Focal Analysis of the Lorax
Dr. Seuss’s story of the Lorax is a fictional account of a young boy saving his town and world from a very dismal future.[i] The film is classified as a children’s movie, but that does not mean that adults should simply dismiss the story altogether. Upon doing a focal analysis of both the Lorax and the United States when the movie was released, it becomes clear how pertinent this movie really is to our current state of affairs. Focal analysis shows us how we are on the very same path that the residents of Thneedville were on before they utterly destroyed the world around them. The Lorax presents a timeline that the US is currently in the middle of, and we must take action if we wish to take a different path.
The Lorax is not set in a clear time period due to the fact that it takes place in a fictional world, however certain aspects of Thneedville’s society allow us to make assumptions about the temporal setting of the film.[ii] Thneedville and its residents have clearly gone through their own industrial revolution judging by the technology available to them.[iii] The town is made entirely from artificial materials like plastic and metal, and there are no living plants of any kind.[iv] The film takes us into the past as well, seemingly before Thneedville had gone through the cultural and material conversions that accompanied their industrial revolution.[v] Time is used as a tool in the film to display the accelerated effects of misusing the land and its resources.
Ted, the protagonist of the story, lives in Thneedville, a bustling, artificial town that has been walled off from the rest of the world.[vi] Thneedville is colorful and clean, but it is revealed later in the film that the town is not as perfect as the pretty exterior would suggest.[vii] The mayor of the town has set up security cameras everywhere so he can keep close watch over the citizens of Thneedville, and nobody is allowed to leave the town and its impressive walls.[viii] Outside of the city is a barren wasteland that stretches as far as Ted can see.[ix]
When the film was released in 2012, the United States, like the rest of the world, was threatened by many environmental crises, but the country wasn’t a barren wasteland yet. A character called the Once-ler from the Lorax describes how he and his family single-handedly cut down every tree outside of Thneedville in order to maintain the profits and lifestyle they had grown accustomed to.[x] The United States was in the process of exhausting all of its natural resources when this movie came out, so we were still behind the poor residents of Thneedville in the comparative timeline.
The United States was not a small town surrounded by wasteland in 2012, but it was a country that was destroying itself with oil spills, nonpoint-source pollution, deforestation, overfishing, a lack of alternative forms of energy, and countless more issues.[xi] Our cities were not completely void of living plants, but they were made almost entirely from synthetic materials. Many of the most powerful people in the country directly benefited from the industries that were destroying the United States, just as the mayor of Thneedville was benefitting from the wasteland outside the city.
The main object or focus of the film is to bring attention to what overconsumption and misuse of resources is doing to our planet. The Lorax accelerates the story and keeps it limited to one town, rather than an entire planet, making the focus very clear. The Mayor of the town is the tangible representation of the exploitation we see in our world everyday. His own economic ventures are far more important to him than the status of the environment outside his town.[xii] The people of Thneedville are ignorant about the degree of destruction that has occurred as a result of their consumption because there is a literal wall hiding them from the truth.[xiii] This wall of ignorance was just as present in the US in 2012, but it was far less literal. Many people were aware that something was wrong, but very few people realized how important it was that we make a change.
Unfortunately, the movie did not have any significant effect, for the United States has not changed very much since 2012. Focal analysis can be a somewhat simplistic way of analyzing an issue or topic, but the issue itself is also very simple. If we continue to abuse the land like the Once-ler and the rest of Thneedville did, we will lose everything. The Lorax serves as a reminder to break down the walls of ignorance and plant seeds of change just like Ted did.
Layzer, Judith A. The Environmental Case: Translating Values into Policy. CQ Press, n.d.
Renaud, Chris. The Lorax. Universal Pictures, 2012.
[i] Renaud, The Lorax.
[xi] Layzer, The Environmental Case: Translating Values into Policy.
[xii] Renaud, The Lorax.