American overparenting mothers, and I think Christians would have a hard time identifying with Horton’s persecution. Atheists would clearly have an easier time of it, since a) the Kangaroo has all the power, a la midwestern Christians, b) she is forcefully eradicating anything that contradicts what she would say, which is characteristic to both sides of the debate but certainly more so towards Christians.

    3) Al Gore would clearly approve of the message, that people should open their eyes and quit being willfully ignorant about massive climate change. You praised Disney’s “Chicken Little” on similar terms, remember?

    I will agree that whatever the target, the satire against Kangaroo was too vicious and hateful to be comfortable with. How un-Seuss.

  • Scott M

    MaryAnn, I’ve checked out some of the Christian web site reviews of this movie and a lot of them picked up on the theme you mention also. They have some different takes on it that I wouldn’t have imagined like comparing the mean kangaroo to the preacher in the movie Footloose. One Christian commentator complained of kangaroo saying she homeschools not being reflective of her life homeschooling her children. So it’s not just the atheists (myself included) that have picked up on this theme.

    Two things more. One of the commenters above saying s/he worked on the film and nothing like this was intended. That’s nice to hear.

    And another commenter above says you’re not very attractive. I have to disagree. From the shoulders up, you’re a hottie!

    Best wishes.

  • Jason C

    Yeah, we homeschool our kids too and have since learned that there are certain things our society doesn’t have to be tolerant towards. Homeschooling is one of them.

    Luckily our kids didn’t seem to pick up on the jab so no harm no foul. BUt, I guess when anti-homeschoolers look at the fact that homeschoolers exceed public and private schoolers in terms of academic acehivement, you have to resort to the ever-powerful ad hominem attack.

    Overall, the movie seemed like it wanted to make a political statement of some sort, but it was all over the place. I couldn’t tell whether it had a left wing agenda or if there was some right wing conspriracy going on so I just gave up and enjoyed the movie. :)

  • MBI

    I realized that I just wrote “I think Christians would have a hard time identifying with Horton’s persecution.” That was probably incorrect. Religious types can relate to all sorts of persecution, whether it makes sense or not. (Christians have used this book as a pro-life text for years — even though there’s a gigantic difference between the debate about whether fetuses count as human beings and the debate about whether Whos even physically exist.)

    In any case, the film is not blasting the Kangaroo for not believing in Whos. Horton’s little mouse friend doesn’t believe in them either. The Kangaroo is ridiculed for not being able to accept someone subscribing to a different version of reality than her own. Intolerance, not disbelief, is the problem. And I’m sure there are all sorts of strident militant atheists out there, but that’s definitely more of a Christian thing.

    You say that the Kangaroo “does not come anywhere near saying ‘If you can’t see it hear it or feel it it doesn’t exist’ in the book,” yet clearly she does. Why else would she disagree that Whos exist? How is this uncharacteristic of the Kangaroo in the original book?

  • http://www.geocities.com/best_web_sites5/GodsDNA.htm Bob the Accountant

    Is it at all possible Horton Hears a Who could be about “the debate?” How science is reshaping “the debate,” raising our empathy I.Q.?

    “A person is a person no matter how small.” (Horton Hears a Who)

    http://www.godspy.com/magazine/a-question-of-empathy/

    Perhaps DNA is God’s language, as declared by Genome Project Lead Francis Collins?

    Peace and tolerance,

    -Bob the Accountant

  • Patrick

    Just went, last night, to see it. I can see, now, why you came up with the Christian analogy, I think that’s a very astute pick up and I’m wondering why more reviews haven’t noted this. But having read some of the comments on here, in particular one that mentioned that HHAW was written as an analogy about Japan and the Super Powers of the world post WW2, I couldn’t help but feel that this was more the case.
    In the end it was about communities learning that they had to live together.

  • MaryAnn

    I know Christians cry persecution in all sorts of improper situations, but atheists really do live up to the straw man sometimes and I think we would do well to remember it.

    Oh, please do explain.

    3) Al Gore would clearly approve of the message, that people should open their eyes and quit being willfully ignorant about massive climate change. You praised Disney’s “Chicken Little” on similar terms, remember?

    Sure. But I don’t think that characterization of the film fits in with the rest of what’s going on.

    One of the commenters above saying s/he worked on the film and nothing like this was intended. That’s nice to hear.

    There’s a huge difference between what meaning an artist intends to inject into his work, and what meaning can be drawn from the finished art.

    And another commenter above says you’re not very attractive. I have to disagree. From the shoulders up, you’re a hottie!

    Well, thanks. But I don’t see how what I have to say has anything to do with what I look like.

    Yeah, we homeschool our kids too and have since learned that there are certain things our society doesn’t have to be tolerant towards. Homeschooling is one of them.

    Unfortunately, “homeschooling” has become synonymous with “Christians unwilling to have their children educated about anything they disagree with,” like, you know, science. Perhaps that is not always the case, but too often it is.

    (Christians have used this book as a pro-life text for years — even though there’s a gigantic difference between the debate about whether fetuses count as human beings and the debate about whether Whos even physically exist.)

    Right. “A person is a person, no matter how small,” unless she’s a woman.

    The Kangaroo is ridiculed for not being able to accept someone subscribing to a different version of reality than her own. Intolerance, not disbelief, is the problem. And I’m sure there are all sorts of strident militant atheists out there, but that’s definitely more of a Christian thing.

    It’s not even about intolerance — it’s about control. Would we really care if Kangaroo didn’t believe in the Whos but left Horton alone to do whatever he wanted to do to save the Whos (assuming that Horton’s actions did not endanger the jungle or something)? Of course not. It’s not that Kangaroo scoffs, it’s that she is trying to shut Horton down. That’s the problem with Christianity in our society (not every individual Christian, of course, but some very vocal and very influential groups of them): they want everyone to follow their beliefs whether we believe or not. Those Christians don’t see that that’s what they’re doing, yet they turn that around and accuse atheists of trying to force atheism on everyone, which is not the case.

    You say that the Kangaroo “does not come anywhere near saying ‘If you can’t see it hear it or feel it it doesn’t exist’ in the book,” yet clearly she does. Why else would she disagree that Whos exist? How is this uncharacteristic of the Kangaroo in the original book?

    It’s not necessarily unrepresentative of Kangaroo’s attitude — the problem is that that line hits a particular hot button, and seems deliberately designed to do so. Kangaroo’s attitude could have been conveyed in other ways that didn’t hit that button.

  • shane

    MaryAnn said:
    “Oh, please do explain.”

    *shrug*, Do you really need examples? After 9/11 I remember hearing from several atheists that religion had finally proven it was too dangerous to exist. And, I’d guess that has something to do with the series of anti-religion books that have come out the last few years. Now I enjoyed some of them, but you aren’t going to sway many to your side by showing them how silly they are for defining a huge part of their lives with a myth. The history of the quality of life in the west improving since the dark ages, is largely a history of the diminishing role of religion in government and people’s lives. I think it would be a good thing for that to continue, but every time I see some idiot on TV trying to take “In God We Trust” off the dollar bill I want to scream. Cultural changes can’t be imposed by force or reason overnight. What progress has been made was made indirectly by ideas in science and philosophy that gave people better ways to understand the world than absurd creation myths, and better reasons to treat one another with dignity than heaven and hell.

    None of this really has anything to do with HHAW, and I can’t believe I’ve gotten involved with an internet “discussion” of religion. The main thing I didn’t like about your review wasn’t that you mentioned the possible right-wing symbolism, because I think it’s interesting, but that you devoted the whole review to it as if it were a certainty that that’s what the writers intended, when at best it is a little far fetched. It gives the impression that you want to believe it, because this a fight you’re just itching to have. Some people might consider that a little kangarooish.

  • Danni

    hah… all of the people getting offended that you noticed the allegory involving atheism and religion. i noticed it as well and frankly i’m quite surprised other reviewers didn’t touch on it.

  • Kelly

    MaryAnn, I think you’re a very intelligent person and very passionate about social issues. This is great, it’s beautiful that you want to fight for what you believe in. But when it comes to God, you’re manifesting this desire to fight for what you believe in against forces that are good for society.

    I think your disdain for Christianity comes from your misconception that it promotes hate or demotion of women in some way. But this IS a misconception, and a strong one. Judaism(God created man and women in his image – putting them on equal footing) and Christianity especially were really the first religions to really acknowledge women as fully capable human beings with souls(the Greeks are the ones that disdained women and thought they had no souls – some of these viewpoints eventually infiltrated Christianity 500 years after it’s inception, but that says nothing about the actual THEOLOGY of Christianity which bolstered women to ASTRONOMICAL heights compared to how they were being treated at the time.

    Mary, I am completely sympathetic to your disdain for a religion you believe does not accept you or womenkind. But if you want to be honest about Christianity and the overall impact it’s had on the world as far as the elevation of women, I think an intelligent person as you will come to the conclusion, as many fine philosophers of the past have, that Christianity has been instrumental in providing a voice for women in history, as well as laid the groundworks for freedom of speech, religion and choice.

    I think you may find a kindred spirit(if you can swallow your biases) in the very intelligent and eloquent Frederica Mathewes-Green whom, like yourself, hated Christianity largely because she’d thought it was anti-women. She was formerly a HUGE feminist and pro-choice advocate and atheist, flower child, etc. If you’re really interested in learning what Christianity speaks of concerning women and other things I suggest you give this a chance – I’d hope you would given your professed open-mindedness and disdain for straw-men. http://www.veritas.org/media/talks/218

    This is another speech by her that I think is slightly more interesting, but I’m afraid you might fall over when you read the title… but it’s more open and understanding than some diatribe you may have heard from some of the more…emphatic…of the faith. Considering she used to be a hyper-liberal feminist hippie.

    http://www.veritas.org/media/talks/217

    Both of these are audios. Mary, it is my hope that you are truly interested in truth and will give one or both of these talks a chance. You are clearly not aware of some basic tenets of the religion you’re critiquing.

    Give one a chance!!! I think you’ll like her.

  • Kelly

    Oh, any Maryann…”Those Christians don’t see that that’s what they’re doing, yet they turn that around and accuse atheists of trying to force atheism on everyone, which is not the case.”

    This is not true. Have you read Dawkins, or Hitchens? Religion poisons everything. It is a very popular book. You are deluding yourself if you think it is not about expelling religion and inculcating atheism.

    Dawkins has gone as far as to say he thinks it is CHILD ABUSES for parents to teach their children about God and religion. If he were in control, he’d make it illegal. He’s one of the foremost proponents of atheism today, as I’m sure you’re aware of.

    Go on any “sci” forum. Read some of the comments and videos posted on youtube against Christianity. It’s pure vitriol. We’re idiots for even THINKING there could be a God, this “sky-daddy.” Belief in God is often compared to belief in leprechauns or fairies(somehow I think the comparison is somewhat lacking, as questioning the existence of leprechauns and fairies hasn’t been prominent on the minds of the great geniuses and ordinary people alike. Perhaps there is a philosophical REASON for this? Hm..) We’re feeble-minded, intolerant, dangerous people. Maryann, maybe you don’t get much of a chance to scour the internet or read much philosophy(you’d know who Antony Flew was if you did – he is widely recognized by atheists as the most influential atheist philosopher of the 20th century.)

    Christians have gone through some of the most horrible persecution in history. It’s quite possible that it could happen again here – it is quite vehemently in other parts of the world (http://www.christianpersecution.info/ )often due to the exponential growth of Christianity in places that are opposed to it(China, for instance).

  • cwm

    I find it difficult to fathom the chorus of “shut up and enjoy the film,” when evidently the film (unlike Seuss’ books) isn’t enjoyable!

    As for the filmmakers’ intentions: I agree with MaryAnn (if I read her correctly) that their intentions are irrelevant. What’s important is how the audience will react to this peculiar adaptation of what was originally a delightful children’s book.

    Horton Hears a Who–as written by Dr. Seuss–carries a message, though it doesn’t matter whether the reader explicitly understands one particular interpretation. The story is enough in itself.

    I still recall being frightened by Horton’s imprisonment, and horrified by the prospect of the obliteration of Whoville. Children’s stories can be driven by intense conflict: the most memorable ones, especially. Would James’ fanciful journey in the Giant Peach have been as wondrous, had it not been preceded by the grim fantasy of the boy enslaved by his lazy, hideous aunts? (Dahl did not forget how frightening grownups can be, in a child’s eyes!)

    It’s great to have warm, unthreatening fare (Harold and the Purple Crayon, When We Were Very Young et al) for toddlers’ bedtime stories. But what a loss if all literature for older kids were to be devoid of any danger or mystery.

  • cwm

    Antony Flew [...] is widely recognized by atheists as the most influential atheist philosopher of the 20th century.)

    Really now, Kelly. You might have heard of Bertrand Russell?

    I agree; some Christians are tolerant. It does not follow that only a minority of Christians are intolerant.

    There’s so much more to be said, but I don’t want to further contribute to going wildly off-topic.

  • Pedro

    i agree with most other reviewers: you’re reading too much into things.

  • Alex

    Wow, I never thought I’d see the day that an atheist complained about a movie creating a straw man of his/her beliefs.

    It’s frustrating isn’t it?

  • MaryAnn

    every time I see some idiot on TV trying to take “In God We Trust” off the dollar bill I want to scream.

    I agree. I think we should change it to “In Allah we trust.” Then perhaps Christians will understand why atheists are unhappy about the “In God we trust thing.”

    The main thing I didn’t like about your review wasn’t that you mentioned the possible right-wing symbolism, because I think it’s interesting, but that you devoted the whole review to it as if it were a certainty that that’s what the writers intended,

    I have no idea what the filmmakers intended. And that has nothing to do with what interpretations can be drawn from it.

    Have you read Dawkins, or Hitchens? Religion poisons everything. It is a very popular book. You are deluding yourself if you think it is not about expelling religion and inculcating atheism.

    Pointing out the problems with a certain belief system is not the same as trying to force another belief system down throats. Atheists — even outspoken one who write popular books — are NOT forcing anyone from practicing whatever religion they want to practice. But when a pharmacist won’t fill prescriptions because of his religious beliefs, that’s a problem for society at large.

    I think your disdain for Christianity comes from your misconception that it promotes hate or demotion of women in some way.

    Sure. And I disdain Thor because he misused thunder. And don’t get me started on Kali.

  • Josh

    Wow, I feel kind of sorry for you. Okay, you don’t like religion. We get it, but i felt you just used this review to impose your view of religion on us. So really you’re no different than the people you condemn. I don’t see how anyone can actually believe that this movie conveys religious symbolism because that’s almost as laughable as Scientology. It seems that this was just a great opportunity for you to vent some anger out on Christianity. Next time, just review the damn movie.

    This is a great movie and should be free from you religious and political scrutiny.

  • Greg Peterson

    Hey Josh. You leave me feeling so ambivalent, because “scrutiny” is kind of a grown-up word, but your attitude is strictly tween. Are you 12 with a Roget’s, or an adult who huffed a lot of Aquanet? Because apparently you don’t understand how communication works. No one “imposed” views on you. You DECIDED to read those views, and remain completely free to reject them in whole or in part. And nothing, ever ever, should be “free from…religious and political scrutiny.” Not in a democracy. Not post-Enligthenment. If you really are very young or have severe learning disabilities, my apologies. But if you are more than 15 years old and healthy, your ideas officially cross over from merely ignorant to actively dangerous. Just thought you should know.

  • Spencer

    Wow. I had no idea there were so many nutjobs out there. I would apologize for their behavior and your having to put up with it, but since I in no way speak for them, I don’t think I can (nor would they want me to). Also, I suppose you could just ignore them all if you felt like it, so kudos to you!

    If I might offer a point of suggestion which could be construed as disagreement (and at the risk of being labelled a “nutjob” myself): I noticed that one of the first responses to your review made mention of the fact that you seem to be alone in your interpretation of this movie as a sublimated anti-atheist polemic. Of course, I know swimming upstream doesn’t bother you in the least, but might it at least give you some pause to consider that out of the 100 reviews to date, yours is the only one which sees the movie through this lens? This, of course, is not to say that subjective interpretation can be objectively gainsaid. However, I would envision a scenario where, instead of relying on the inherent (and possibly overlooked) subjectivity of a movie review to make the case, you began the review by acknowledging the uniqueness of your approach outright and then proving your case systematically and with as little sarcasm and righteous indignation as possible (both hallmarks of absolute certainty, which is an appelation little suited to a subjective review).

    Don’t get me wrong! I think that this style is uniquely yours and thus as a general rule should not be repressed. Whatever else your review might have been, it was interesting and entertaining reading. However, when advocating an extreme minority position (and one which is highly open to misunderstanding), perhaps it might be better to take pains not to sound such a jarring tone?

    Of course, you’re under no obligation to concur, reply, or even listen to what I say, so do as you please. Just a suggestion from a fan.

  • accountingninja

    How predictable these comments.

    Personally, I always thought of the motto “A person is a person no matter how small” as an attempt to identify with the little children who read Seuss. It’s that simple. Small children often feel ignored by adults and that sometimes they don’t matter, but they do, “no matter how small.”

    As for the review, I found it fascinating! I too am an atheist, and while I’m not as left-leaning as MAJ (I sometimes disagree with her views, but they are SO entertaining to read!) I can definitely see what she’s talking about.

