There has never been a more frightening time to be a parent. No, it’s not because we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and there is a continuing opioid epidemic going on, and a looming national mental-health crisis that threatens to engulf children struggling with the litany of present-day changes.
It’s because there is an animated film on Netflix that, if left unchecked, might make kids believe oil tycoons are big meanies.
I’ll pause here to allow parents who may be triggered by this news to put down this column and go idle their cars, for comfort.
Bigfoot Family tells the story of a scientist dad who, having been genetically mutated into “Bigfoot” in a previous film, takes on an oil company that is planning to destroy a wildlife preserve. The company takes Bigfoot hostage after he sneaks onto the “Extrakt Oil” grounds, leaving it up to his son, wife and their animal friends to rescue Bigfoot and save the Alaskan valley.
Mercifully, the energy war room created by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is fighting back against this animated children’s film. In perhaps the most expensive taxpayer-funded movie review ever, the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), as it is officially known, launched a web page and letter-writing campaign targeting Netflix Canada’s head of communications, urging her to correct misinformation in the film that “ignores the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship.” Indeed, in a film about a man-turned-sasquatch featuring a talking bear and raccoon, it is important to be accurate.
Mr. Kenney himself joined in the censure this past week, calling the movie’s depiction of oil executives “vicious” and claiming it defamed the oil and gas sector in Alberta, where the cartoon film is notably not set. He added that CEC has every right to shine a spotlight on such “outrageous lies.”
Now, critics of the United Conservative Party might suggest the war room’s attack on a children’s film is merely a way to deflect from the party’s falling poll numbers, to unite a fractured caucus against an easy target, to cool tensions from the government’s dust-ups with doctors and teachers and to distract from the fact Alberta currently has the highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. Why, some might even argue that as long as we’re attacking fairy tales, we might as well start with the one Mr. Kenney sold his province back in 2019, when he promised a return to the oil-and-gas glory days of the past through tax cuts, pipeline creation – over which he has little control – and a surgically sharp war room that would reveal and discredit Alberta’s oil enemies, which would somehow lead to prosperity.
But I’d posit the attack on Bigfoot Family is only because the CEC hasn’t yet taken a hard look at Sesame Street.
The show, of course, is much more nefarious in the subtlety of its anti-oil propaganda. It is purportedly about a busy urban street, but it almost never features vehicles – an underhanded and wily mechanism of waging the war on cars in the minds of vulnerable toddlers. A recent episode, brought to you by the letter “C” (for carbon tax?!) centred on Oscar the Grouch, who is content to live in a garbage can even though a home built with Canadian lumber and fuelled by natural gas would be much more comfortable and nearly as sustainable. And don’t get me started on the questionable living arrangements of Bert and Ernie – although I’ll grant that may be out of the CEC’s purview and more of something for the UCP’s Education Ministry to consider, in keeping with its work to inform parents if their children join gay-straight alliances in school.
Indeed, as long as the CEC is doing the important work of targeting children’s programming for no measurable benefit, I’d implore them to take a hard look at Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – where the factory uses hydraulic and human energy at the expense of fossil fuels – and at The Flintstones, where characters start their cars with their feet, which is the type of future Greenpeace wants. It might also explore the possibility of outlawing the ubiquitous threat that naughty children could receive a lump of coal in their stockings at Christmastime – as if receiving a lump of coal is ever a bad thing.
There are so many things that parents – particularly Albertan parents – have to worry about these days, so it is reassuring Mr. Kenney’s fiscally conservative government has put its resources toward a children’s movie that is surely topping the list. I do hope the UCP thinks about my proposal to expand the CEC’s mandate to other popular programming, which is something the caucus needs to consider now that certain members have returned from their vacations to Hawaii.
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