Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Politics of Astro Boy

I found myself watching Astro Boy this morning and was amused by the notion of blue core (good) and red core (bad), especially given the strong political theme of the movie.  It was based on a Japanese anime series but tailored to an American audience with some rather explicit references.  Republican parents might not want their kids to see this movie as it could influence them to vote blue when they reach voting age ; )

In the spirit of Pinocchio, a scientist Dr. Tenma tries to recreate his son, placing a blue core, which looks like the Hope diamond, at the heart of the android version, but alas the sad doctor has a hard time identifying with his creation and rebuffs the boy after the tike finds he has all these super powers.  It seems the boy was little more than a way to hide the blue crystal from the evil President Stone, who desperately wants to destroy this positive energy once and for all.  He finds himself in a hotly contested election with sagging poll numbers.  After a rather complicated series of events, the militaristic President resorts to the red core to kill the pesky Astro Boy once and for all, resulting in a Godzilla-like battle royale, which Astro Boy eventually wins by flying straight into the red core of the mutant robotic monster and shattering the evil power once and for all.  It leaves the boy powerless but victorious.  Stone also miraculously survives but is left totally defeated.

Anime and politics don't really mix, but I thought it was a game effort by the Hong Kong-based company, Imagi, to break into the American market.  Alas, Americans tend to prefer their superheros grown up and without any identifying political preferences.  We all remember the stir the Teletubbies caused when they invaded America.

2010 Election Results by counties
I suppose if Astro Boy had been a hit at the box office, Democrats could have capitalized on the mighty tike in the 2010 midterms.  Instead, they lost the House in a historic turnover of US Representatives.  Ever since, the Republicans have managed to consolidate their power in Republican states, forming a "red beast" out of gerrymandered voting districts that virtually ensure majority rule.  The Senate remains blue because state-wide elections generally tend to favor Democrats.  But, the Republicans are looking to retake the Senate this election cycle and render the President powerless in his remaining two years.

It got me to wondering where this whole red state v. blue state paradigm came from.  Not surprisingly, it dates back to the highly contentious 2000 elections when Tim Russert used these colors to define Republican and Democratic states.  Such color coding is nothing new, but this new system stuck and it seems that both parties identify themselves this way now.  You can look at this color coding in a number of ways, from how states vote in the Presidential election to the make-up of their US Congressional representatives to the way the state legislatures and gubernatorial offices are divided.

Historically, Red has generally represented progressive movements, but I guess the radical conservatism,which took root in the Republican Party of the 90s, had an active red quality to it, whereas the status quo nature of the Democrats seemed rather blue and sad.  However, blue also represents stability, which seems to be something sorely lacking in the Republican party these days.  The GOP appears ready to burst like a radioactive isotope, wreaking havoc on the body politic.

Originally, Astro Boy was built around a post-apocalyptic theme in that the citizens occupied a floating city that hovered above a planet that had essentially become a wasteland, not much unlike what Japan would have looked like following World War II.   The series created by Osamu Tezuka ran between 1952 and 1968, and came to embody the Cold War as well.  Astro even does battle with the US Air Force at one point, saving a Vietnamese village in one of his time-travel episodes, as the story takes place in the not-so-distant future.

In this movie, the Mighty Atom joins in with a band of orphans when he falls to earth.  He is eventually discovered to be a robot under his human skin, and the evil President Stone tracks him down.  Sadly, children are too often the victim of political struggles for power.  The movie doesn't explore this theme in much depth, but Astro's new friends eventually come to his aid when he is forced to battle the mutant red robotic beast.

It is hard to say how our political situation will play out this election cycle.  It seems voters are for the most part dissatisfied with both political parties, judging by the low turnout across the country.  No major turnover in Congress is expected, just a few new faces to liven up events ... maybe.  Everyone seems to be looking ahead to 2016 to put a fresh face in the White House, but even here we see the same old faces being offered as prospective nominees.  Where's Astro Boy when you need him!

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