    You are my favorite reviewer, hands down. As a female and an atheist, I often felt discouraged by the garbage spewed out by Hollywood. I would often have little nagging dislikes about certain films, but I was unable to put my finger on WHY I wouldn’t like something…until you came along! You were able to articulate EXACTLY what I saw. Especially in the area of the subtle and NOT SO subtle sexism in movies. So thank you!!

    Let me just say one thing: If there is a MINORITY in this country, it is atheists. Almost everybody believes in some sort of supernatural being. I am usually the only one in a group that doesn’t. That’s okay, as long as like MAJ said, you don’t try to “convert” me. People have all sorts of crazy ideas about atheists, all misconceptions. When I admit that I am one, people often give me a pitying look. One woman even accused me of worshipping the devil! (Um, no.)

    So it always makes me shake my head when Christians and other theists cry “persecution” (not in America. Such hyperbole is ridiculous. No one’s getting stoned here as far as I know, or fed to any lions.) Theists are definitely running America nowadays. But I won’t cry “persecution” either, because as far as I know I too am able to have my beliefs without physical harm.

  • a new fan

    I found your review the morning after I took my kids to see Horton Hears a Who. The kids (aged 5 and 2) both loved it; however, the wife and I were scratching our heads about some not-so-subtle overtones we were picking up. So I searched this morning and found your review.

    I had exactly the same reaction you did to this movie. I went directly to my bookshelves to see just what was in the original book compared to the movie. And I’m rather appalled that the studio apparently felt the need to be (or saw the potential profit in) grafting these Christian fundamentalist themes on to a great story with universal appeal. I’m happy to report that most, if not all, of that indoctrination went right over their heads.

    I really appreciate the candor of your review and the courage and integrity you’ve shown in responding to nay sayers.

  • MaryAnn

    might it at least give you some pause to consider that out of the 100 reviews to date, yours is the only one which sees the movie through this lens?

    Give me pause how? Like I should reconsider my position?

    However, I would envision a scenario where, instead of relying on the inherent (and possibly overlooked) subjectivity of a movie review

    I have never, ever pretended that my reviews are NOT subjective. NO movie reviews are subjective. They are ALL matters of opinion.

    acknowledging the uniqueness of your approach outright

    I wrote this review, as I write any review when I’m writing before a film has been released, in a vacuum, before other critics have released their reviews. (And even when I’m writing postrelease, I never, ever read other critics’ reviews before I write my own. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid hearing what the general consensus on a movie is after it has opened and after many critics have weighed in on it, but there’s no way to get that consensus before a movie has opened.) So I had no idea how other critics were going to respond to this movie — some of them could have seen the same or similar things I saw in the film.

    (both hallmarks of absolute certainty, which is an appelation little suited to a subjective review).

    If I come across as “absolutely certain” in a review, you can rest assured that the only thing I am absolutely certain of is my own opinion and my own response. I never make any assumption that I am any more “right” than that. But I also take it as a given that my readers understand that my reviews are presented as my own opinion and nothing more than that, and that my having to inject qualifiers like “in my opinion” in every paragraph is not necessary.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    I’m sure glad that so many of my fellow Christians are leading such splendid lives that MaryAnn’s failure to appreciate a Jim Carrey movie is obviously the worst problem they can think of.

    And since when did “judge not lest ye be judged” stop being a Christian principle?

  • joe

    I think we should go back to feeding Christians to the Lions.

  • Spencer

    I am well aware of the avowedly subjective nature of your reviews, both in theory and in principle. I hope I have not given the impression of calling that into question. Where I am confused is when there is a definite tone and trend in the review of declarative and self-assured statements worded objectively. Rather than saying “I cannot see the movie any other way than…” you chose “[the movie] cannot be seen except in one narrow sense…” Rather than saying “This film treatment can be interpreted as…” you chose “It has been turned into…” And finally, you chose to say that it is “reason turned on its head.” What could be more objective than rational principles? At the very least, this invites misunderstanding and vitriol (given the subject matter). So even if we apply a logical positivist analysis to your review and say “Whenever she says ‘is’ she really means ‘seems to me’,” we are still left with some very confusing statements and the standard logical positivist critique: if that is what you really mean, why not say it? Why say what is in fact the precise opposite?

    For my part, I saw nothing in the movie which was necessarily or even overtly anti-atheist. If Kangaroo is the allegorical atheist, then why is one of her major motivations for rejecting Horton fear that if others buy into his ideas they will come to her with questions she can’t answer? Traditionally, belief that one has all the answers and an irrational fear of not having them is considered the purview of fundamentalist Christians. In addition, she is one of the main champions of the doctrine of The Supremacy of Conformity in the movie– what atheist do you know takes this position (or even is caricatured in the opposing literature as doing so?). On another point, the Mayor’s frantic plea of ‘the sky is falling’ and his admonition to heed ‘the big invisible voice in the sky’ need not be interpreted religiously. To my recollection, the fact of the source of the vital information coming from the sky is not reiterated in the movie to the point where it is essential to an enjoyment of it. Also, to say that this is “Christian” is to commit the same sin of knocking down a strawman that you accuse the scriptwriters of doing (orthodox theology holds that the Christian God is noncoporeal and thus not “located” anywhere, least of all the sky in light of at least one of his persons– the Holy Spirit– being said to reside in the souls of Christians). Thus, the only reading of this plot device which I can see which does not do violence to what is on the page is to see it as a lone person who truly cares for his fellow-person attempting to help them because he has some information they do not. This can be applied to John the Baptist or ecologists equally when speaking to the masses.

  • TheGaucho

    Boy, if you step on the toes of Christian/Right-wing America…

    MaryAnn, come over to our side of the Ocean, honey, here in Europe we’ll take good care of you ;-). But youy probably wouldn’t want to leave the cultural wasteland that is New York…

    Keep up the good work, your reviews are riveting stuff!

  • Jennifer

    I would like to say I think your comments on horton hears a who are very unfair. I am 14 and currently in the musical adaptation of the book and dont see the ‘themes’ of christianity versus athiesm there. I am an atheist but I dont look too deeply into what the kangeroo is saying “If you can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it doesn’t exist,”. This is just more of the characters build up and isnt refering to athiesm. She is portrayed as narrow minded and that is NOT reflected in atheists. I hope you realise that most children remember the funny moments in films, not the similarities to on going religious fueds. Please dont review anymore childrens films as you dont seem to grasp innocence.

  • MaryAnn

    Jennifer, I think I’ve made it perfectly clear both in my review and in the comments that follow that my criticism are directed at the movie, and not at the book or any other adaptations of the book. And I hope you realize that simply because children do not recognize the subtext of a work of art that it certainly can affect them. Of course I recognize innocence. The problem is that the innocent may not recognize propaganda when they see it.

    (orthodox theology holds that the Christian God is noncoporeal and thus not “located” anywhere, least of all the sky in light of at least one of his persons– the Holy Spirit– being said to reside in the souls of Christians)

    It’s funny, then, isn’t it, how those who chose to use religion as a weapon portray “God” as someone watching over us from above…

  • http://noemi.ro Noemi

    Lol, what?

    You are all obviously too old for this movie.

  • Kelly

    Funny, then, isn’t it, how people who choose to use atheism as a weapon portray “no God” as an excuse to do whatever they want…

    Statistically, MaryAnn, theists should be the least of your worries. As someone mentioned earlier, atheist regimes have killed MILLIONS MORE in the past century than “Christians” have in the past 2000 years.

  • Signal30

    That’s weird… I also came away from the movie shaking my head at the not-so-subtle agitprop…

    … but I was reading it as Liberal Agenda (for what it’s worth, I’m left-of-center moderate).

    There’s a pretty heavy global warming subtext (and the deliberate public ignorance of same in pursuit of consumerism), but the anti-science, homeschooling villain and her rabble of mindless apes wasn’t subtle at all. Ironic, I suppose… but propaganda nonetheless.

    While I agree with the message (and from what I recall of Seuss’ politics, he probably would, too), I still don’t think it should be delivered through a children’s film. At least in such an aggressive manner.

  • susan smith

    The only thing I got from this beautiful movie was that it taught a very valuable lesson to stand up for what you believe in even if you’re surrounded by an angry mob. Be true to yourself and don’t comprise yourself for anyone or anything. Don’t all Dr. Seuss stories have a message like this… green, eggs, ham taught us to try new things…. the Cat in the Hat taught us to use our imagination… Horton Hears a Who taught us to stand by our beliefs and values. I’d say if someone has the time to analyze every single tiny aspect of a CHILDREN’S MOVIE…. right down to the entertaining accent of the vulture that made my neice laugh each time she heard it… then they really have too much time on their hands.

  • shane

    I think we should change it to “In Allah we trust.” Then perhaps Christians will understand why atheists are unhappy about the “In God we trust thing.”

    Yeah, I’m sure Christians would freak out, but I would expect that from people who engage in symbol worship and magical thinking. I’m trying to understand why an atheist should care. Making that our national motto was a victory for the theocrats, but it’s an irrelevant one. Changing it wouldn’t bring us one step closer to turning this country into a secular humanist utopia, but even trying to will win votes for the republicans who run on this crap. I’m a hell of a lot more worried about the attacks on science, education, and the pro-ignorance culture created by a religious majority that currently thinks it’s under intellectual assault.

    I have no idea what the filmmakers intended. And that has nothing to do with what interpretations can be drawn from it.

    I suppose that’s true, but the tone of your review is a little more dogmatic. “cannot be seen except in one narrow sense” is the way you described it. You even called it “propaganda” in one of you comments, and that most certainly implies intent on the part of the filmmakers. Maybe I’m blind, but it’s not as though I’m not sympathetic. I’m an atheist. I remember being quite insulted, for example, by the way the movie “Signs” portrayed people without faith, but I just don’t see it here. Everyone seems to agree it’s about intolerance. Even if it’s specifically about atheist intolerance(which I do not believe), I’m not offended. Every time I see an atheist browbeat some Christian minding his own, for no reason other than self elevation, or every time I see one of those stupid Darwin fish on someone’s car I can understand how they feel. Maybe it isn’t “persecution”, but it isn’t necessary either.

  • Scott P

    I’m with dib’n & Eric on this one. After seeing this movie last Saturday, I thought the main message was that IMAGINATION is a wonderful, human trait which should not be squelched.

    I’d give the movie 3 stars. It’s no Toy Story or Monsters Inc.

    I think we’re all missing the main reason to realistically criticize this movie. In the climactic big-song scene, they only gave us about THIRTY SECONDS of REO SPEEDWAGON’s classic “Can’t Fight This Feeling”!!! At the very least they could have let the song carry on into the credits. But alas, this REO superfan was disappointed in the end.

  • MaryAnn

    Funny, then, isn’t it, how people who choose to use atheism as a weapon portray “no God” as an excuse to do whatever they want…

    Only Christians who don’t understand atheism believe that’s what atheists believe.

    I’m trying to understand why an atheist should care. Making that our national motto was a victory for the theocrats, but it’s an irrelevant one.

    It’s not at all irrelevant. It’s a contributing factor to all the other ills you mention — “attacks on science, education, and the pro-ignorance culture.” And who’s talking about creating “a secular humanist utopia”?

  • Greg Peterson

    Kelly, that’s a pretty ignorant statement. First, I did stipulate that in sheer numbers, atheistic regimes have been responsible for more deaths than religious ones. But consider two important facts:

    >The biggest reason for that is that there simply were more people to kill in the 20th century, and more efficient methods of killing them. Does anyone seriously think that if jihadists or crusaders had billions of infidels to kill and the means to do it, they’d hesitate? To be meaningful, this can’t be an argument about numbers; it must be about motives.

    >And atheism itself has never been a MOTIVE for genocide. That is, atheism never TELLS anyone to kill; religion sometimes DOES claim that God has commanded genocide.

    But even this argument overlooks my real point: There is no reason to believe in a personal god in line with the gods of the major world religions. These gods are pure delusion. So we must look elsewhere for our morals. Fortunately, this is easy enough to do, by merely developing intelligence and empathy. It could be remembered that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a secular ethic. No god is required for it to work. And does it not have an intrinsic appeal? Does it really need to rest on anything outside itself for its force? I do not think so. I think that is why nearly every ethical system and religion boils down to this self-evident Golden Rule. Jesus was not the first to express it. And it stands on its own, apart from any religious belief. I do not know any atheists who feel differently. And since for atheists forgiveness and atonement (such as it is) is for this life only, many of us are more moral than our religious counterparts. There is no one to punish us, true, but no one to forgive us, either…so we strive to avoid committing acts that no human should reasonably forgive. I wonder what the child-raping priests think about that?

  • Spencer

    Oh, God. Can we PLEASE leave proselytizing and/or grossly inflammatory and antagonistic statements by the wayside? It’s no wonder that there is little serious and earnest dialogue between believers and unbelievers– both sides seem to be talking past each other and attempting to score rhetorical points rather than addressing the substance of the others’ arguments. This is about a movie, not an argument over details of history.

    MaryAnn, I know you are under no obligation to reply to anyone here, least of all me, but I will say that if I were running my own blog of this nature, I would reply to the honest and sincere people and ignore the nutjobs who do the above. That’s just what I would do– you can do what you want. Quite probably, I am in the wrong medium if I am looking for a reasoned and critical discussion (I mean the Internet generally and a feedback forum specifically, not your site singularly).

    That being said, I believe I made some significant points which are worth discussing. Specifically, I noted 1) that your review, even given an understanding of subjectivity, used highly objective and declarative language; 2) that the symbolism and allegory you observed need not be interpreted in the way you do; and 3) that the combination of the two above points (if valid) lead one to the conclusion that it is entirely understandable if people misread your intentions or your goals. Furthermore, whatever vacuum your review was originally written in, the subject matter and the conclusion you came to (I feel) ought to have dictated caution.

    All this, of course, is assuming that your goal is– as I take it to be– contributing something meaningful to a discussion of cinema and what role it plays in our lives and the formation of ideas. If your goal is something altogether different (i.e., to entertain solely, a cathartic outlet, etc.), I apologize for my misrepresentation. I took this understanding from a general survey of your reviews, and the specific statements you made in this one. For example, you stated that this movie and/or its script is “insidious”. If pure subjectivity is your goal, then in what way could it be insidious? Certainly not to you. To others? But they must perceive the allegory, even if the perception is unconscious. My goal in pointing out how your interpretation is not necessary (nor even obvious when we consider the number of people who have seen this movie and responded very differently) is to illustrate that even if some half-formed idea implants itself that we ought to listen to those who claim to have special knowledge or information we do not have, this is applicable to ANY appeal to authority– whether scientific, religious, or artistic. For as many instances you bring up of a uniquely religious interpretation, there are arguably just as many (and I presented a few) which contradict that interpretation.

    Ultimately, people will get out of a movie what they get out of it, and much of what determines this is the filter with which they perceive the movie. This is not necessarily preconceived– one can hear a line or catch an image early on which sets the tone for their viewing of the rest of the picture. My intention has been to show you how such a phenomenon might have occurred, or at the very least to illustrate how an interpretation such as you describe needs to answer for the existence of contradictory details within the same allegory. At most, this makes “Horton…”, if it is an allegory, a poor one in both its faulty theology and its minimally integrated nature. And how could such a thing be “insidious”?

  • Dave

    Ummm…it looks like this has been beaten to death. I was a little shocked at the your reaction (agahst) to this movie. I can see where you can make a case for your argument, but I think you might be able to test your theory a little: are their any so-called, right-wing groups giving marching orders to see this movie? I haven’t seen or heard of any, but I haven’t been looking, either.

    I think I could read all sorts of things into it. How many times has someone else been outraged about a particular film and you said “It’s just a movie…it’s a work of fiction?” That’s what this is. It’s just a movie.

    But so what? An opinion is an opinion no matter what it is, right?

  • Spencer

    Actually, there have been right-wingers marching in support of it: look at the original review and find a link to where anti-abortion activists have latched onto the “a person is a person, no matter how small” line.

    I can’t really imagine this to be a litmus test, though. So what if some fringe group appropriates one line in a movie that is not about their main cause and uses it in support of their main cause? This is just like rabid theists taking verses in isolation to support bigotry and hatred, or rabid atheists taking verses in isolation to show that God is really cruel (I am not attempting to debate these points; only to say that in my opinion these are all examples of misusing a source material). What is the case, however, is that fundamentalist Christians (or any other kind for that matter) have NOT attached themselves and their views to this movie wholesale, like they did for the “Passion of the Christ” or “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” If the movie shares as many similarities to the former (as the title of the review seems to indicate is the author’s opinion), then this would be expected.

    The aforementioned line illustrates how filters affect our perception of things: When we are presented with ambiguous or flexible data (such as the above line and many of the symbols in the movie), our mental and psychological schema react nearly instinctively and interpret that data in ways which correlate to our existing worldview. Of course there are exceptions: this is the general raison d’etre. The above quote need only mean, as someone noted fairly early on in the discussion, that everyone is deserving of respect and basic human dignity solely in virtue of their being a person– a call for tolerance and common ground. Use of this quote as the anti-abortionists want to seems to quite patently beg the question (i.e., that embryos are “persons”). In light of this being a kid’s movie, it is quite probable this was all that was intended by the scriptwriters. Given the nearly complete lack of anything in their prior movies which would indicate their propensity to subtly (or not-so-subtly) proselytize, I find it exteremely likely that to read such into it is to project oneself onto the movie in such a way that surpasses ordinary subjective experience.

