Kids’ Villains – From Terrorists to “Big Oil” in 30 Years

Being a father of young children, I’ll occasionally find myself wrangled into taking my family to the movie theater to catch one of Hollywood’s latest family films.

Last week, it was the new Muppets movie. I must admit that my expectations for the film weren’t all that high. Although I enjoyed the Muppet Show when I was a kid, I’ve become used to Hollywood botching nearly all attempts to resurrect successful entertainment concepts of the past. This one was no different. The plot and dialogue were lazy, and the musical numbers were hard to listen to. To cap off the unimaginative venture, the writers decided to use the go to villain that has sadly become a hallmark of recent children’s movies: “Big Oil”.

Yes, the Muppets’ evil nemesis was a wealthy and greedy oil tycoon whose name was… wait for it… Tex Richman. Get it? “Rich Man”. How terribly clever. Richman’s dastardly plan was to buy the abandoned Muppet Show theater and turn it into an oil field. Actor Chris Cooper portrayed the part of this cruel CEO who takes great delight in denying Kermit and his poor friends the opportunity to save their old stomping ground.

Coincidentally, the previous children’s movie my family saw in the theater together was “Cars 2”, which also featured “Big Oil” as the antagonist. In that one, villain Miles Axlerod secretly sabotages race-cars that are using a new clean-burning, organic fuel. His motive? He wants to destroy public faith in green energy so that the world’s dependence on oil increases, making him a ton of money. No, I’m not joking.

There are plenty of other examples out there as well, but you probably get my point.

Hollywood has a long history of injecting political ideology into their television shows and movies. This is nothing new. But it’s particularly annoying when their target is our impressionable youth. Filmmakers often seem to take greater pride in planting ideological seeds in our kids’ minds than they do in simply producing quality entertainment. They apparently see it as their public duty to shape the next generation of Americans in their own morally self-righteous mold.

Particularly noticeable is their choice of a villain: Corporate America. To Hollywood liberals, corporations are seen as obvious bad guys who threaten our society with their competitive nature and selfish motivations. Thus, there’s nothing controversial or unjust in vilifying them. Never mind that it’s corporations that actually finance these movies in the first place and put food on the tables of the people writing these scripts, but hypocrisy has never stood in the way of the Tinseltown elite. Even worse than generic corporations, in their eyes, are oil companies. If a corporation is the villain, an oil company is a super-villain! Not only are they wealthy and greedy, but they’re also destroying the planet!

There’s a stark contrast between current-day bad guys and the ones I remember as a child. I’ve recently been reminded of this because my son has taken a liking to the old G.I. Joe cartoon from the early 1980s, which has been airing on an obscure cable channel over the past few months. I used to watch that same cartoon religiously nearly thirty years ago.

In G.I. Joe, the villain is a terrorist organization known as Cobra. They are determined to take over the world, while G.I. Joe fights tirelessly to stop them. The story lines celebrate American patriotism and warn of the dangers of inaction and complacency in the face of those who wish to harm the United States.

For many people these days, the show would probably come across as a politically incorrect, nostalgic relic of an era long passed. Yet, it seems to me that in a post 9/11 world, it doesn’t make sense that the de facto villain in children’s entertainment is a wealthy old rich guy in a suit, who’s looking to increase his bottom line. Here we are, engaged in a very real conflict between Western culture and radical Islam, yet the notion of a terrorist being the villain in a kids’ program or movie is unfathomable. It’s not even on the radar in Hollywood, while sinister oil barons grow there on trees.

It makes one wonder why we don’t see terrorists in the children’s genre anymore? The instinctive answer is that terrorism is too mature of a subject for young minds. I don’t buy that. Decades ago, Marvel Comics never had any qualms with creating Nazis and other white supremacists as villains for young readers. I blame it on modern day political correctness. Hollywood has been reluctant to portray Islamic terrorists as villains, even to older audiences, primarily due to their sense of moral relativity and silly concerns that they’ll inspire some sort of backlash against Muslims. But when it comes to kids, they don’t like to use the concept of terrorism in any form.

