Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jerry Seinfeld’s New Kids’ Flick “Bee Movie”: Selling Slavery and Colonialism to Young Minds

If you’re taking your kids out to watch Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie”, you should be prepared to challenge your kids about the ideologies of slavery and colonialism being promoted in this film.

The film begins with the main character Barry B. Benson graduating from his bee hive college and facing the big question of what he’s going to do with his life. Within minutes of his graduation, Barry is swept into the industrial rhythm of honey production in his society ,where he learns that he has nothing to look forward to in life but taking up a position in the honey production of his hive. But Barry, who is presented as a youthful idealist, believes that he was meant to do far bigger things in life. So Barry decides to venture out into the human world.

After exploring New York City for some time and making a human friend, Barry shockingly discovers that honey is sold in human stores. Knowing well that only bees can make honey, the naïve Barry searches out the source of all the honey. What he discovers are industrial honey farms where bees are enslaved and the product of their labour is stolen by humans and sold for profit by big corporations.

The film quickly turns into a court-room legal battle between Barry and the big honey corporations, with Barry (representing the bees of the world) suing the big corporations to return all the honey they have stolen. Representing the corporations is a buffoon-like fat lawyer whose initial trial strategy is to try to win over the jury by demonizing the bees as violent creatures who will never change their stinging ways. When vilifying the bees doesn’t work, the corporate lawyer warns the jury in his closing statement that returning the honey to the bees would be overturning the perfect “order of things”.

Against all odds, justice prevails in the human courts, and the bees of the world win back all the honey stocks of the world. But the rest of the movie's message is that there is no freedom but slavery and misery.

With the bees getting all their honey back, they become lazy and refuse to work. Because the bees stop pollinating, all the flowers of the world begin to die. It is here that the once revolutionary Barry transforms himself into the greatest champion of restoring slavery to the bees. The bees, led by Barry, undertake a great campaign to repollinate the world and restore the “order of things”. The film could not be more obvious in its celebration of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism.

This silly story of bees working in industrial-like settings their whole lives for the benefit of humans is quite clearly the story of 80% of the world's peoples who are dominated by the imperialism of countries like America and Canada.

Barry is supposed to represent the naïve youngster who thinks he can change the world, who is labelled a conspiracy-theorist by his fellow bees at one point in the movie, but but who ends up fitting very comfortably into the system by the end of it. Unfortunately in capitalism, 90% of the world's people will never be able to make the choice to fit in comfortably with the system.

At first, we are not meant to take seriously the stupid, fat lawyer who demonizes the bees (just like the American media demonizes Muslims and non-white peoples) and who warns about disrupting the “order of things”. But by the end of the movie what seemed like fascist (religion, demonization of the bees) excuses prove to be correct when all the flowers of the world begin to die (flowers, of course, being a metaphor for all things good).

That Barry - who sells out his fellow bees to save the human “order of things” - is praised as a hero in the movie is a message for all oppressed peoples that they should only aspire to succeed within the status quo, like becoming a capitalist “hero” such as a wealthy professional, superstar, politician or sports athlete.

The repatriation of honey to the bees is an obvious reference to the struggles of colonized peoples struggling for reparations, peasants demanding land, or socialist movements organizing workers to take control of factories. The message sent to young children is that any change to capitalism would be disastrous for the world. What this hideous capitalist and imperialist propaganda attempts to do is strike out all the marvelous advances made by the great revolutions of recent history: as if the Haitian slave revolution of 1804 did not defeat the French Empire, with the former Haitian slaves going on to help liberate Latin America from the Spanish. As if the workers and peasants of Russia in 1917 did not wage their revolutionary struggle and bring about the end of the First World War to go on to make great advances for their own society, including their historic defeat of fascism in the early 1940s. And as if the persistence of the Cuban revolution to this day does not show us a living example of the power of workers and peasants to build a better world.

The messages of slavery and colonialism in the “Bee Movie” come at a time when Iraqi, Haitian, Afghani, Somali, Palestinians, and Kurdish peoples continue to wage their armed struggles for national liberation from foreign occupations and when the revolutionary struggles today in places like Venezuela, Nepal, or the Philippines have already won great advances for their own peoples.