  • MaryAnn

    Specifically, I noted 1) that your review, even given an understanding of subjectivity, used highly objective and declarative language;

    True. I refuse to preface every comment that is an opinion with “in my opinion” or to otherwise qualify my criticism. You may take what you describe as my “objective” language here as an indication of how strongly I felt about what I was writing.

    2) that the symbolism and allegory you observed need not be interpreted in the way you do;

    But that is ALWAYS the case, no matter how strongly I state my opinion. Again, read my language as “there is no way that *I* could interpret this otherwise” if you want.

    whatever vacuum your review was originally written in, the subject matter and the conclusion you came to (I feel) ought to have dictated caution.

    And I feel not. So we’ll have to disagree on that.

    Your objections are noted, Spencer. However, I stand by my review and my subsequent explanations of my review, and of the tact I took.

    All this, of course, is assuming that your goal is– as I take it to be– contributing something meaningful to a discussion of cinema and what role it plays in our lives and the formation of ideas.

    That is my goal. And I hope that by offering an opinion that turned out, after the fact, to be in the minority, that I am doing that, whether my readers agree with me or not.

    My intention has been to show you how such a phenomenon might have occurred,

    Are you suggesting that I am not aware of biases that I have spoken loudly and clearly about numerous times?

    At most, this makes “Horton…”, if it is an allegory, a poor one in both its faulty theology and its minimally integrated nature. And how could such a thing be “insidious”?

    Quite easily. The allegory doesn’t have to be perfect — though I think it’s pretty good (you say faulty theology and minimal intergration; I disagree). It just has to strike the right emotional notes.

    How many times has someone else been outraged about a particular film and you said “It’s just a movie…it’s a work of fiction?” That’s what this is. It’s just a movie.

    You know what? Search on the phrase “just a movie” at this site and you’ll see how often I use that phrase (not that often)… and the context in which I use it is, 99 percent of the time, when I am being derogatory of the idea that movies, even dumb ones, don’t mean anything.

    If movies are just movies, then there’s no point in talking about them at all. If that’s what you think, then why are you here?

  • Kelly

    Greg,

    “Does anyone seriously think that if jihadists or crusaders had billions of infidels to kill and the means to do it, they’d hesitate? To be meaningful, this can’t be an argument about numbers; it must be about motives.”

    Well, I would concede that the jihadists would probably kill if given the opportunity. But they feel that they have a motive from the Koran – you can’t anything similar about the Bible; most especially in light of the New Testament which is emphatically anti-violence. The Crusades happened for largely political reasons and cannot be justified by a fair reading of Jesus’ teachings.

    “And atheism itself has never been a MOTIVE for genocide. That is, atheism never TELLS anyone to kill; religion sometimes DOES claim that God has commanded genocide.”

    Atheism never directly tells anyone to kill as it is not a doctrine, but it IS a worldview – one completely void of any objective reality. As you stated, people will search subjectively for moral values, and an atheist cannot say that one of these worldviews is somehow better than another(that would be implying there is some kind of objective “better” to appeal to). It’s all just OPINION, after all, deigned from your genetics and societal circumstances(you happened to be raised in a society built on Judeo-Christianity. Even though you yourself aren’t Christian you are profoundly affected by it’s morality). You may come up with all sorts of idealistic answers to why we should treat each other well, but you will never, ever be able to break from the realm of your own, subjective opinion. You will have very little ability to JUSTIFY why a bitterly angry man, for instance, should not kill his girlfriend and then himself, if he really “wants” to. This is because atheism does not lend itself to justifying any ACTUAL right or wrong. You can wax emotional all you like about how “it should just be intrinsic” but such statements do nothing to further a justification for why your way of believing is any better than another’s. Such are profoundly emotional arguments, relying completely on the “instrinsic” or “feeling.” Culturally, genetically imposed, subjective feeling. This is the extent atheistic morality.

    “But even this argument overlooks my real point: There is no reason to believe in a personal god in line with the gods of the major world religions. These gods are pure delusion. ”

    Hah. No reason? How about the origins of the universe at a finite point of the past as determined by Big Bang cosmology and modern mathematics? (that has stated that an actual infinite in the physical world is a literal IMPOSSIBILITY(ie no infinite Universe)) This cannot be explained by science, other than to say that the universe popped into being out of nothing, or that there is an infinite of multi-verses(which has the infinity-impossibility problem). Or the fine-tuning of the Universe? Or the existence of objective moral values(that you seem to believe in) ? All of these have more detailed explanations but I don’t want to make this TOO long. And this discussion could obviously have a better forum. If you’re truly interested in debating this seriously, I’d suggest going to http://www.reasonablefaith.org and actually listening/reading some of the arguments for theism(there are many debates between Craig and some top atheists) – I doubt you’re up-to-snuff – and then perhaps engaging on the forum if you have issues. Ignoring god from afar is easy, but engaging informed theists on a critical level may rattle you a bit.

    “And since for atheists forgiveness and atonement (such as it is) is for this life only, many of us are more moral than our religious counterparts. ”

    Greg, have you looked at the statistics for volunteerism and donations lately? Christians are way out ahead of those who define themselves as “secular humanists” – they give more to non-religious and religious organizations, including m non-monetary gifts(blood/volunteering) http://magicstatistics.com/2006/11/17/religious-conservatives-donate-far-more-than-secular-liberals/ I have a feeling you’re getting this idea that atheists are more moral than Christians more from your presumptions than any actual evidence.

    “There is no one to punish us, true, but no one to forgive us, either…so we strive to avoid committing acts that no human should reasonably forgive. ”

    Because you live in an empathatic, Christianity-based society.

    “I wonder what the child-raping priests think about that?”

    Nice touch. You again fall into the trap of equating certain behavior of those who call themselves Christians with some sort of internal flaw in Christian theology. However, there is no excuse for such behavior in Christianity. These priests are being incredibly selfish and evil by doing these things. This kind of this IS wrong because there is an objective, actual right and wrong to adhere to, and a way that we were designed in order to fulfil our greatest potential under God. There is no such guideline with atheism – and that’s the problem. People can believe whatever they like, whatever they feel is “rational,” as they have no guidelines except for what their society and upbringing imposes upon them. Was there anything inherently IRRATIONAL about killing masses of Jews and other “undesirables” under Hitler? Darwinism tells us that survival of the fittest is and always has been law of the land, and that POWER, FITNESS, and PROPOGATION OF SPECIES are the ultimate goals. If this is the way life is – cold, calculating, self-interested – then why not continue the practice cognitavely, through a sort of Neitzschian “Will to Power”? You see, with atheism, there are millions of things people can justify as “right,” because the ideation of the “right” isn’t an actuality, but a subjective experience.

    You don’t think people should do something like rape children, basely, because of the bad feelings in you it evokes. Well, you know what? There are people in whom this kind of behavior invokes quite good feelings. And who is more right than the other, taking into account that SUBJECTIVE morality is our only judgment point? The one who falls in line with societies standards at the time. Cause, y’know Greg, in ancient Greece most people had no problem with older men having sex with young boys. Wonder how up in arms you would have been about it back then?

  • m

    “3) Al Gore would clearly approve of the message, that people should open their eyes and quit being willfully ignorant about massive climate change. You praised Disney’s “Chicken Little” on similar terms, remember?”

    Um, that’s the Lorax.

    Whew! What a view! What a Who View Review!
    And one hog-tied it all to the ACLU
    and another went on about Antony Flew
    (sounds like Flew would be through
    with that bad Kanga, Roo)!

    Still the mouths they do flap, the opinions,
    they scatter,
    and THAT is why critics like MaJo –
    they matter.
    ‘Cause that’s one thing Doc Seuss tried to say
    the first time:
    that a person’s a person — no matter how blind.

    xo

  • m

    And oh –

    To the chick who sounds like she talked through a bandanna —
    I’m from that “wasteland cult’ral” we call Indiana.
    And as far as tol’rating “thinks differently”
    I’d much rather remain in good old NYC.

    Thanks for playing, though!

  • MaryAnn

    Kelly, you would do well to read up on secularism and atheism as secularists and atheists understand it, not as religionists misunderstand it.

    And please please PLEASE do not invoke “Darwinisn” unless you are NOT going to spout absurd misunderstandings of what it means. You talk about “engaging theists on an informed level” but you appear unaware that you are not, in fact, well informed about atheism, secularism, or science.

  • Spencer

    I appreciate your responses, MaryAnn. Thanks for indulging me. Since your time is valuable and we have both made our points, I will simply reiterate my enjoyment of your point of view (as well as your geek credentials! Long live Firefly!) and leave it at that. Thanks again.

    Can’t stop the signal…

  • Kelly

    MaryAnn, I notice that you did not actually address any of my arguments; you basically just called me “wrong.”

    The truth about Darwinism and atheism is that they do not inform us of an objective morality, and in fact relegate any perceived morality to the subjective state of individual experience(which varies greatly from person to person, culture to culture). You say to “not invoke “Darwinisn” unless you are NOT going to spout absurd misunderstandings of what it means” as if it actually means anything other than that we evolved by means of a cold, meaningless process. As an atheist/darwinist(not that you have to be an atheist to believe in evolution), it is logical to infer any concept of meaning/morality from THIS premise.

    If you have a problem with my thesis, you have a problem with the consensus of most “informed atheists” out there, from Bertrand Russel to Steven Pinker. Neitszche understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life.

    “Morality is a biological adaptation, no different than our hands, feet and teeth. considered as a ration justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. i appreciate that when somebody says “love thy neighbor as thyself” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves, nevertheless such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction and any deeper meaning is illusory.”

    -Michael Rouse, Prof. of Philosophy at the University of Gulf, Ontario

    THIS is the logical conclusion of atheism and Darwinism, MaryAnn, this is the consensus of informed atheists, and what I was proposing. Now how was my explanation “uninformed”?

  • Darren

    How nice to find someone else got the same uneasy feeling I did upon watching this movie. I really didn’t notice it until the mayor was ridiculed for being the only one able to hear the voice. The ties to Christianity really hit home for me, though, when Horton was backed into the cage and poked with sticks, a painfully obvious and ham-handed tribute to Jesus. Gag.

    I see folks above are still conflating Darwinism with atheism… sigh. In “The Origin of Species,” Darwin said absolutely nothing about morality, nor was his intent to imply anything. He was simply describing a process that he observed and used science to try and explain it.

    Who says atheism has to have a logical conclusion? Atheism means nothing more than a lack of belief. I can’t speak for all atheists, as we’re as different as can be, but I happen to believe life is precious. Everyone should enjoy every day as if it were their last!

  • Greg Peterson

    Oh, Kelly. Kelly Kelly Kelly. You are so easy to fisk, my friend. First, let me say that while we don’t seem to agree on a lot, I like ya. You give off a vibe I find very amiable and I think we could be friends. So I don’t write this in the spirit of a put-down, but in the spirit of two warhorses snorting at the truth…I hope you can receive it in that spirit.

    Here we go:

    Greg,

    “Does anyone seriously think that if jihadists or crusaders had billions of infidels to kill and the means to do it, they’d hesitate? To be meaningful, this can’t be an argument about numbers; it must be about motives.”

    …you can’t anything similar about the Bible…

    There is significant genocide in the Hebrew Bible, including the slaughter of children to clear the tribes out of the Promised Land–as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you. You can reply that there is a big difference between people following God’s specific orders and people taking it upon themselve to kill for, as you point out, largely political reasons but in His name. But I’m sure you can agree that people looking for passages in the Bible to justify genocide would not have much of a struggle on their hands. And my overall point is untouched: the number of people killed says nothing about the actual existence of a god.

    Atheism never directly tells anyone to kill as it is not a doctrine, but it IS a worldview – one completely void of any objective reality.

    With respect, Kelly, that’s just silly. Of course we acknowledge an objective reality. If you are advocating that an atheist must be the sort of radical skeptic who can’t even trust logic and sensory perception, then I could come back and say even Jehovah could not trust that some greater god is not just tricking Him into THINKING he is all-knowing, all-powerful, all good, for this uber-god’s perverse amusement. If by objective reality you mean something like, When I kick a rock, it’s really me really kicking a rock, then I refute your assertion THUS (and metaphorically kick a rock at you). There is no way that we could survived and developed as a species if we were disconnected from obvjective reality (which is not to say that we understand everything perfectly). This is not your finest argument.

    As you stated, people will search subjectively for moral values…

    But I most emphatically did NOT say that moral values are subjective. I said that the so-called “Golden Rule” has instrinsic value. Something with intrinsic value is not SUBJECTIVE, because then its value would depend on one’s experience of it. I do not think this. I think the value of recipricol ethics stands apart from–above, if you like–anyone’s claim about it. And no, a god is NOT necessary for that to be true, or we could never say that “God is good” with any meaning behind it. If good is not something that can exist on its own, apart from God, then an observation that God is good is gibberis.

    You may come up with all sorts of idealistic answers to why we should treat each other well, but you will never, ever be able to break from the realm of your own, subjective opinion.

    Simply not true…but even if true, has nothing to do with the existence of a god. A god could have created the universe so that only subjective opinions of morality mattered (and Paul even makes a nod to this when he suggests that meat offered to idols is only sinful to eat if one has a PERSONAL issue with it), and the universe could have objective moral facts about it, just as it can have numbers of things, quite apart from a god to create morality. I agree that people of faith have an easier time pinning down certain moral precepts, but this also leads them sometimes into actual moral outrages, such as shunning a gay child or tolerating an abusive husband.

    Such are profoundly emotional arguments, relying completely on the “instrinsic” or “feeling.”

    You don’t seem to understand what “intrinsic” means. It does not mean “feeling.” It means obvious on its face, with no need for external justification–certainly not the justification of an emotion. Your argument is simply wrong. I understand why you feel as you do–since I used to make the same sorts of arguments as an evangelist–but they just don’t hold up to reason.

    Hah. No reason? How about the origins of the universe at a finite point of the past as determined by Big Bang cosmology and modern mathematics? (that has stated that an actual infinite in the physical world is a literal IMPOSSIBILITY(ie no infinite Universe))

    I know this argument well, from Plantinga and Craig and others–the Kalaam Cosmological Constant and related arguments. You are simply mistaken. Science, including cosmology, provides no support for the existence of a personal god. And it is special pleading to imply that only a god can have certain attributes–outside of our current universe, eternal, etc.

    This cannot be explained by science, other than to say that …..

    And then you go on. These issues have been answered very adequately in, for example, God: The Failed Hypothesis. There’s not there there.

    Greg, have you looked at the statistics for volunteerism and donations lately? Christians are way out ahead of those who define themselves as “secular humanists” – they give more to non-religious and religious organizations, including m non-monetary gifts(blood/volunteering) http://magicstatistics.com/2006/11/17/religious-conservatives-donate-far-more-than-secular-liberals/ I have a feeling you’re getting this idea that atheists are more moral than Christians more from your presumptions than any actual evidence.

    Actually, I’m getting most of my information first-hand, from having been involved in church ministry for two decades and with atheist groups for one decade. But yhou are correct about the giving thing. I might raise as a counter that the more secular societies have several measures that demonstrate at LEAST as high a moral character as does our supposedly Christian-based society.

    I’m running out of time here. Best wishes, Kelly!

  • joe

    Kelly,

    It is people like you that have made people like me turn away from religion. Maybe we should go back to the days when the church told us that the earth was not only flat but also the center of the universe – and executed those who disagreed?

    I dont even know what else to say – I have just been staring at my computer for the last 45 minutes in complete amazement. Time for religion in general to get with the times! There is still a place for the ethics that religion brings to society but as far as I am concerned the idol worship, pseudo-science, and allegory needs to go in the trash!

  • MaryAnn

    MaryAnn, I notice that you did not actually address any of my arguments; you basically just called me “wrong.”

    Kelly, I didn’t address your “arguments” because they’ve been addressed in far more depth than I could possibly go into here by many, many other people before, and I see no reason to reinvent the wheel.

  • Bradzilla2000

    I apologize for my late arrival; I just saw the movie yesterday, and wondered what RT critics had to say. I was very surprised to see the 79% positive, because I thought it was a lame movie. I couldn’t not click on this review after reading the snippet.

    While a (weak) case can be made for your interpretation of the movie, your supporting evidence has been thoroughly quashed by many before me if you will hear it. While I am what you might call a religious conservative, this had nothing to do with my opinion of the film; I just didn’t think it was funny. I thought the kangaroo was more of a stereotypical anti-science, pouch-schooling fundie on a witch hunt, but I don’t have the persecution complex to get indignant about it.

    The movie more-or-less told the original story, but I much prefer the old 2-D animated feature made many years ago. This one had a lot of unnecessary, unfunny baggage.

  • http://birchandmaple.blogs.com Orodemniades

    Wow, I had no intention of seeing this film anyway as it bears no resemblance to the book I (barely) recall. However, I’m impressed with the level of softcore vitriol this review has inspired!

    (do you think the similarity of opinion stems from, er, the same ‘poster’?)

