Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Horton heard a what?

On the plane ride across the Atlantic they showed three full-length movies, one of which was Horton Hears a Who. I was in Paris when it came out there, and wanted to see it, but for some reason my wife was more intent on seeing ... well ... Paris.

I had forgotten the Dr. Seuss book, so the story was essentially new to me. Having seen it, I have to say that I'm shocked such a film came out of Hollywood. It has religious and ethical connotations that are the polar opposite of the Hollywood mindset.

Horton (voiced by Jim Carrey) is an elephant, and because of his ears, he has greater hearing than others in his jungle community. He hears, and then befriends, the mayor of a town (voiced by Steve Carell) on a planet that is basically a dust speck. The movie entails Horton trying to bring the dust speck to safety.

The religious connotation is that Horton hears a voice, but other people doubt him because they don't hear it themselves. His main detractor (a kangaroo, voiced by Carol Burnett) says "If you can't see it, feel it, or hear it, it doesn't exist." This strikes me as very similar to the claims of atheists that if they can't experience God with their five senses, they refuse to believe in him. If someone claims to hear God's voice, he must be delusional or worse.

The ethical connotation is that Horton insists that the people in Whoville are just as important as anyone else, since "A person's a person, no matter how small." This strikes me as a very obvious statement about abortion. It doesn't matter that they (the Whos in Whoville or the fetus in the mother's uterus) are small, they're just as important and have just as much right to live as anyone else.

Again, I am staggered that Hollywood made this movie. These implications are not contrived or hidden; they are very obvious. I also find it interesting that the two main characters are voiced by Jim Carrey and Steve Carell. Both men have Christian backgrounds: Carrey was raised Catholic, and has attended Protestant church as an adult, and Carell is a lifelong Catholic. These two also made two other movies which take God seriously: Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty.

Of course, the movie has other themes as well. The kangaroo accuses Horton of corrupting the young, eerily similar to the same charges made against Socrates. Another is that Horton refuses to give up, even when everyone else is against him, and even when what he promised to do becomes insanely difficult. "I meant what I said and I said what I meant; an elephant's faithful, one hundred percent." This is quite laudable, and I'm very glad that this is put forward as something people should do; but there are other mainstream movies that advocate such themes, so it's not as noteworthy as the two mentioned above.

(cross-posted at OregonLive)

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