Today’s filmmakers and show creators are squeamish about drawing a hardline distinction between good and evil. They’d much rather use conflict as a vehicle for examining our own faults as human beings. Another problem here is that they don’t value a sense of patriotism as a noble quality for our youth to have. Think about it for a second. When’s the last time any of us have seen a children’s show or movie that has incorporated patriotism for a purpose other than mockery? I certainly think there’s a market for playing it straight, but it’s a tough sell in liberal Hollywood where pride in America is scarce. After all, these are the same people who get bent out of shape over military recruitment tables in our high schools and colleges.

To them, kids aren’t supposed to know of a villain that isn’t motivated by greed. It’s really that simple. And because of that, creators of kids’ entertainment have grown content in relying on their own liberal instincts to define what a villain should be, rather than creating a representation of genuine evildoers like terrorists.

Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not suggesting that Hollywood adopt a radically more serious tone in children’s entertainment. Like most people, I enjoy light-hearted movies with comedic villains who turn over a new leaf by the end of the story. But it’s frustrating as a parent that the baseline for what makes a character bad has been so distorted by the entertainment world. Economic inequality is not a villain. Financial success is not evil. People who attack the United States… now they are bad.

If Hollywood is so eager to send our children home with an ideological lesson, how about occasionally making a couple of those lessons pride in country and the cost of freedom? They might actually find an even larger audience in the process.


Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series, which is available through all major retailers. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
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  • Joe Smith

    Hi, so I’d like to know, is it okay to teach our impressionable youth to vilify and hate others for their differing religious belief, but it is not okay to allow our children the freedom to choose entertainments that will educate them on pertinent issues of social and income inequality and environmental consciousness? Why is there too much political correctness when children are concerned? What is the meaning of hypocrisy and are you trying to illustrate its definition with your scattershot arguments?

    • Joe Smith

      From what I understand, it’s only okay to inject ‘ political ideology into [children’s] television shows and movies ‘ when we as a Repuublican/ Conservative hive mind agree it is okay to? For instance featuring terrorists, juvenile shooters (with their constitutional freedom to guns, of course) and perhaps people who want economic equality and the opportunity to succeed, as the villains?

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  • Drew Page

    You are right John. Recently I watched a movie where Leonardo Decaprio played a CIA operative in Jordan and Russel Crow played his scheming, villainous CIA boss stationed in the U.S. The movie’s not so subtle intent was to portray Decaprio’s character as being duped and manipulated by the evil CIA, under the ruse, of ferreting out Islamic terrorists. Decaprio’s character falls in love with a caring Iranian nurse, working in Jordan and ultimately forsakes his CIA career and evil boss to stay in the middle east because he likes it. When his boss hears this, he tells Decaprio’s character, “No one likes the middle east”. To which Decaprio replys “Yeah, well maybe that’s the problem”. See? These people in the middle east aren’t the bad guys, they are the victims of hate and discrimination by the USA.

    Another made for TV flick has Matt Damon as a U.S. soldier in Iraq rooting out weapons of mass destruction. He is sent from one location to another to find these weapons, continually engaging in fire fights with the locals. Damon’s character learns his superiors have been leading him on wild goose chases and that there are no WMDs and that the evil politicians (read George Bush) have sent him and his comrades into a war under false pretenses. When he tries to reveal this, he is threatened and stopped by his own nefarious superiors. Once again, the USA is the nasty villian.

  • Dianne

    I thought letting my kids watch the cartoons on PBS would be OK, but the other day I heard the characters on “Arthur” spreading the liberal propaganda about global warming. Ugh. The cable station Bommerang plays the old cartoons from my childhood, like Looney Tunes. My kids and I laugh when Wiley Coyote falls from the cliff and the boulder lands on him, and then he re-appears in the next scene un-harmed. Now that’s entertainment!

  • Larry C.

    Less all remember who now owns the “MUPPETS”. Disney, and they are now some of the biggest users of oil, ad all other types of fuel in the world. Making movies fighting against what you use more of than most countries—-DOES THAT SOUND LIKE ANY CERTAIN MAN TO ANY OF YOU, AND I WILL GIVE YOU A HINT. HIS FIRST NAME STARTS WITH AL?? Thanks Ya’LL.

    Larry C.

  • begbie

    “…and knowing is half the battle! G…I…Joooooooe!!!!!!”