  • Kelly

    Hi Greg, I took it upon myself to move our little discussion here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=message_board. I think it’s a much more appropriate format for long debates such as this one.

    MaryAnn, my arguments are those agreed to by some of the greatest atheists. That there is no ultimate meaning or morality to life is something that the thinker Bertrand Russel, whom you cited as the most influential atheist of all time, conceded. If you adequately defend the existence of objective moral values within an atheistic framework, you would have achieved something no other person ever has – and would effectively be disagreeing with Bertrand Russel, Nietzsche, Steven Pinker, and a great many others.

    Joe – I found your comment rather unintelligible as far as an actual response to any of my points, considering what I was saying rests firmly within current scientific conception. But I invite you to join the thread I posted above if you’d like to contribute.

  • Kelly

    Okay, so that link doesn’t take you directly to the thread. But it’s easy to get to. It’s in the bottom forum, “Choose your own topic,” under the title “Imposing my debate on y’all.”

  • MaryAnn

    Bertrand Russel, whom you cited as the most influential atheist of all time

    No, I didn’t.

  • Kelly

    Me: “Antony Flew [...] is widely recognized by atheists as the most influential atheist philosopher of the 20th century.)”

    You: Really now, Kelly. You might have heard of Bertrand Russell?

    Which would insinuate you would put Russell in place of Flew as “most influential atheist philosopher.”

    In any event, the point still stands that he and the other great atheist philosophers have conceded an absence of objective morality and meaning to live within any atheistic worldview.

  • Shadowen

    What the fuck?

    Bloody hell. Guess you can never tell which review is gonna bring the screaming morons out of the woodwork. I guess anything even remotely related with Seuss, no matter how bad, is, to steal a joke from , like a cow lying down on the road in India, or a bad Zelda game or something: you’re not allowed to complain.

    What is with this obsession, though, with trying to stretch out charming little kid’s stories into an hour and a half eye-candy-fest? Bleh.

  • Pedro

    MaryAnn, i think you can redlight it, but not for the reasons you give.

    You can redlight it because it’s an absolute bore. It’s aimed squarely at the kiddies, who will be enthralled by all the pretty colours and fast movements. It has exactly TWO laughs, both from Steve Carell: one when the mayor gets trampled several times (“anyone else…? okay…” *starts to get up* *gets trampled by mob of rotoscoped skiing whos*), and the other….hell, i can’t even remember what it was anymore, but there was a funny line there somewhere. the rest of the time, i was just bored. this is a harmlessly bland movie for your kids – and better than feeding them garbage like “barbie mariposa” – but it certainly won’t prevent grown-ups from falling asleep at the theater.

    However, that’s a yellow light, maybe a red if you lack good will. your explanation? well, that’s just preposterous! Kangaroo merely represents the conservative mother who represses and shelters her kid. Hell, i know a million like her.

  • MaryAnn

    Me: “Antony Flew [...] is widely recognized by atheists as the most influential atheist philosopher of the 20th century.)”

    You: Really now, Kelly. You might have heard of Bertrand Russell?

    I did NOT post that, Kelly. Someone else did.

    In any event, the point still stands that he and the other great atheist philosophers have conceded

    Whatever SOME atheists may believe — or whatever some believers may say some atheists believe — we atheists are not all required to accept something that anyone else says merely because he is an atheist. There’s no atheist pope, you know.

  • accountingninja

    Actually, Kelly, Ayn Rand is one of the most well-know atheist philosophers, and Objectivists certainly don’t think there’s “no objective morality.”

    I’m not an Objectivist (so I’m not going to parry its merits or drawbacks with anyone) I’m just bringing it up because it’s a common misconception that “all” atheists are immoral or simply don’t “believe” in the concept or morality (i.e., without a god figure, morality is impossible: not true.)

    Mary Ann is absolutely right. “We” don’t all follow the same set of beleifs. Being an atheist simply means you don’t think a supernatural god-being exists. Other than that, atheists are very diverse. Some are communists, some conservatives, some liberal, some Objectivist and some don’t label themselves at all…and so forth.

  • joe

    Kelly,

    I have no ambition to get into a lengthy discussion with you, especially regarding religion and science. These two subjects really shouldnt even be mentioned in the same sentence! I went through 4 years or catholic high school, 4 years of religion and morality classes, and I just don’t buy it. As I previously stated, Religion does have a place in society, just like Santa Calus and the Easter Bunny, but it has no place in Science or Politics.

  • Kelly

    I’m not saying that I think all atheists are immoral; this is not the issue. Atheists can of course live lives that can be considered moral by even Christian standards(with the exception of the whole knowing God thing). The issue is whether, without god, there exists an ACTUAL morality. In order to classify “morality” as an actuality, must designate its source. If morality is just a collection of positive feelings formed by millions of years of evolution, it is not an objectively existent thing, but rather internal to the individual. This is exclusively SUBJECTIVE morality, and will change from individual to individual. Who’s to say that in this subjectivist world, one person’s morality is ACTUALLY better than another’s? It’s all relative; a matter of opinion.

    For instance, I believe that if the Germans had taken over the world in WWII and had successfully brainwashed the whole world in accordance with their ideology, that this ideology would still be wrong (you probably do as well, but my claim is that you SHOULD be suffering from a bout of cognitive dissonance if you, as an atheist, believe this to be actually true). My designation as to the evil of the Nazi worldview comes from God – or the source of the ultimate moral truth – whom is all-loving, all-just, and all-forgiving. I believe in TRUTH, truth that is not subject to the will of individual human beings, or even the will of the whole world. I have justification for believing this as a theist, as my morality comes from an objective source. An outer reality an atheist might feel is there should be logically deduced to be ILLUSORY.

    By the way, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is not a widely adopted worldview, and can be subjected to the same arguments used above.

    MaryAnn,

    “Whatever SOME atheists may believe — or whatever some believers may say some atheists believe — we atheists are not all required to accept something that anyone else says merely because he is an atheist. There’s no atheist pope, you know.”

    I didn’t say you had to. But these are the atheists that have been more influential because they are logically consistent. That there is no objective moral reality is the consensus of those currently engaged in serious scientific discussion.

    You highlighted perfectly the point I’m trying to make here: “we atheists are not all required to accept something that anyone else says merely because he is an atheist. There’s no atheist pope, you know.”

    Atheists need not adopt ANY particular moral worldview, as everything is subjective – or relative – within the atheistic framework. So while one atheist may choose to adopt a child and vow to end world hunger, another may choose to unload a few rounds on his schoolmates(as we have seen with the recent various school shootings around the world – all the shooters that I have read about were professing atheists). How can you justify that the second is less “right” than the first, if you have no objective “right” to appeal to?

    The atheist can be a moral person, or they can be a bloodthirsty murderer – in the end it doesn’t matter how they lived. Both Hitler and Mother Teresa end up at the same place.

  • lo kim

    i have seen some bullshit criticisms, but this is amazing. you’re blasting this movie for having some vague, strained similarities to a president you don’t like? jesus christ. talk about trying too hard.

    the W’s in the whoville mayor’s office obviously stand for woodrow wilson, who was unfairly thought to be a boob by the idiots in congress. clearly, this is the only comparison to be made. or whatever.

    your arguments, all of them, fail even the slightest standard of logic. you’re an idiot. this movie was pretty bad but goddamn are you reaching. you remind me of the stupid people who kept comparing leonidas from 300 to bush. so what if he kind of seemed like bush, the film has nothing to do with the iraq war. but at least the 300 thing made way more sense.

  • Erin

    The atheist can be a moral person, or they can be a bloodthirsty murderer – in the end it doesn’t matter how they lived. Both Hitler and Mother Teresa end up at the same place.

    So your point is…Mother Theresa was an atheist? Is your point that Catholics have no objective morality, but you do? But Catholics believe in God. Catholics believe in the god you’re defending.

    Have you failed to notice that Christians (and other theists) can be moral people, or they can be bloodthirsty murderers, just like atheists? People who believe in God need not lead lives of identical moral belief or value any more than atheists, nor need they follow the same set of rules. People who believe in God don’t even BELIEVE in the same set of rules – you’ve just declared, if I understood you correctly, that Mother Theresa is as bad as Hitler, because she didn’t…well, actually, she believed in God, so I’ve no idea what you’re saying.

    Oh wait, yes I do. You’re saying that non-Christians, which group apparently includes the largest Christian church in the world, go to hell. Because your god is such an objectively moral being that he wishes to eternally torture everyone who didn’t believe in him, and quite a lot of those who did, despite the fact that he chose not to reveal himself to most of them but relied on people like you to spread the word. Yep, that’s some great objective morality right there. That’s the objective morality shared by people like Hitler, who killed or incarcerated everyone who didn’t believe in him. So maybe Hitler and Mother Theresa have something in common after all.

    Furthermore, there are a myriad of gods worshipped by humans, and quite a lot of them set moral standards quite different from the ones you espouse. No doubt you’ll argue that they aren’t real gods, but, despite the fact that when you say “belief in God” you clearly mean “being a very particular type of Christian”, you’ve only argued that belief in (a) God grants objective morality, so the position still holds. Belief in a god does not automatically result in a consistent and objective morality. Deity does not designate objective morality, because the morality of deities, as understood by humans, is inconsistent.

    People who believe in God (and, if you are to be believed, God himself) are constantly doing things that other people, both those who believe in God and those who don’t, believe are morally – objectively, even – wrong. And sometimes they do those things because they believe they have a divine mandate.

    Even leaving out every other theistic moral philosophy in practice on this planet, Christian morality itself isn’t even consistent. It’s not consistent from Torah to New Testament, nor within the New Testament, it’s not consistent in interpretation, it’s certainly the furthest thing from consistent in practice, and, in fact, many of the things that you, in these decadent modern times, would consider completely, objectively immoral are things which sincere Christians have supported and promoted, and which are not ever decried in the Bible – slavery, for instance, is given tacit approval, in both Torah and New Testament. If you want to argue that there’s no such thing as objective atheist morality, that’s hunky-dory, but it’s time to take the plank out of your own eye, Kelly. Christian morality isn’t objective either, and never has been.

    Finally, the notion that belief in God leads to an objective morality is just foolish. First of all, it assumes that God has the same values as human beings do – God has to value human life (in a supposedly created universe in which stars explode daily), the human psyche and human health the same way we do. But as a being who supposedly has complete control over the entire universe, he doesn’t value our health, psyche or life the way we do – and we know this because we get sick, we go crazy and we die every single day. And, as you’ve pointed out, you believe in a god who punishes people for eternity for their failure to believe in him. The fact that you believe that only your particular God-given morality is objective doesn’t make it so. The existence and promotion of a notion like hell says quite a lot about your objective morality, not least that most atheists have a higher morality than you do, at least when it comes to the value of human suffering.

    I’m not even a damn atheist, and I’m having massive cognitive dissonance reading this nonsense.

  • accountingninja

    Thank you, Erin. You make a lot of sense.

    And Kelly, just because Objectivism isn’t a “widely adopted worldview” does not negate my point. Atheism ITSELF is not widely adopted, so it is only logical that Objectivists make up a very small part of the population.
    MY POINT was that the issue of objective morality without religion or a god-figure HAS been tackled by philosophers, and Ayn Rand just came to mind, but there are others. Whether you agree with them or not, there are sets of beliefs and moral codes that have nothing to do with a sky god or bibles telling you what to think and how to live.

    And Erin was very right about every religion being different, with its own morals. Even individuals in this country differ as to how much they follow the teachings. Religion is just as subjective as any other philosophy, because these are codes to live by, developed by people for people, and people have a way of being very, well, subjective. Every individual is going to have his own “take” on his religion or philosophy.

    I’m not going to debate this, however. You have your view and I have mine, you aren’t going to convert me any more than I am going to “convert” you. But I really took issue with you dismissing a perfectly valid philosophy because you deemed it “not popular enough”.
    Christianity isn’t widely held in, say, India, but I’m sure you think of it as perfectly valid.

  • Kelly

    Hi Erin,

    Don’t have much time now, but I’ll try to cover everything..

    At first I was baffled by your intitial paragraphs until I realized you completely misinterpreted what I said.

    “The atheist can be a moral person, or they can be a bloodthirsty murderer – in the end it doesn’t matter how they lived. Both Hitler and Mother Teresa end up at the same place”

    My point wasn’t that Mother Teresa is going to hell, I definitely don’t believe that. But I wasn’t speaking through my theistic perspective. My point was that on the atheistic worldview, both a Mother Teresa and a Hitler will end at the same place – nonexistence. There is no ultimate punishment for Hitler’s heinous actions or reward Mother Teresa’s life of holy selflessness, so in the end it doesn’t MATTER how we lived. Again – speaking through the lense of no objective moral reality, here.

    I’m also not saying that Christians don’t ever do bad things, and I would never say that. Everyone sins and falls short of the glory of God. But as a Christian, there is no justification for bad behavior and in fact bad behavior is condemned. We are SUPPOSED to live by certain moral guidelines, even if some of us don’t, or individuals don’t do so all of the time. Atheists can not say that they are “Supposed” to live a certain way because there are no guidelines that inform atheism. I’m not saying that just because a person is a Christian that they will always live up to these objective moral guidelines, but at least these guidelines are in existence. In an atheistic world there ARE NO OBJECTIVE MORAL GUIDELINES. See above posts for explanations as to why this is so.

    I must emphasize what the MEANING of objective morality actually is. Objective morals are standards that are true no matter if every person in the world believed they weren’t. Such morals are, through honest and careful inspection, laid out in the bible. You say that slavery was at one point supported by some Christians but that this practice is not decried in the Bible, and thus conclude that there is no objective Christian morality. But an objective morality has absolutely nothing to do with the behavior or opinions of some people who claim to be following this morality – it exists separately from any thought or action any person my have. Those people may have THOUGHT that what they were doing was OK but that says nothing about the TRUTH of their thoughts, it says nothing against an objective truth of morality.

    “Finally, the notion that belief in God leads to an objective morality is just foolish. First of all, it assumes that God has the same values as human beings do – God has to value human life (in a supposedly created universe in which stars explode daily), the human psyche and human health the same way we do. But as a being who supposedly has complete control over the entire universe, he doesn’t value our health, psyche or life the way we do – and we know this because we get sick, we go crazy and we die every single day.”

    And what are your assumptions in this proclamation? That the purpose of life is to be healthy, and to not have any sufferring at all. But perhaps living a life with no problems is not the point of life. Perhaps knowing God is the point of life – and to understand our need for Him and grow, sufferring may well be part of the package. And if there is a greater life after all of this – our finite sufferring on the earth is put into perspective. Without God, horrible suffering still happens and will always happen, but there is no REASON for it. All of the pain, and on the other hand happiness, love, and beauty we experience may well not have happened at all, as everything will eventually be dark, mindless, nothing.

    “And, as you’ve pointed out, you believe in a god who punishes people for eternity for their failure to believe in him. The fact that you believe that only your particular God-given morality is objective doesn’t make it so. The existence and promotion of a notion like hell says quite a lot about your objective morality, not least that most atheists have a higher morality than you do, at least when it comes to the value of human suffering. ”

    There are more conceptions of hell than just the fire and brimestone kind that seems to be popular in movies and the like. If hell were a separation from God(which the Bible states as being so), and this separation was chosen by those who want nothing to do with Him, then it would be impossible to allow them into His light without violating their free will, essentially turning the person into a puppet. It’s not God that sends people to hell – they choose it themselves.

  • MaryAnn

    Responding to Kelly:

    In order to classify “morality” as an actuality, must designate its source.

    Ooo, ooo! Then is it okay if I say that in order to classify “God” as an actuality, we must designate his source?

    my morality comes from an objective source.

    So God tells you what is moral, and that’s that. Okay. What if tomorrow God said, “Hey, folks, guess what? I changed my mind on the murder thing, and now it’s okay.” Would that make murder moral?

  • KPC

    Kelly-

    While your original post all the way back on March 16th was worthwhile, your recent arguments exemplify little more than the standard black and white thinking endemic to most religious discussions. Although I’m not an atheist, your tendency to conflate atheism with school shootings and genocide–as if atheism provides an impetus for such things–is highly spurious. And your conclusion that “anything goes” in the absence of objective morality does not follow. As others have pointed out, many arguments can be made against atrocities, none of which need to be buttressed by theology.

    Like the poster Erin above, I think you’re kidding yourself if you believe that Christian morality is free from subjectivity. If this were true, why does the religion suffer from a lack of uniformity? And why have its tenets been employed in arguments for and against nearly everything under the sun? Do not such examples illustrate that on some level, we all experience morality subjectively? I’ve asked the same questions of other Christians and invariably I always get some variation on the same response: “MY beliefs reflect the objective truth of God. Everyone else is just making things up.” Such assertions are subjective to the core.

  • Erin

    At first I was baffled by your intitial paragraphs until I realized you completely misinterpreted what I said.

    Ah, apologies for the misunderstanding.

    There is no ultimate punishment for Hitler’s heinous actions or reward Mother Teresa’s life of holy selflessness, so in the end it doesn’t MATTER how we lived. Again – speaking through the lense of no objective moral reality, here.

