Movie Analysis: The Politics of Tomorrowland or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying If Brad Bird is an Objectivist

Brad Bird at Tomorrowland Premiere

WARNING – some spoilers for Tomorrowland contained within.

Politics can be a divisive business, and it’s no surprise that a lot of people simply hate talking about it, especially when it comes to appreciating and enjoying art and media. But it’s equally true that it’s frequently a topic that can’t really be avoided, especially since so much of art, culture and human expression is inherently political, whether it means to be or not. When you’re a fan of the filmmaker Brad Bird – whose new film Tomorrowland is now playing in cinemas – avoiding politics is nigh-on impossible, and the resulting discussion can often be fractious and tricky to navigate.

Bird is, after all, an extremely political filmmaker, and one whose specific ideology has proven tough for many people to get to grips with, given its unexpected and unconventional nature. He’s primarily known as a purveyor of family entertainments – from his background as a Disney animator to his tenures on The Simpsons and at Pixar – and we’re used to mainstream family entertainments being relatively unchallenging in their political character, usually settling for broadly universal self-empowerment themes, with a dash of left-leaning acceptance and diversity messaging. That’s not really Bird’s style, though – he’s a much more overtly didactic filmmaker, and deviates from the standard script often enough that his philosophy has become distinctive, recognisable and – to a certain degree – controversial. With Tomorrowland, he’s released his most message-driven movie to date, which makes this a good time to have a look at what makes this supremely talented yet oddly divisive filmmaker tick.

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Don’t Trust Others: If You Dislike Them, Report Them

Since I don’t live in London anymore (and haven’t been there since last October), I hadn’t heard about the Metropolitan Police’s latest insane ad campaign to basically inform us that we should be suspicious of everyone and everything (you can see the ads here), and the fact that it also ties in with the way that Britain is now a place where anyone with a camera can be hassled and threatened with criminal prosecution for simply taking a picture in a public place. It’s the kind of thing that really makes me keen on moving to another country, and makes me angry – because in so many respects, the ‘War against Terror’ has already been lost because, frankly, the terrorists set out to cause terror, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. And the Government’s response is more security, more paranoia, and more ways of making the general populace frightened, paranoid, and likely to turn on anyone just because they’re different.

(As an aside – on my recent air trip (to Cornwall, obviously a terrorism hot-spot), I had to throw away a tube of hair-gel I’d accidentally left in my hand luggage. Not news, of course, but it was mostly empty – the amount in the tube was well below the limit they set but, in one of those feats of nonsense there’s just no point in arguing with, the limit is determined by the amount that the tube was designed to take. And when are these rules finally going to be relaxed? Never, because there’s never going to be a point when anyone can say conclusively that the War on Terror is over. It all just makes me want to throw my hands up in the air…)

Anyhow – I wouldn’t have heard about this if it wasn’t for wonderful blog BoingBoing, and they’ve just put up a selection of remixes of the posters, many of which are quite brilliant. Have a look, enjoy, and let’s just hope that the downward spiral doesn’t continue. I was always hoping the future would turn out to be 2001: A Space Odyssey – unfortunately, it’s looking more like Terry Gilliam’s classic dystopia Brazil…