A month ago, novelist Andrew Klavan wrote a wild-eyed editorial at the LA Times claiming that “Toy Story 3” was a “rebuke, not perhaps to the Obama White House specifically but to its underlying ideas.” A major foundation of his argument was the point that Sunnyside Daycare Center stood in for a socialist society.
At the time, I wrote that “you’d be hard pressed to find another human being, American or otherwise, with any kind of interpretation of the film in the same ballpark as the one offered by Klavan.” Well, allow me to eat those words, as The Stranger‘s Charles Mudede (who, incidentally, co-wrote the films “Zoo” and “Police Beat”) offers a similar read on the film, this time as a complaint:
Things go dark almost immediately. The socialist utopia is not even given one chance to shine. A door opens and a bunch of noisy, dirty, ugly kids run into the play space (the site of production) and mob the toys. They are pulled, thrown, crushed by the rage of the multitude. The toys then learn that Lotso is not a benevolent leader but a malevolent dictator, who maintains power by force (a secret police), camera surveillance (screens monitored by a cymbal-banging monkey), and mind control (the heartbreaking desubjectification of Buzz Lightyear). The rest of the movie is about escaping this totalitarian state and returning to the much less oppressive ownership society.
As evidenced by his suggestion that “Toy Story 3” would more accurately be titled “Tea Party People Story,” Mudede’s take is more tongue-in-cheek than Klavan’s (as is basically everything in the world — Klavan’s absolute humorlessness is his article’s most impressive quality), but also thoroughly reasoned. To a point. If I may play along: The daycare is depicted as becoming a socialist utopia once Lotso is ousted. The toys that stay there come up with a system in which they share the labor of having to be played with by the toddlers. If Sunnyside is a metaphor for a socialist society, it’s meant to be a corrupt one in which a dictatorial leader has used the language of socialism to enforce a system in which privileges are saved for those in his cadre.
Anyway, enough! Only literal interpretations from here on out for me. A cigar? Just a cigar. But I do recommend, for further reading, Mudede’s very enjoyable Marxist take on tapas.