    But then, what you’re saying is that morality doesn’t matter for its own sake – it only matters if a person is going to be punished or rewarded. The outcome is what makes the two behaviours different, not the nature of the behaviour itself. That’s not about objective morality, that’s about living a “moral” life in order to gain a reward. What’s so objective about that? That’s not even morality, that’s just bartering, and it doesn’t make God an objective moral source. It makes him a salesman. “I’ll give you this if you’ll be good.”

    But as a Christian, there is no justification for bad behavior and in fact bad behavior is condemned.

    Perhaps, but that’s the point – what constitutes “bad behaviour” is completely inconsistent, even within Christianity. You don’t have a morally objective source – you have a book which you (and others) have decreed to be a morally objective source, despite internal evidence, and you have a belief which you have decreed to be a morally objective source, even though no one else knows and you can’t whether what you’re getting your morals from is the supreme being or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    But an objective morality has absolutely nothing to do with the behavior or opinions of some people who claim to be following this morality – it exists separately from any thought or action any person my have.

    But you get your supposed objective morality from the Bible, and the Bible makes no statements opposed to slavery – it tacitly supports the slave owner’s right to own slaves. It actively supports the invasion and conquest of countries. It actively supports the subjugation of women. So either slavery is okay, or the Bible is wrong, or else its morality has historical and social context, and is therefore not objective.

    And what are your assumptions in this proclamation? That the purpose of life is to be healthy, and to not have any sufferring at all. But perhaps living a life with no problems is not the point of life.

    I’m not assuming the purpose of anything, I’m only suggesting that your own assumption is that God’s morals, values and priorities match ours – in fact, revolve around ours – and that you’re structuring your “objective morality” only around the lives of humans.

    ALL human morality is about humans, and is therefore fundamentally subjective, because it doesn’t address the actions or motivations of any other beings, of higher or lower intelligence.

    Without God, horrible suffering still happens and will always happen, but there is no REASON for it.

    If it’s the case that horrible suffering happens for a reason, then surely that makes all those who participate in the horrible suffering God’s instruments, and they are therefore behaving in a moral way. Moreover, how do you know that participating in making other people suffer horribly isn’t part of the purpose of some people’s lives?

    If there is objective morality, which would presumably be eternal and not bound to the human condition, which involves, say, not killing people, then the god you describe who created a dysfunctional world in which people suffer and die immediately fails at being objectively moral. The assumption, therefore, is that this morality doesn’t apply to God, who has a higher purpose for people’s lives than that outlined in his rules. But that would make the morality not objective, if it doesn’t apply to all beings.

    If hell were a separation from God (which the Bible states as being so), and this separation was chosen by those who want nothing to do with Him, then it would be impossible to allow them into His light without violating their free will, essentially turning the person into a puppet. It’s not God that sends people to hell – they choose it themselves.

    Why does that make it a superior moral decision? You’re still positing the existence of a god who is heavily invested in human behaviour, and yet cares so little about most of the actual humans who have existed that he will abandon them to eternal torment, of whatever kind. You’re positing a god who set up eternal torment (of whatever kind) as the only alternative to him. You can call that a choice if you like, but given that the vast majority of the history of human population hasn’t had even the opportunity to follow your particular beliefs and yet is still supposed to be making your “objective” choice, I wouldn’t call it one.

    You have to realise that all of this is not about what is objectively true, it’s about what you believe to be true. And you can believe it to be true, no one’s stopping you. But other people don’t believe the same things as you, and therefore your position is fundamentally subjective, because it comes from your own subjectivity. The fact that you orient your subjectivity in the light of what you believe to be objective truth does not, in any way, demonstrate its objective and inarguable position. Your morality is just as subjective as everyone else’s, and its motivations are not necessarily superior.

    My point in all this is not that atheists have an objective morality, because I’m not one and I can’t speak for them, even if they were a homogenous mass, which they aren’t. My point is that no morality is completely objective, because even if we grant the existence of a god, there is no objective proof that the Bible really is the word of God, or that God is telling the truth about anything. That’s your belief, but it’s not objective. That you believe it to be objective does not make it so.

    And what this means that it doesn’t actually matter whether atheist morality is objective or not, because no one’s is.

    Anyway, I’m retiring from the field now, because I’ve heard (and, in fact, made) all these arguments before, and there’s only so much headdesking I can do in a day.

    Sorry, MaryAnn.

  • MaryAnn

    Anyway, I’m retiring from the field now, because I’ve heard (and, in fact, made) all these arguments before, and there’s only so much headdesking I can do in a day.

    Exactly. Clearly Kelly hasn’t heard any of these arguments before, even though they’re not exactly hard to find. Unless one listens only to dogmatic believers.

    That’s not about objective morality, that’s about living a “moral” life in order to gain a reward. What’s so objective about that?

    Indeed, what is “moral” about it? Which is better, to be “good” for its own sake or even because one understands that goodness is good for everyone on the whole and makes for a better society for everyone, or to be “good” because you’ll be punished for all eternity if you’re not? What Kelly is saying is that the only thing that stops her from behaving badly is the threat of punishment. That’s not “morality” — it’s blackmail.

    And yet, no wonder people like Kelly worry so much about atheists: they cannot understand how we can behave in a moral manner without the threat of punishment hanging over us. We should be very scared of *those* people — of people apparently so constantly on the edge of rape, murder, and other violence — and not scared of atheists.

    What drives me crazy — or at least one of the things that drives me crazy — about the kind of belief system that Kelly espouses is that is assumes that, on a fundamental level, people are bad and can only be coerced to goodness by the threat of violence and torment. What a horrific assumption to make about humanity! I prefer the humanistic attitude, which assumes that people are basically good, though that goodness is often perverted by culture. There’s little motivation to work toward a culture that encourages innate goodness, though, if one does not assume that innate goodness in the first place.

    And yet atheists and humanists are the “evil” ones in this argument. Amazing.

  • Esk

    Without having read any critics’ reviews, I saw Horton this morning and reached precisely the same conclusions that you wrote about in your review. Just wanted to express my solidarity here. :)

  • Daniel WLG’sRFF

    (FYI: I’ve read only selections of several posts here, so, for all I know, I may be repeating what has here already been said.)

    To Greg Paterson on motive:

    Imagine an initial state of the world in which the entire eastern hemisphere is populated solely by initial theists, and the western solely by initial atheists (in other words, there is neither any personal or group history). Further, imagine that there is as yet no religious organizations, no political entities, and no culture. So, there is no distinction between the East and the West except that one is initially theist and the other initially atheist. What, in such a world, is going to happen, by whom, and to whom?

    Of course, the real world is not like that imaginary neutral world, so the question is what happened to the real world to make it so complicated? Nevertheless, that imaginary neutral world does, in fact, have local manifestations in the real world. Motives toward violence do not arise primarily from what some god said to do, but from personally felt injustices and inequities. No god is needed to give motive to act selfishly. Theism simply reinforces group cohesion, whether for acts of charity, or for acts military force.

  • Daniel WLC’s RFF

    Erin said:

    >>>your god is such an objectively moral being that he wishes to eternally torture everyone who didn’t believe in him, and quite a lot of those who did, despite the fact that he chose not to reveal himself to most of them but relied on people like you to spread the word. Yep, that’s some great objective morality right there.

  • Kelly

    Erin(in quotes unless indicated otherwise),

    “But then, what you’re saying is that morality doesn’t matter for its own sake – it only matters if a person is going to be punished or rewarded. The outcome is what makes the two behaviours different, not the nature of the behaviour itself.”

    What makes the nature of the behavior GOOD in and of itself?

    To dismiss eternity as not worth considering is absolute folly. To quote Pascal, ignoring the implications of eternity is to say to onself, however unconsciously,

    “I know not who put me into the world, nor what the world is, nor what I myself am. I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, not even that part of me which thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself no more than the rest. I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than in another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which shall come after me. I see nothing but infinites on all sides, which surround me as an atom, and as a shadow which endures only for an instant and returns no more. All I know is that I must soon die, but what I know least is this very death which I cannot escape. As I know not whence I come, so I know not wither I go. I know only that, in leaving this world, I fall for ever either into annihilation or into the hands of an angry God, without knowing to which of these two states I shall be for ever assigned. Such is my state, full of weakness and uncertainty, and from all this I conclude that I ought to spend all the days of my life without caring to inquire into what must happen to me. Perhaps I might find some solution to my doubts, but I will not take the trouble, nor take a step to seek it; and after treating with scorn those who are concerned with this care, I will go without foresight and without fear to try the great event, and let myself be led carelessly to death, uncertain of the eternity of my future state…

    “Nothing is so important to man as his own state, nothing is so formidable to him as eternity; and thus it is not natural that there should be men indifferent to the loss of their existence, and to the perils of everlasting suffering. They are quite different with regard to all otehr things. They are afraid of mere trifles; they foresee them; they feel them. And this same man who spends so many days and nights in rage and despair for the loss of office, or for some imaginary insult to his honour, is the very one who knows without anxiety and without emotion that he will lose all by death. It is a monstrous thing to see in the same heart and at the same time this sensibility to trifles and this strange insensibility to the greatest objects. It is an incomprehensible enchantment, and a supernatural slumber, which indicates as its cause an all-powerful force.”

    So yes, actual moral standards are deeply impacted by whether there is a God and we continue to live after death. You reference some imaginary moral high ground as if it would be in existence if God weren’t an actuality. If there is no God, we are all products of a long series of biochemical reactions and nothing more. The question is: Why SHOULD we behave morally if there is no God, and NO ONE has any more actual significance than a pile of dirt? Why not just act in our own interests if nothingness is all we’ll ever amount to?

    “That’s not about objective morality, that’s about living a “moral” life in order to gain a reward. What’s so objective about that? That’s not even morality, that’s just bartering, and it doesn’t make God an objective moral source. It makes him a salesman. “I’ll give you this if you’ll be good.””

    It’s about connecting to the ultimate reality and living how we were created to live. Eternal life comes part and parcel with this. How we were “meant” to live is an objective reality created by and through the will of God, not subject to my, your, or MaryAnn’s opinion on the matter.

    “You don’t have a morally objective source – you have a book which you (and others) have decreed to be a morally objective source, despite internal evidence, and you have a belief which you have decreed to be a morally objective source, even though no one else knows and you can’t whether what you’re getting your morals from is the supreme being or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

    We have a book which God decreed to be a morally objective source(that’s another discussion..), but it is not THE MORAL REALITY, but a means by which we come to better know the moral reality. This reality can be known through internal introspection; by realizing that we each have a moral compass placed within us and that for this compass to be objectively valid there must be a God, an eternal reality, that will confirm this moral reality to us and thus not be simply an imaginarily prompted designation that can be subverted for one’s own pleasure without repercussion.

    “But you get your supposed objective morality from the Bible, and the Bible makes no statements opposed to slavery – it tacitly supports the slave owner’s right to own slaves. It actively supports the invasion and conquest of countries. It actively supports the subjugation of women. So either slavery is okay, or the Bible is wrong, or else its morality has historical and social context, and is therefore not objective.”

    From gotquestions – The Bible does not specifically condemn the practice of slavery. It gives instructions on how slaves should be treated (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1), but does not outlaw the practice altogether. Many see this as the Bible condoning all forms of slavery. What many people fail to understand is that slavery in Biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world. The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was more of a social status. People sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their family. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves so as to have all their needs provided for by their master.

    The slavery of the past few centuries was often based exclusively on skin color. Black people were considered slaves because of their nationality – many slave owners truly believed black people to be “inferior human beings” to white people. The Bible most definitely does condemn race-based slavery. Consider the slavery the Hebrews experienced when they were in Egypt. The Hebrew were slaves, not by choice, but because they were Hebrews (Exodus 13:14). The plagues God poured out on Egypt demonstrate how God feels about racial slavery (Exodus 7-11). So, yes, the Bible does condemn some forms of slavery. At the same time, the Bible does seem to allow for other forms of slavery. The key issue is that the slavery the Bible allowed for in no way resembled the racial slavery that plagued our world in the past few centuries.

    Another crucial point is that the purpose of the Bible is to point the way to salvation, not to reform society. The Bible often approaches issues from the inside-out. If a person experiences the love, mercy, and grace of God, receiving His salvation – God will reform his soul, changing the way he thinks and acts. A person who has experienced God’s gift of salvation and freedom from the slavery of sin, as God reforms his soul, he will realize that enslaving another human being is wrong. A person who has truly experienced God’s grace will in turn be gracious towards others. That would be the Bible’s prescription for ending slavery.

    http://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-slavery.html

    “If it’s the case that horrible suffering happens for a reason, then surely that makes all those who participate in the horrible suffering God’s instruments, and they are therefore behaving in a moral way. Moreover, how do you know that participating in making other people suffer horribly isn’t part of the purpose of some people’s lives?”

    You’re overlooking a teensy-weensy detail that might help you overcome such questions: FREE WILL. Everyone has the freedom to make pivotal decisions that will mold their lives and the lives of those around them. All of the horrible suffering we see around us is largely cause by human decision; which could easily be circumvented if people stopped overvaluing themselves, money, and power. If everyone really tried to embody the Christian ideals of selflessness, love, and forgiveness, how much of the poverty, hate, and greed in the world do you think would be wiped out?

    “If there is objective morality, which would presumably be eternal and not bound to the human condition, which involves, say, not killing people, then the god you describe who created a dysfunctional world in which people suffer and die immediately fails at being objectively moral. The assumption, therefore, is that this morality doesn’t apply to God, who has a higher purpose for people’s lives than that outlined in his rules. But that would make the morality not objective, if it doesn’t apply to all beings.”

    . These morals are objective for US because they’re rooted in God, but God as the ultimate being does not apply the same standards he applies to finite beings to himself. Surely you can see this. God is already God, he cannot follow a decree to love HIS own God. He is not engaged with the world as we are. We are different beings. We are in his image, as we have free will, but different as we are not eternal and all-knowing. God has our best interests at heart, and if we would only choose to recognize the abundant evidence for the truth of his existence in our own lives, we would realize this, as he in his sovereign, mysterious power would change our shallow thinking and reveal it to us. Our sins have caused the fallen nature of the world – God allows it, but for a greater end – the unending glorification of those who choose to follow their calling and love Him. This world, where people suffer and die, is a result of our own doing. God gave it to us intact, but humans chose and choose to act against God’s will by making idols, or gods, out of themselves, ideas, and objects in the universe that God has created.

    “You have to realise that all of this is not about what is objectively true, it’s about what you believe to be true. And you can believe it to be true, no one’s stopping you. But other people don’t believe the same things as you, and therefore your position is fundamentally subjective, because it comes from your own subjectivity.”

    So you deny an objective truth on what basis? I affirm it on the abundant evidence for God, the moral law written on our hearts, the universal human yearning for God, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and my own personal experience of God’s presence. If you are going to reject an objective truth, ie God, that’s your choice, but you have provided no grounds for believing such a thing.

    The fact that others believe differently than I says nothing about the existence of an objective truth. If there were 20 bottles of water, all marked “Spring Water,” but 19 of them contained poison and only one actually contained the water, does the mere label on the bottles make it true that they also contain water? Of course not. There is only one pure bottle of water. Similarly, that various worldviews clamor for the recognition of truth does not make them truthful, nor does it discredit all of them. That there is one truth is still abundantly plausible.

  • amanohyo

    Wow, now that’s what I call a post. I just want to say that while it’s certainly plausible that there is “one truth” concerning the origins of womankind, it is extremely implausible that the complicated, scientifically groundless, and completely arbitrary explanation offered by Christianity (or any other organized religion) just happens to be that one truth.

    And that’s not even taking into consideration the many, many, many retellings, translations, and redactions that all holy texts have been subjected to throughout human history. Also, all human societies are able to function because everyone learns and follows a set of moral values. The specifics vary according to culture, but overall, the laws (Commandments if you will) in these systems of morality are fairly consistent. Organized religion does not hold and has never held a monopoly on morality.

    But let’s face it, most of us are too old and set in our ways for these ancient circular arguments to do any good. The only way to put an end to organized religion is to snatch children away from their parents the moment they are born and give them a reasonable education, and that’s something that even a socialist like myself is not prepared to advocate. I just hope I live to see the day we have a president who openly professes his or her or its atheism.

  • Rapha Vexillifa

    Hello, I read this review and these replies and I believe it is time for me to finally respond to a MaryAnn Johanson review, something I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time, actually. First, I’ll profess that usually I have a deep respect for you, even though you have opinions I disagree with passionately (speaking of which, I’d like to debate with you about the whole abortion thing… so you’ll probably see me on the Juno thread sometime soon). And secondly, I must concede that I’ve never seen the movie.

    However, I do find this review much angrier than usual. I can understand that, scratch that, I can’t understand the feelings you must be experiencing, seeing as you are an atheist in a predominately Christian nation (I myself am a proud Catholic humanist, and no, contrary to popular belief that is NOT an oxymoron). However, I can try to grasp as to your situation.

    From what I can tell, there seems to be a vicious cycle of sorts between atheists and Christians. Christians don’t like the idea of there not being a god, especially since they can’t prove with logical evidence that he (or she) exists (need I remind those who are posting a completely negative reply to MAJ’s review that FAITH is a central tenet to Christianity in all its forms, and it seems pretty weak if it’s so shaken by a MOVIE CRITICISM of a movie that doesn’t even have religious context in it.), and they wonder if there would be anything to drive atheists toward goodness, so they bash atheists for not having an objective morality and, let’s face it, quite a few atheists have a superiority complex which gets quite grating, in my not very humble at all opinion.