    I loved that cartoon.

  • Shirl

    I’m already teaching my granddaughter and all her little neighborhood friends; when you grow up, never ever vote democrat. Remember, you are all Republicans. They said, yeah we aleady know; our mom told us..We have got to start turning back the tide of liberal-socialist propaganda which has taken over the dem party.

  • wally2

    The Left knows that its important to plant the seeds into young minds that big oil and corporations are the bad guys. Its in their DNA to do this since that is what they have been brain washed into doing. We as intelligent people see and respond to these acts as destructive and that we do not allow our children to see these movies etc. without explaining to them the real facts of the story or movie. If we don’t the next generation will be lost.

  • Shane

    Yes, the PC crowd in Hollywood wouldn’t dare make an honest movie about Stalin or Chairman Mao, two of the greatest mass murderers in history who were Communists. Also, why haven’t any of the exciting action novels by Vince Flynn or Brad Thor been made into movies? Could it be because the villains are traitorous left wing politicians and Islamic Jihadists? I would love to see one of Flynn’s or Thor’s action novels made into a movie!

  • cordelia crockett

    Hollywierd doesn’t get a penny of my money, I stopped patronizing them years ago.

  • DOOM161

    I was going to see The Muppets, but then I read the synopsis and found out that they vilify the oil industry. I would have no problem with this if they didn’t use any oil to produce the movie. But we all know that isn’t the case.

    Meanwhile, I doubt anyone in Hollywood has detonated a car bomb with children inside it, but they refuse to vilify these acts.

    • John Daly

      Even beyond the political stuff, the movie is REALLY bad. Poorly written, poorly acted… just really bad. I am absolutely stunned that it’s getting mostly good reviews. Easily the worst kids movie I’ve seen in years.

  • Florida Jim

    This is the result of the 60’s radicals who have commandeered the public schools through colleges and spew their venom to our children. Now Obama has many, many of them in his administration devasting heathcare, EPA,TSA, Immigration, honest elections and our history books.

  • Maureen

    Political correctness will be the death of America. It is frightening that in this violent world that we live in today all that Hollywood will depict as evil are old rich people. And the irony is that Hollywood is loaded with old rich people.

  • Bill Hurdle

    Can there be a more glaring example of greed and profit motivation than the entertainment industry? They create nothing of tangible value yet charge prices that compensate everyone with fabulous salaries. Do you suppose that they could cut prices by 75% and everyone could still be wealthy – couldn’t the likes of Tom Hanks get by on $3KK instead of $12KK? Does anyone understand the end game of demonizing “big oil” and hydrocarbon energy in general? Do they wish to take us back to the stone age where everyone is burning wood and living off of wild animals? Do they not realize that the planet will not sustain this level of population with that mode of living? These people are dumber than doorknobs – double digit IQ intellectuals.

    • Ken Hansen

      Any chance ANYONE in Hollywood pays his or her unfair share of 35% taxes on his ‘excessive’ earnings? Your $12M payday for Mr. Hanks (who happens to make MANY patriotic films) should result in a nearly $4M tax bill from Uncle Sam, yet I suspect they structure their payments so a $12M paycheck isn’t really a paycheck, thus trimming their tax obligation…

      Matt Damon makes a reported $21M/picture – does he write the $5M tax check himself before he takes the stage and argues to raise his own tax rate? I think not.

  • Roadmaster

    Hollywood just reinforces what “everybody knows;” big oil is mean, dirty and greedy. I can’t say how many arguments I’ve had with adults who think the petroleum industry is the focus of evil in the modern world. When you start listing the 1000’s and 1000’s of every day products made from crude oil and it’s derivatives they either dismiss them or change the subject. Something that BAD just cannot be so essential to modern lie. Children may be ignorant because they aren’t taught, adults are just stupid and they’ll vote for Obama again.

  • Ken Besig, Israel

    For the past decade the only villains have been the CIA, the US military, multinational corporations, or rogue US government operations.
    But this too will soon become passe and other, newer, and perhaps more realistic Hollywood enemies will take the stage.
    Nobody except for a few Left wing village idiots really takes this sort of uber corporate villainy or CIA black ops stuff seriously anyway!