    However, the basis of atheist belief is the assumption that humans can and will figure out the scientific explanation as to exactly how the world works and why people behave like they do; thus, they have very little, if any, understanding of the concept of faith in something that they cannot explain. Ironically enough, it’s their very faith in humanity’s innate goodness and rationality which frustrates them into acting like they believe their theistic brethren act (which is sometimes quite closed-minded and dogmatic), but in accordance to their own beliefs.

    Thus the cycle moves ever on…

    Now for my completely biased view of your review: I find it hilariously ironic that you of all people would be so paranoid about a relatively harmless movie, especially since you yourself have defended more radical movies than this. However, I must admit that I am saddened that you seem (emphasize that word) to harbor such disdain, disrespect, whatever you call it, for those who would profess to be Christians, it’s not like we’re all the evangelistic bigots this review tried to paint Christians as. This is purely my emotions talking, as I can assume your review of this movie was purely your own written into a rather vitriolic review.

    Now for a more general factoid: I’m probably one of the few people who like President Bush. I understand that quite a few of his decisions were faulty, but that doesn’t give us the right to assume that he has not done anything right – I’ve actually done my research, and I can tell you at least two things he’s done right in terms of the energy crisis alone. Quite frankly, though, a lot of my support for Bush stems from my own opinion that though he’s no Woodrow Wilson in terms of intellect, he is certainly a good man with noble, if somewhat quixotic, intentions.

    In conclusion, my faith in God has not been questioned by this movie review, unlike, it seems, the faith of so many people who’ve replied. However, I hope that this review has brought up the question of whether Christians are all the scared, sadistic little sheep you often portray us as in your more biting reviews, and I even more deeply hope that you’ll give me a decent answer.

    Signing off, Rapha Vexillifa

    P.S. There is a riddle in my name, and it stems from two creatures that once existed before but may exist no longer. I figure you can guess what two creatures I’m referring to.

  • MaryAnn

    I find it hilariously ironic that you of all people would be so paranoid about a relatively harmless movie

    My point was that the movie is NOT harmless, or at least that it does not intend to be harmless. Disagree with that if you want, but that’s a different argument entirely.

    I must admit that I am saddened that you seem (emphasize that word) to harbor such disdain, disrespect, whatever you call it, for those who would profess to be Christians, it’s not like we’re all the evangelistic bigots this review tried to paint Christians as.

    Perhaps not. But those of you who ARE evangelistic bigots are making a major nuisance of themselves. And this movie appears to be a defence of them. THAT’S what I was objecting to.

    Kelly: If you want to invoke Pascal’s Wager — and that you are proves that you’ve read nothin of atheistic philosophy — then please consider that it applies to every deity that humans have ever postulated.

    And with that, any discussion NOT directly related to this movie is ended. General discussion of faith vs. atheism will be deleted after this point.

  • joe

    “And with that, any discussion NOT directly related to this movie is ended. General discussion of faith vs. atheism will be deleted after this point.”

    Thank God!!!!! err……Thank You MaryAnn!

  • Rift

    It seems your almost entirely unsupported in your view. I saw it too, and it irked me considerably. Having said that, I really enjoyed the movie, and thought it one of the best I’ve seen in a long while.

  • MaryAnn

    A movie that “irked you considerably” is “one of the best you’ve seen in a long while”? Really?

  • Karen

    MaryAnn, just wanted to be sure you’d heard that Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s “high-larious” “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” struck another kind of blow against “Horton” on “All Things Considered” Wed night. As it turns out, Peter has 3 daughters, whom he took to see the film. When Peter saw that the Mayor had 96 daughters, he couldn’t believe what happened next.

    This has been getting a lot of play; check it out and know that you are not alone! This is Peter’s blog entry, but try to find the clip from ATC on NPR from April 2: http://www.petersagal.com/wordpress/?p=82#more-82

  • Maura

    I can see how you could easily interpret Horton or the Mayor of Whoville’s revelation as a religious one. The way Horton’s belief in the Whos is dismissed; because “if you can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it isn’t real” is an oversimplification of scientific skepticism, while the mayor of Whoville is unfairly mocked and ridiculed for believing in an invisible being in the sky.

    However, I think it’s just as easy to see each character as the bearer of an unwanted scientific discovery. You could see the microscopic people as germ theory, I suppose, but I think the mayor’s situation is an even clearer parallel. Just look at his reaction to learning that his world is only a speck compared to the universe around it, in constant danger of being annihilated by the smallest accident. Compare this to the modern scientific understanding of our planet and it’s uncertain place in the universe which replaced the much more comforting religious view. When he tries to suggest to the rest of the government that there is a problem and that they may be in danger, their immediate reaction is to silence him, by dropping a soundproof glass dome over him that pipes soothing muzak to the disquieted populace outside. Which is a pretty searing take on organized religion, if you’re viewing it that way.

    Also, he takes his theory to a scientist for confirmation, and she warns that drastic weather change would be the first symptom, as it proves to be, but he is still ignored; so I think you could comfortably attach a moral about global warming as well, if you’re looking to tie it to the current political climate.

    Anyway, I think the science/religion ambiguity was intentional, and that if a viewer only picked up on one and not the other then that speaks clearly for the biases they went into the theater with. If anything, the fact that you could make a case for any character representing either a religious or a scientific viewpoint only adds to the message I got from the story, that close-mindedness in any form is dangerous, and that communication is possible even between the most seemingly disparate groups.

  • Frenk Delacroix

    Dear Mary-Ann,
    one who has been on the receiving end of your righteous fury, like me, hesitates to poke his head out of his hidey-hole and join in the discussion.

    But in this case I will chance it.

    You are right about film criticism. Namely that most people commenting don’t get it. Criticism is all about reading and looking for subtexts and allegory, as you do. Agree or not, succeed or not, it is the doing that matters, as I am sure you know.

    Keep on keeping on.

    (Though the fellow who pointed to a Japanese referent for the Who makes an interesting point, would be interesting to know if it’s true.)

    Your friend,
    Frenk

  • Brad Allen

    My brother, who studied Dr. Seuss in college, confirmed the Japanese referent. Here is the comment he sent me about the review:

    Dr. Seuss wrote Horton Hears a Who as an allegory of post-war treatment of the defeated Japanese. He was working through his own guilt as a propagandist during WWII in which he wrote films depicting Japanese and German people as evil monsters.

    I watched the Horton movie twice and I think it was a marvelous and faithful adaptation of the book. It is nothing less than a delightful romp through the computer animated version of the world of Seuss. It is full of deeper messages but is far from the simple, lop-sided piece of propaganda that Ms. Johanson perceived. Indeed, I find her “thinly veiled right-wing propaganda” interpretation ludicrous given the many jabs against tradition and the establishment. It also makes fun of home schooling, small mindedness, lack of imagination, and mob mentality.

    I’m buying this one when it comes out on DVD and will watch it again and again! The Cat in the Hat movie was an utter blasphemy but Horton Hears a Who hits the spot just so!

  • shoop

    With regard to an earlier exchange:

    “I don’t recall a mayor in the original text?!?!”

    “There was a mayor, but he’s a much smaller character — no pun intended — than he is here. Whoville has been greatly expanded here.”

    Actually, the mayor’s not only in the book, but as in the movie, he’s Horton’s contact with Whoville. He’s a older Who with glasses. By way of contrast, the Chuck Jones cartoon from 1970 replaces the Mayor with a scientist that no one believes, Dr. Whovey.

  • rudy

    Actually, I agree that it was a christian movie and didn’t seem to like the atheists much. whether that was intentional.. no it probably was. there was probably some agenda. I’m too tired to think about it too hard. sorry there are so many stupid people who said you thought too much into it. I thought it was interesting. makes life interesting to think about things. they’re just trying to keep to the “normal” and stuff, which is fine I guess we need normal cops in society too, even if they’re kinda boring. what ev.

  • Horton the Elephant

    Just to clarify things, I AM Horton the Elephant, and I would just like to say you are RIGHT Mary-Ann!The movie was REALLY about those Pink Commie Atheists who are ruining the world!
    I’m glad someone picked up on our struggle for righteousness over those dumb liberal atheist witchy moms! A woman’s place is in the kitchen reading the bible and knowing everything about her 99 kids!! Vote for the republican party! *Trumpets trunk* : )

  • amanohyo

    Horton, whatever happened to that cool adopted kid of yours? The elephant/bird hybrid. I was hoping it would feature prominently in this movie, but I guess they’re saving it for a prequel.

    All the kids I knew, including myself, liked Horton Hatches the Egg a lot more than Horton Hears a Who. If they fleshed out HHtE into a March of the Penguins-ish (minus all the heteronormative family values stuff) feature-length film, it would probably turn out a lot better than this movie did. If not a full prequel, another short would be fine, I’m sure the 1942 and 1992 versions could be improved upon.

    It’d be worth it just to watch men’s rights activists and animal rights activists join together in praise of a single movie. How often does that happen? Anyone else wish they made a HHtE movie instead of this one, or is it just me?

  • shoop

    Don’t know the 1992 version of HHtE. I have fond memories of the 1942 Warner Bros. version–very much a product of its time, complete with Horton butchering “The Hut-Sut Song,” a WWII hit that had lyrics notoriously easy to mis-hear, and Lazy Bird Maisie’s vocal inflections based on character actress Joan Blondell, who played a character named Maisie in a series of low-budget quickies (I believe she was also the voice of the Car in “My Mother, the Car,” but I wouldn’t swear to it.) Also, in typical Warner Bros. fashion, they also had some subtle fun (I think) with the phallic imagery of Horton’s trunk–not the Tex Avery everything-goes-stiff kind of fun; I don’t think they could have gotten away with that, but a little bit of naughty phallic humor, nonetheless, as Horton joyfully swings his big trunk while he prances and sings. I’m assuming the new Horton doesn’t go there, since I haven’t read any complaints about it.

    Horton hatching the egg could conceivably be marketed as a sequel of sorts–that would take care of the “what ever happened to your cool adopted kid” continuity. I’d be up for that.

  • GW

    I have not seen the movie, but this link was on another website about this movie that said “for a good laugh” etc… I am surprised and dismayed that a children’s movie can warrant such a horrible review. I hope you had a nice drink or two after having to sit through such filth! I am appalled at Hollywood, they are usually so spiteful toward Christians, what were they thinking? It can only be aliens, yep, that is it! Well, I can only hope that they come to their senses and start making good ol’ movies like Porky’s and Spring Break, now there are some movies to take the whole family to!

  • Carla

    The world needs more people like MaryAnn.

    The minute my husband and I began to watch the film (btw: I am a film/animation major at California college of the arts), we noticed the pro bush, pro christian/religion theme.

    So sad that they had to inject this stuff into a children’s movie, as if they aren’t brain washed enough.

    I’m so happy I got to read your review, keep your head up and know that most of the people who did not like your review are only bitter because they do not have the mental capacity for an effective rebuttal. The fact still remains this was a biased film making atheists look intolerant and power hungry when in fact is usually quite the opposite.

  • Graham

    I completely agree with you!

    Here are some of the lines…

    “If you can’t see it or hear it, it’s not real” Says the evil diabolical Kangaroo (atheist)

    “We will burn it in oil” Says the kangaroo which is a story IN the bible, and she says this while the elephant (the christian) is being tied up by the mob (non-believers).

    As Horton speaks through the “world” he is seen as a god, holding all knowledge of the unknown and they even added a nice touch at the end with “what will we do without you horton?”

    now I have read a lot of the comments, and it is obvious they don’t get it.

    I saw comments like “Hollywood would NEVER do that” which is the dumbest comment I have seen all day, since Hollywod isn’t one collective person but many with many different ideas and views.

    Just because it is a kids movie it doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden messages…

    It made me sick how they portrayed “non-believers” BUT if you take out the VERY obvious Religious banter it was a funny movie and it did make me laugh.

  • http://blog.bookeazy.com/2008/04/19/horton-hears-a-who-so-we-wrote-a-review/ Cloud

    A very unique and interesting review of the movie is here:

    http://blog.bookeazy.com/2008/04/19/horton-hears-a-who-so-we-wrote-a-review/

  • Colton

    Im responding to your comment about pharmacists having to do fill prescriptions if their morally opposed to. I think thats a wrong way to think. I am a agnostic so religious beliefs have nothing to do with it its about. If people arent comfortable morally with something they shouldnt have to do it.

  • MaryAnn

    Then they shouldn’t take jobs that require them to do something they object to morally.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    I have fond memories of the 1942 Warner Bros. version–very much a product of its time, complete with Horton butchering “The Hut-Sut Song,” a WWII hit that had lyrics notoriously easy to mis-hear, and Lazy Bird Maisie’s vocal inflections based on character actress Joan Blondell, who played a character named Maisie in a series of low-budget quickies (I believe she was also the voice of the Car in “My Mother, the Car,” but I wouldn’t swear to it.)
    –Shoop

    Actually the character actress in question was Ann Sothern, not Joan Blondell. However, Sothern and Blondell did tend to play the same type of character–brassy, bold showgirls and the like–so I’m not surprised you were confused.

  • shoop

    Thanks, Tonio. Dang, I have to remember to “google” before I spew my trivia.

    Back to the movie itself, I’m a little curious–I understand that there’s a female “mad scientist” character in this version of Whoville (not in the book, obviously). Does she register as a positive role model for feminism and/or science, or not so much?

  • MaryAnn

    She barely registers as anything at all. She’s in one small scene, and that’s it. (She may be in the background of other scenes, but there’s only the one that she actually has anything to say or do, if I’m remembering correctly.) Certainly all the apparently smart and interesting daughters of the mayor vying for his attention, which he lavishes instead on his one son, is something the filmmakers feel is thematically far more important than the female scientist.

  • Tim Duncan

    Wow, that’ll learn you to have an o-pinion MaryAnn.

    :)

    Good review. Although I can see your point and understand why it p’d you off so much, I personally enjoyed the movie, and felt the positives outweighed any negative subliminal stuff our kids could pick up. If anything, its message about saving our world came across as more important to me… but then I’m an Aussie. However…

    What really scares me about these tirades are the folks who call Al Gore fascist, people who threaten you with ‘wait til you see God face to face and then you’re screwed!!’ (see The Mist) and people who write really really nasty emails to someone they don’t know.

    But I’m glad you’re sticking to your guns. Keep up the good work, and don’t let all the nut jobs out there get to you.

    Everyone should now go back to their home theatres, turn on ‘Enchanted’ and have a nice glass of sauv blanc. Enjoy.

    T.

  • Shreck

    Hi MaryAnn,

    You can feel free to delete these comments after reading them; they are mostly for you anyhow.

    I wanted thank you for writing this review. I’ve seen the response to your reviews that mention Christianity and to the last one they always seem to get a nasty response. Many people would have changed the manner with which they presented their opinion to avoid this but you continued through with your opinion knowing full well the consequences. I can’t definitively write off the possibility of sensationalism in this decision but I feel I’ve gotten to know you a little having read your reviews for a few years now and I don’t see you using sensationalism to increase your pageviews.

    I also, specifically, wanted to thank you for mentioning this: “Right. ‘A person is a person, no matter how small,’ unless she’s a woman.”

    Now while I’ve seen this phrased used in pro-choice arguments before something about the context of this discussion made me think about it a little more deeply and it has given me a little more understanding of the argument. You see, I’m a rabid pro-lifer. My views are very strict and I believe them very strongly. However, I’ve always believed that winning someone to your side of the argument almost always requires you to first understand their views. And in that, MaryAnn, you have helped me. I am starting to see how offensive it may be to be having the conversation as if you were not even a part of it, as if all of your rights were meaningless and the government was going to tell you how to live your life. It is only a start and I know it is small, but for me it will help bring me compassion in an area I have often struggled. Take that as you will, but I thank you.

    I have one last comment I’d like to make and I hope that it’s helpful to you in some way. It’s in response, generally, to this comment:

    “It’s not even about intolerance — it’s about control. Would we really care if Kangaroo didn’t believe in the Whos but left Horton alone to do whatever he wanted to do to save the Whos (assuming that Horton’s actions did not endanger the jungle or something)? Of course not. It’s not that Kangaroo scoffs, it’s that she is trying to shut Horton down. That’s the problem with Christianity in our society (not every individual Christian, of course, but some very vocal and very influential groups of them): they want everyone to follow their beliefs whether we believe or not. Those Christians don’t see that that’s what they’re doing, yet they turn that around and accuse atheists of trying to force atheism on everyone, which is not the case.”

    I’m not going to try to force you off your point; I simply want to give you perspective as to my own position which may help explain the reason why so many other Christians are so defensive. Also, it may not and it may just be me. Here goes: By and large it seems to me that atheists feel that Christians are trying to force their religion on everyone while atheists are, by nature, neutral. It seems to me that, similarly, Christians believe that atheists are trying to kill their religion while Christians are only trying to expose you to the truth which you are free to accept or not. It also appears to me that both sides are correct and for all the wrong reasons.

    Christians often do not realize how oppressive their tactics are, or how demeaning they can be to someone outside of the faith. They don’t understand how someone cannot see the truth in their perspective, and often become abusive with their comments and arguments. I’m sure that, as an atheist, it must feel like an army bearing down on your small town trying to stamp out everything you’ve grown to love and everything you stand for.

    Atheists often do not understand that their arguments are usually condescending and dismissive, often inciting defensiveness and anger. Atheists will often use science as their standard-bearer, pointing to its unwavering desire for truth and its large number of members who are smarter-than-you. This can feel impossible to get around, as there is quite often an intellectual gap between atheists and Christians, and among Christian intellectuals it is worse as they feel beared-down upon by their intellectual peers.

    Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, the parallels between Christianity and atheism are there: Earnest, true “believers” and the rest who simply want to be smarter than their neighbor, big debates and divisions over trivialities, and plenty of gossip and intolerance. I understand that it has not pervaded atheism nearly as badly as it has Christianity. I’d just like you to see that, as Christians, atheism can be very scary.

    Thanks for taking the time MaryAnn,

    Shreck

    P.S. Sorry for gravedigging this, but I’ve been unable to read your reviews for a couple months and felt compelled to reply to this one specifically.

  • joss

    Hi MaryAnn,

    I just watched the movie and after noticing the identical theme to you, came to google to see if anyone else had commented on it. I have to admit that I didn’t notice the W bit (probably due to being an Aussie) but the overt religious theme was very very hard to miss.

    The thing I found most odd though was that it was almost as if the roles had been reversed. The kangaroo, the character that would have been the religious figure in any sort of real world parallel was using atheist clichés and the character that most closely represented the role that falls to dissenters from the status quo ie poor ol atheists (horton) was talking a very different talk.

    It was a very confused affair indeed. Almost like one of those man switches bodies with a woman movies…. where someone finds themselves in someone elses shoes. Perhaps thats where they were going with this. Who knows.. but to say that it was a theme that wasn’t apparent I find a totally bizarre idea. I am not typically someone who reads a lot into movies or books… a story is a story but this was so overt and so clumsy I just couldn’t miss it. It rubbed my nose in it for 90 mins.

    I am just glad that you said something. Makes me feel a little less odd as I was feeling decidedly queezy by the time the movie had finished.

    Once again .. thanks for voicing what I would have thought was the obvious

    R

    J

  • Paul

    Joss, the Mayor had to be in the minority, otherwise there would not have been much drama, hence the role reversal. I see that in a lot of movies, how so many people have to be apparently foolish so the main character is isolated and forced to go it alone. It’s especially prevalent in cop movies. For the action movie formula to work, the cop has to be outnumbered, outgunned, etc, so there has to be a reason for the cop to act on his own (the rest of the police are corrupt, the law protects the guilty).

    As for MaryAnn being wrong because she holds a minority opinion, that is a curious argument for a Christain conservative to make, since being pro-life is also a minority opinion.

    If MaryAnn sees something in a movie others do not, it could mean she’s smarter than they are, or that reviewers see movies through Kantian mental schemas, or that the people who made the movie were commenting on the dynamics of minority vs. majority opinions in general and that’s the dynamic she’s concerned with.

  • MaryAnn

    Or it could just mean that I see something in a movie that others do not. In these cases, someone does not have to be wrong if someone else is right: we’re talking about interpretation here, and mutually exclusive interpretations can still be valid in and of themselves.

  • http://snoozebuttondreams.com Jim

    I always read the book as a validation of insanity. Along the lines of “Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t actually out to get you”. In this case it’s “Just because you hear voices doesn’t mean somebody isn’t actually talking to you”. That and nonconformity. Standing up for what you believe in despite pressure from peers and authority.

    I’ll watch this movie with my kids but I’ll be going in with an expectation of disappointment. After the travesty of the Grinch and Cat movies I have no expectations of success for any Seuss translation to the big screen. It would take writers with real imagination and skill to turn a 30 page children’s book into an hour and a half movie. Those writers aren’t doing Seuss translations.

  • Si

    Wow,

    one thought…..what the hell is a kangaroo doing in the same habitat as an elephant?

    oh and another……what if all the specks of dust in our existence (i.e. particles) were dimensions of existence for something else completely unknown? (perhaps a world called “Whoooville”?)

    oh and another…….what if there was a speck (i.e. particle) within this speck that had a speck and within that speck there was lots of specks, ad infinitum?

    oh and another…….what if there was a dimension beyond the limits of our universe in which we were a speck of dust?

    oh and another…….surely this film is a-religious and seeks merely to pose questions and provoke thought about our existence in this very questionable universe while also creating a very warming and enjoyable tale for children and adults alike?

    Just a thought though……

    p.s. does anyone wish that the kangaroo was thrown into the pot of boiling oil at the end? Horton should have stomped her!

  • Rob

    Just finished watching this movie with my 3 year old and immediately went on-line to see who else noticed the blatant anti-atheistic tones of the movie. You gave a perfect review IMO. Wish I would have seen it before I watched the movie.

  • Rob

    In a place known as Whoville the folks got distraught
    When Horton the elephant said what he thought.
    “The oddest of oddities isn’t as odd
    As people believing that there is a god.”

    The Who Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists
    The Who Vegetarians, Wiccans, and Nudists,
    The Who Presbyterians, Baptists, New Agers:
    All spread the sad news on their cell phones and pagers.

    A Who Evangelical fell to his knees
    And he said, “Oh no, Horton! I beg of you, please!
    We always have liked you. We all think you’re swell,
    And we can’t stand the thought that you’re headed to hell!”

    But Horton just laughed and he wiggled his trunk.
    The bible to him was a big bunch of bunk.
    He meant what he said and he said what he meant,
    “Religion is silly a hundred percent.”

    The Who Evangelical let out a snort in
    A very snide way most insulting to Horton.
    “You say you’re an atheist? Here’s what we’ll do —
    We all know that atheists are anti-Who —

    We’ll drive you from Whoville; we’ll send you away.
    Or else we will force you to worship and pray.
    A person’s a person, no matter how small
    But an atheist isn’t a person at all!”

    But Horton just laughed once again even louder
    And told all the Whos he would not take a powder,
    Nor worship some stupid nonsensical being
    That no one was hearing and no one was seeing.

    “I will not be threatened,” he said. “It’s not funny.
    I won’t trust your god with my flag or my money!
    I will not allow him to influence science.
    An elephant thrives on his own self-reliance!”

    The Who Evangelical said, “My dear chap, sure
    You think you’re so smart, but just wait till the rapture.”
    The anti-Christ’s coming and then you will find,
    That your friends are in heaven but you’re left behind.

    “We cannot allow that to happen to you,
    Because, after all, Jesus loves ev’ry Who.
    You must accept God for the good of us all.
    A person’s a person no matter how small.

    “And though you’re no Who (you are just a big elephant),
    God loves you, too. What you are is irrelevant.
    He can destroy us if someone’s defiant.
    A sinner’s a sinner no matter how giant!”

    The Whos approached Horton, began to surround him.
    If some of the Whos had their way, they’d have drowned him.
    Some others thought maybe they might build a fire.
    And stoning was mentioned among the Who choir.

    But Horton was huge and avoided the crunch of them,
    Picked up his foot, and he stepped on a bunch of them,
    Hoped the survivors would give up their mission,
    So here’s what he told them about superstition:

    “The oddest of oddities isn’t as odd
    As people believing that there is a god.
    There isn’t a heaven, or hell you should dread.
    A person’s a person — unless he is dead.”

  • MaryAnn

    *snort*

    Bravo, Rob.

  • Anonymous

    I just watched this movie, and I completely agree with you. I ran to Google as soon as it was finished to see if anyone else had come to the same conclusion as I had. I’m only slightly insulted; as it is a children’s movie, I highly doubt that they will be able to pick up on any of the not-so-hidden messages.

    I don’t know. The people who said the movie was being over-analyzed… Perhaps. However, the evidence is displayed quite clearly. So, perhaps you were the ones not thinking deeply enough into it.

    Yes, it is a children’s movie, and the intention of the creators was probably not to sway thoughts or feelings (if so, shame on them). If anything, I think it was meant to be a parody of how outrageous the Atheism vs Religion fights can get.

  • Grant

    Rob wins the thread.

  • Ken

    I just saw this movie with my wife and kids, I read the book to my 3 year old daughter over and OVER, and as a result I couldn’t wait to see the movie.

    I really liked the movie, the voices and animation were spot on. I do agree that there appear to be some pretty obvious hints towards religion. From the mayor’s “invisible elephant in the sky” to the kangaroo’s “if you can’t see it, hear it or feel it, it doesn’t exist” attitude, it isn’t surprised that anyone would say that the movie says anyone who “doesn’t believe” is well…a jerk.

    Now, I’ve got NOTHING against religion or religious messages when I SEEK THEM OUT. I have friends and family members who are pastors/preachers, and I don’t come down on anyone for their choice of belief or non belief, and I don’t think it’s fair of those who do just that. Further, I don’t think it is fair to force belief or non belief onto anyone. This movie, while it is entertaining, can be said to be guilty of BOTH.

    The movie IS a good adaptation of the book, although I would say it would be ten times better without the subtext. I also had hoped to see some lines that I thought were really good, such as “their whole world was saved by the smallest of all” and “you’re the biggest blame fool in the jungle of Nool” or Vlad’s telling Horton he can look for the clover but he thinks he will fail. I certainly don’t feel any subtext when I read the story to my child, outside of a feeling of treating all people kindly, when I watched the movie I quickly had to may a conscious choice to ignore said subtext.

    I’m always upset when I see people “duking it out” in the Internet over something as simple as person or group of persons asking that they not be forced to believe something they choose not to. After all a person’s a person, no matter what they believe or don’t.

  • Jake

    I completely agree with you. I haven’t read the gazillion comments on this page (and won’t), I just wanted to state that you are not crazy. I work in retail, and this movie plays next to my station on repeat. I’ve seen it 20 times — I get the exact same context you do (except the “W” connection, I didn’t grasp that.) But the religious undertones are strong, anyone with an open mind can see that. I googled “Horton Hears a Who Christian Undertones” and found this entry. I’m glad I’m not alone in this speculation. It’s packed full of religious persecution and government control ie, seperation of church and state. There was definitely an agenda in this film.

    Again, you are correct- and anyone who thinks this is simply a childrens story is mistaken. Not that theres anything wrong with teaching children to have an open mind about religion — it’s just that denying the preaching is a little ridiculous. It’s there.

  • Matt

    Its funny that you think it has only Christian overtones. Horton…aka god in this movie is a giant elephant. Do you think this has any resemblance at all to Ganesh the Hindu elephant god of overcoming obstacles? And if you missed that I hope you didn’t run by the fact that if Horton is a god then all the other animals in the Jungle are gods too….does this pantheistic idea sound familiar again?

    But no your right Mary Ann in your shallow, ignorant analysis. Completely a hidden Christian agenda.

  • MaryAnn

    When Hindus start forcing their religion on non-Hindus in American culture, then I’ll start complaining about cartoon representations of Ganesh.

  • matt

    so lets twist this so you can complain about Christianity. Typical.

    And come on stop pleading victim, your not oppressed.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not pleading victim, Matt. But keep on trollin’ — I love shitcanning trolls.

  • matt

    “When Hindus start forcing their religion on non-Hindus in American culture, then I’ll start complaining about cartoon representations of Ganesh.”

    Oh no Christianity has been “forced” upon me as an American. Please, wake up.

  • Simon

    To all you “i’ve been violated by having religion rammed down my throat” people…..

    There is no religion in this movie.

    You are all missing the point.The idea of an elephant in the sky is irrelevant. There is also a lot of other animals in the sky all contained within a world that is assumed to be the earth that we live on (only with talking animals…wtf?) Perhaps Horton and his crazy clan live on a planet that has a talking penguin in the sky, or something else particularly random.

    Perhaps we live in universe contained within another universe that is also contained within another universe.

    This is a movie for kids with undertones that suggest that there may be more than this universe that we know about….it called “marble thoery”….go on google it.

    There is no religious tones in this movie, unless you choose to see them in which case you should get over yourself and stop moaning about how you are all so oppressed by a kids movie.

    Don’t watch it again if you don’t like. I however will let my children watch it many times. Why?

    1. Because I bought it and I want to extract value for money. It actually a funny film!
    2. Because hopefully it will pose questions to my children about whether or not there are more things than we can explain about our universe
    3. To aid my children that they should be distrustful of pernicious kangaroos

    THERE IS NO RELIGION IN THIS MOVIE

    THERE IS NO RELIGION IN THIS MOVIE

    THERE IS NO RELIGION IN THIS MOVIE

    ADD INFINITUM……

    OVER TO THE “I’M SO READY TO BE OFFENDED I’VE MISSED THE POINT OF THE EXTRAORDINARY TALE” SQUAD…..

    by the way….I am a life long atheist, if that matters.

  • DA

    If this was “just a kid’s movie,” then I’m the king of Spain. The “W” thing might have been reaching a bit, but other than that, you’re spot on. Horton is beautifully animated and very entertaining. Yet I doubt that any of the people responding to your review with such vitriol could deny that the movie makes all of the following points:

    1. That it’s a mistake to be strictly empirical, i.e., believing in only things that you can see, hear, or touch;

    2. That it’s a mistake to require that facts be subject to verification by others – if you have a belief based on a private, subjective experience, it’s likely to be true even if it can’t be objectively verified.

    3. That people who don’t believe points 1 and 2 are know-it-alls who want to impose their beliefs on everyone else, by force.

    4. That such people will eventually have their comeuppance.

    In short: science will yield before faith, and secularists are fascists.

    One thing you didn’t remark upon was the fact that the demonized council was democratically elected, while the mayor’s post was hereditary. The alleged right to enjoy stations of power based on accident of birth is no longer much of a threat in the public sector, but in the private sector, it’s something the right-wingers are still fighting tooth-and-nail for (“death tax,” anyone?).

    I think the people flaming you probably fit into one of three categories: 1. Romantics who hate to see any work they enjoyed “spoiled” through analysis; 2. Christians who are just fine with anti-atheist messages in their entertainment, thank you very much; and 3. Right-wingers who are invested in their persecution complexes, and who don’t want to believe that anyone other than demon liberals sneak insidious political messages into Hollywood movies. Don’t let them get to you.

  • Simon

    Unfortunately, it is highly probable that neither science nor faith will yield at all.

    While faith continues to blind and blight the human race with negative, backwards thinking, science will continue to escalate the human existence to higher planes.

    Cue, liberal theologians and deists striking up their science and faith harmony rhetoric……zzzzzzzzzzz!

    DA (the post above)…..where did you get all that BS from? The story is a essential a kid’s tale with albeit massive, philosophical undertones about the existence of our universe (I shall say it again, Marble Theory). This film poses no implications about God being a f***ing Elephant in the sky.

    The fact that you are jumping to the same conclusion as the idiot that runs this website, speaks true volumes about your level of ability to think with any depth other than that, that was imposed on you in middle school.

    How many more people are going to continue, quite obviously misunderstanding the moral of this story?

    All of those that are far too keen to be offended by something that isn’t even there in the first place.

    F***ing pseudo intellectuals!

    S

  • bitchen frizzy

    That, Simon, is a striking example of unintentional irony. One of the best I’ve seen, actually.

  • Simon

    BTW,

    DS…..or anyone to that matter……before more of your hogwash, I fit into none of your aforementioned categories either.

    I am just p***ed off that you’re all missing the point of this film, which is so obviously not religious.

    S

    The sooner we release from religious political policy and have a truly secularised establishment (funnily enough like The White House was originally intended) then surely the human race can only benefit from this.

    Or, we could continue to peer back into 2000 years of oppression and hatred of women for guidance?

    Just a thought?

  • DA

    @Simon

    The object of faith need not be a traditional article of religion. While marble theory is interesting, we are not in a position to gather evidence that it is either true or false. Hence, if one were to *affirm* marble theory, one would have to do so out of faith.

    I claimed that it would be difficult to deny that four messages were present in Horton. To save anyone from having to scroll up, they are, again:

    1. That it’s a mistake to be strictly empirical, i.e., believing in only things that you can see, hear, or touch;

    2. That it’s a mistake to require that facts be subject to verification by others – if you have a belief based on a private, subjective experience, it’s likely to be true even if it can’t be objectively verified.

    3. That people who don’t believe points 1 and 2 are know-it-alls who want to impose their beliefs on everyone else, by force.

    4. That such people will eventually have their comeuppance.

    If you want to read Horton on its surface, and believe that this hostility toward scientific method is on behalf of people who choose to have faith in marble theory, then that’s certainly your right.

    But I’m inclined to think that’s like arguing that Orwell’s Animal Farm isn’t a warning about Stalinism so much as the possibility of animal rebellion. As interesting as it may be, nobody *cares* about marble theory. Why would a movie that rebukes science and affirms faith do so on behalf of faith in marble theory, rather than on behalf of faith in God?

    I submit that you *want* to believe that there is no religious subtext to the movie, because a) you like it, and b) you’re an atheist.

    You may respond, if you like, but this is my last post here. I’m not about to enter into extended debate with a person who clearly has an ax to grind, or who thinks that repeatedly typing a sentence in all caps is a substitute for reasoned argument.

  • vince

    Nice analysis of the movie MaryAnn. I watched it with my children and to me its very clear that the original work was adapted to symbolize many aspects of the Bush presidency and important events that took place during his presidency.

    Anyone offended by the messages embedded in the movie–hey thats the artists right to do that, and all I can say is that its very well done wether you agree or disagree and there are plenty of movies with embedded messages that go in the opposite direction. Thats the beauty of literature.

    The people that have posted insulting remarks about you because of your atheism do not represent the true essence of Christianty and should shut it.

  • Simon

    DS, Mary Ann,

    Are you sure that it is not you (and most of the other people) writing on here, that are the ones who have “faith” that this move has religious subtexts?

    I think so as there is clearly no reference to God or any other deity that this story is so readily bent out of shape to cater for people who want to be offended.

    Sorry to bang on about it again, and I do agree, Marble Theory would be a scientific argument that would rely largely on “faith” to convince anyone at this point in human understanding.

    However, you miss my point again.

    My point is that, surely this story is merely posing interesting questions about man’s (and talking elephants) existence in this vast universe in the now “well used” formula of children’s tales, cartoons and such.

    I cannot stand religion in any way shape or form and am extremely offended by people who try to force me to believe in their albeit stupid regime.

    This is the conclusion that too many people are jumping to while viewing this movie. This is totally not what Dr Seusses beautiful tale is intended for. It is merely philosophical reflection, not religious.

    Besides my point, surely there are so many other planes on which the moral of this story can be interpreted.

    Not that anyone, like yourselves will bother to as it’s highly probable that your all too busy “thinking too much”

    (like Mary Ann clearly states in her self appraisal (Big self pat on the back for Mary Ann please, Ad nauseam)).

    Perhaps you should lay of the weed and go and get a real job.

    Wouldn’t it be extremely funny if the Suess’ true meaning of this story was that he thought God was a Big eared, childish, fat elephant that got picked on by all his peers.

    Now that reminds me of something I have read somewhere…..where did I put that Old Testament?

    Now, on to Frizzy,

    I am not claiming to be an intellectual and I certainly haven’t missed the point of this story.

    Nor am I keen to be offended by something that isn’t there.

    I am offended by the amounts of people that are jumping on this bandwagon after reading Mary Ann’s typically liberal, almost left wing, “don’t push your religious morals on me”, BS review.

    “Aghast” is the word. “Aghast” at the level of unintelligent drivel from somebody who claims to be an intelligent film critic.#

    So, where is the unintentional irony? Yet another example of a d**k head claiming to see things that are clearly not there.

    Next?

  • craig

    I thought the movie was slanted against Christians for ex Sour K. “pouch schools” her Joey and the stuff that can’t be seen sounded like a Christian who is dead set against evolution. But “a person’s a person no matter how small” definitely sounds pro life. So, maybe this movie was able to poke fun at both sides of the God chasm.

  • JasonJ

    Okay, my wife brought this home on DVD from where she works and we watched it together. Bear in mind I had read the review and every single comment from this site, and being a non-religious person, I was armed and ready to be aggravated by all the Horrible Religious References (I will NOT be Bible Thumped dammit!). My wife IS religious, so she was equally prepped.

    After having watched it, all I can say is it was a tiny story stretched into a feature length movie. I can also say that there is an awful lot of college campus pseudo-intellectualism in the comments section of this movie review. The reality is it was a giant colorful Rorschach test where any person can see anything in the movie. It wasn’t horrible, though the only part I laughed my ass off at was the bizarre Anime sequence. Otherwise it passed time until Battlestar Galactica came on….

  • craig

    well this site is call flickfilosopher (pseudo intelligence is implied)

  • Paul

    Craig, please imagine me whapping you on the side of the head. What is implied by “flickfilosopher” to me is that film will be seen as potentially having philosophical implications; even a film that is not intended to have philosophical implications has philosophical implications. For example, a stupid comedy incidentially implies the belief of a Hollywood executive that there enough stupid people to make the movie profitable and that (and here is the philosophical part) justifies making a stupid movie. Unless the executive has bad taste and thinks he’s making a good movie.

  • JasonJ

    Or it could just be a clever play on words and spelling.

  • Paul

    Jason, our explanations are not mutually exclusive and could actually be concurrent.

  • JasonJ

    Jason, our explanations are not mutually exclusive and could actually be concurrent.

    Indeed, although it is probably best to not speculate what was going on in the mind of the person who created the site.

  • Paul

    On the one hand, you have a point. I probably shouldn’t speak for MaryAnn, which is why I put “to me” in the sentence.

    On the other hand, all use of language includes speculation upon what the other person meant, and misunderstanding occurs when the speculation is wrong. Some speculation is simple, such as most daily communication, so we are almost always right. Other times, especially when the communication involves artistic expression, speculation is rife. I can spend an entire class having my students speculate upon the meaning of Roethke’s poem “The Waking” (the second poem of that title).

    The name/title of a website, poem, or book is meant to provoke speculation about the content. If the title is chosen well, then most of the people who go to the site or pick up the book will not be unduly surprised. Of course, some people do come to this site and are shocked, shocked, to find discussion of the philosophy of the movie, which seems to me akin to going to Chainsaw Massacure and complaining about the blood.

  • beth

    I totally agree with your assesment of this film. I love Dr. Seuss and Horton is my favorite character. This movie was way to blatantly religous. It’s main point seems to be believing what you can’t see. The main point of the book is tolerance of others and their points of view. I will not watch it again. I perfer the book as it was written without any manipulation.
    Besides they got the voice casting wrong. Steve Carell should have been Horton and Jim Carrey should have been the mayor.

  • Grace

    This review is laced with anger and bitterness against Christians and religious people in general. In my experience, I have found that insecurity and fear are the fuel for this kind of anti-Christian sentiment. If you’re an atheist, be an atheist, convinced in your own mind of what you DON’T believe in. Why would you feel threatened by a harmless kid’s flick unless you are uncertain of what you truly claim to believe? Read the Bible from cover to cover, and if you still don’t believe that what it says is true, then quietly disagree and stop attacking those of us who do believe. All your anger does is convince us that you’re afraid you might be wrong!

  • Paul

    Grace, the minority always has reasons to fear the majority, and to ask us not to argue against religion in popular culture would be asking us not to defend ourselves in the face of Christians trying to push gays back in the closet, science out of schools, free speech out of the Constitution. And given that Reagan and Bush II both believed the End Times were coming and that meant they expected to fight a world war, I think we were very lucky that my worst nightmares about Christian rule in our government didn’t come true. They were just regular nightmares.

    Oh, and I did read the Bible cover to cover, and since Bush II, who said Jesus was his favorite philosopher, didn’t take Jesus’ moral teachings seriously (as in did not follow them), I certainly don’t see why I should take the creation story seriously, or the End Times myth, or any of the three different Biblical versions of Jesus’ resurrection.

  • MaryAnn

    This review is laced with anger and bitterness against Christians and religious people in general.

    Boy, some people don’t miss anything, do they?

    In my experience, I have found that insecurity and fear are the fuel for this kind of anti-Christian sentiment.

    You’re right, Grace. I fear being told what I may or may not do or think or believe because of the superstitious, medieval beliefs of others.

    If you’re an atheist, be an atheist, convinced in your own mind of what you DON’T believe in.

    I’m already there. But thanks for your concern.

    Why would you feel threatened by a harmless kid’s flick

    I believe my position here is that this is NOT harmless. Did you miss that?

    Read the Bible from cover to cover

    I find it absolutely adorable that so many Christians seem to believe their book of fairy tales is so self-evidently accurate that all it would take is for someone to read it to embrace it wholly. The thought that someone could read the Bible and find Christianity even more preposterous than they did before doesn’t seem to cross their minds.

    I wonder how many Christians have read the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Or the Koran.

  • Faith

    Hey there,
    Im a 17 year-old english student trying to do some research on Dr. seuss, and i came accross this review. Im quite frankly shocked, by the behaviour of both the reviewer and the commentors. C’mon guys, this is about a movie review, you can’t expect someone to review a movie exaclty like you want. You all have a choice to accept or ignore the review if you don’t like it. And if you want to state your point of view, try to do it without personally insulting the reviewer! Be open-minded, there are other views out there!! This seems to have turned into a stupid argument, rather than a sensible debate. I am a christian myself, and Mary (i think it is) though you do not believe the validity of the bible as i do, i don’t expect you to gain any insight to my ‘book of fairy-tales’ becuase you seem have a preconcieved idea of the bible as..well a story. That’s alright with me, im sure many others share that view, but for me, the bible will always be true, and its description of the God i follow and his everlasting love for me, will always be central to me. It takes a leap of faith to come to this conclusion. It is not my opinion that you will embrace my faith by reading the bible, you may think it more perposterous. That is for you alone to decide :) oh and btw, i do agree that the animated movie does stray away from the original text (and ive only seen bits of it myself), and it may be true that the film-makers could have portrayed certain characters differently from the book, but that’s usually what happens with book-to-films, (totally dissapointing, i know!) except if its BBC, they stick to the text like glue! :) Well…thats all from me…:P

  • Jeff

    Its funny how things like this fly under most people’s radar. My wife and I had this movie on a couple of days ago for our 3 year old, and it felt really off to me. (first time seeing it) It was at the point where the kangaroo uttered just that line, “If you can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it doesn’t exist” that the problem finally registered, and I pointed out to my wife how amazingly pro-religion and anti-science the movie was. It took a couple moments for her to understand what I was saying, that Horton (and the mayor) were acting as religion and the hordes of animals represented by the kangaroo were straw men for science, and that Horton is our sympathetic protagonist, so we’re meant to feel empathy for him.

    Ironic, though, that in the end science proved the Who’s existence.

  • rosalyn

    Wow! I somehow missed all the back and forth on this one until now. I have to admit, all I remember at this point was that I wasn’t all that impressed with the movie as a whole, but I did think the visuals were great.

    But this just highlights the reason I like your reviews so much. They’re thoughtful and interesting. Although I do sometimes check your site for your input to decide whether something is worth seeing, I more often like to compare your experience to mine after I’ve seen a movie. To look at a movie in a new way and/or to discover something I might have missed just helps me to get more out of my movie experience.

    Hope you are having a good summer in the cultural wasteland ;-). I guess some people are just jealous that the only viewing options in their one-horse town are Transformers 2 and Police Academy n+1.

  • Rachel Masters

    I will tell you exactly what this movie is about, but you have to have a very open mind…
    Watch the very beginning of the movie when the gum ball seed falls and makes it’s way toward the flower…if you know this Earth’s true history, that’ll make sense to you. Ever heard of Nibiru?

    Then, look at the struggle of discovering other worlds and…inhabitants of those worlds and making ‘Contact’ (another movie)…

    And then the struggle of telling the masses vs keeping it to yourself…look at JFK and listen to ALL his speeches, including the one about secret societies, aliens and such (youtube). They even allude to these things in the movie itself, Horton pretending to be JFK and also mentioning, mockingly and jokingly, to begin a secret society.
    Oddly enough, children’s movies reveal the most truth when you know the truth and accept it;)
    (I still enjoy this movie, and am also a Christian)

  • clevernickname

    It’s funny that NO ONE ELSE picked up on exactly what the author of this article picked up on.

    I’m a Journalism major–I know all about Agenda’s, believe me.

    I only found this article because after watching the movie [be it kid's film or not] there were certain key points that drove home exactly what has been said here: God exists, even if you can’t feel see or touch him.

    God is simply substituted by “People in space”

    I can get direct quotes to prove my point if necessary, but something tells me that won’t matter.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that saw the blatant message in this movie, that is all.

    On another note, the movie was beautiful. I enjoyed it, I think I even teared up–and [gasp!] I don’t believe in God.

    But I know a well executed story and plot when I see one–and this was one.

  • Kelly

    Wow, my husband and I just reached the same conclusion after watching this movie.

    Sad really, because it is a beautiful movie, but there is really no going back. I am so happy to have found this article. Thanks for being brave enough to post this.

  • Rolando

    This review accurately reflects what I saw while watching the movie with my children. You did an excellent job of characterizing the not-so-subtle imagery and undertones. It’s ironic that the kangaroo has a tough time believing, even in the face of incontrovertible proof of Whoville’s existence.

  • SEGA

    Absolutely correct in your analysis. I can’t believe you’re being bashed so hard on this painfully obvious point. I thought it was just myself seeing religion everywhere during my process of deconversion, but watching the movie again I have to say the topic really is almost shouting at the audience.

  • Anthony

    poshttp://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2008/03/dr_seuss_horton_hears_a_who_re.htmlted by Grimmy (Fri Mar 14 08, 2:23PM), I feel like you are ignoring a lot of facts, my friend. Modern [atheistic] regimes have killed millions in less than 10 years, true. But these people responsible for it didn’t kill them in the name of Atheism. On the contrary, “the Inquisition, boogeyman of our age, [that very arguably] killed 2,000-4,000 over 350 years”, killed in the name of God, to spread a religion. Both aggressors’ aren’t justified at all.

    PS: If you want to put it like that: George W. Bush, Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Harry Truman, Idi Amin, Slobodan Milosevic, Jean Kambanda, and Kim Il Sung were theists.

  • Nicole

    Wow, I know this is very old! But I had to comment. First of all, the kangaroo which you stated represents the athiest left winged arrogance that if they don’t agree it should not be taught. Hence when she follows Horton around to make sure he is only teaching what she seems to think is “tolerable”, Just as the athiest of the world have taken over our country that was founded on certain religious aspects (eg: our money, prayer in schools, and even monuments that have been taken out of court houses and other public buildings that had been there for decades) Now I ask you, who in fact is prosecuted in todays day and age? Don’t mention the fact that liberals out there are trying to take away Christian or any other religous believers rights to a public prayer day. Why do you feel so threatened? IMO it comes down to If we are worng, we just become dust, if you are wrong, well thats not a pretty picture to think about now is it? I think that is what is behind all the anomosity of the athiest of today. They believe they know it all and can explain it all, but can’t convey that in an appropriate way, so either way your morals are compromised.

    Back to Horton, I believe it is a great movie (and story) that teaches children about being kind, considerate and thinking outside the box. Not everything that exists is taught in a book, and regardless of religion you have to believe in “something” or life just isn’t worth living! Sometimes you just have to sit back and “listen” to grow as a person, speaking just interupts lessons in life :)

  • Nicole

    On the topic of reading the bible.. you do understand that there is history there with proof on a lot of it, regardless if you interpert it the same way or not, they are facts.

  • JC

    I saw this movie last night (again) and while there are many things I enjoy about it, I actually agree with the author of this piece. What’s actually ridiculous is that people will come onto a site called “flickfilosopher” and take offense to someone ‘reading into’ a kid’s movie. Well, maybe you shouldn’t go to websites whose explicit purpose is analyzing messages in film! ;-)

    Now I don’t really agree with the idea that neoconservatism is even touched in the movie, but I do think the film promotes a message, as do all Dr. Seuss’ books. It’s probably been as long ago as my actual childhood when I’ve read HHAW in its book form so I can’t comment on its differences.

    Let’s be honest here. This movie isn’t exactly going to convert everyone into card-carrying members of the 700 Club, but that’s not what the author of this criticism is suggesting either. The core message in this film is hostile to reason and empiricism (Just like one could argue Pi, another movie I enjoy but disagree with, espouses anti-intellectualism). HHAW upholds gullibility and blind faith as superior values over whether or not we should reasonably determine things to be believable or incredulous. With the citizens of Whoville, we are given the lesson that if they simply trusted the Mayor (authority, in this case religious and political), their fate would not have been down to the wire. In the case of Horton, we are taught the lesson that if everyone believed his story (no matter how outrageous it may seem) rather than demanded he proved his case, the citizens of Whoville would not have faced the risk of complete genocide. With as many people who believe that ‘faith’ is regarded as a virtue, it really doesn’t seem to be that surprising that HHAW is an allegory of the virtue as it appears in the real world.

    Therefore, the question isn’t does this film present x, but do you agree with x? (x being the film’s message of blind faith having intrinsic value and importance). If you understand why the film is skewed in favor of blind faith, then you understand why someone may disagree with it. At what point does Horton attempt to actually prove to his peers that Whoville exists? If it is his moral imperative, then he failed to meet that imperative. The Whos seemed to have many varieties of unusual technology, the most relevant of which included the amplification technology exhibited in the end. Could the mayor have recorded the messages he was getting from Horton or amplified them down to his people? Could he not have coordinated a better effort with Horton to verify specific commands that would have demonstrated to his people early on that he wasn’t simply delusional? In other words, for things that could have been provable given a considerably stronger effort on both of their parts, neither party did much to really help.

    I would like also to add that if the filmmakers and screenwriters didn’t intend to convey this message, then they should probably stick to writing frat comedies.

  • Moonangel4evr

    Many people have read those other religuous texts. Makes Christianity that much more valid and sensible. Have you? You should. But to you all…..POOF!! WE EXIST! That’s so laughable. I pray for you, whether you want it or nit. You’ll need it. God created everything. As to ya’lls who created the creator question….he always existed. You must believe with the heart of a child….have faith. Or youre screwed. Athiests cannot prove god doesn’t exist….nothing close. Tgey cannot explain why we exist. They have NOTHING but closed minds. God help you all.

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