“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” was a big hit on opening weekend, raking in $70 million at the box office. But it’s marketing tie-ins with nearly 70 brand “launch partners” has caused the Seuss to hit the fan. As first reported by Mother Jones, “people are having a (rather justified) heart attack about the fact that The Lorax is now being used to cross-promote a new SUV.”
So much for “speaking for the trees.” The little orange eco-hero now hocks the Mazda CX-5, disposable diapers and candy-coated pancakes. Pundits from everywhere are commenting: from the Washington Post to the Huffington Post, from the Wall Street Journal to the Guardian and from thousands of bloggers to the most insightful commenter of them all, Stephen Colbert.
Check out this car commercial, where an ugly strip of asphalt defaces the blissful Seussian landscape:
It’s not wonder everyone is talking about what a sell-out the Lorax has become.
But there’s something nobody’s saying.
It’s easy to focus on the tone-deaf SUV ad, but nobody’s said anything about who ISN’T a sponsor (or WASN’T ever invited to be a sponsor). Where’s the trees? With 70 “launch partners,” how come there aren’t any plants, flowers or trees cross-merchandised with this film? How come the only “green-friendly” product the American consumer can think of is diapers made of recycled material? Would there have been any controversy if the Toyota Prius were the car, not a Mazda gas+oline hybrid? Not likely, but maybe there should have been.
Greenwashing looks bad when it’s done so poorly, but our approach to environmental consumerism is flawed to its core. All these products can only claim to be less bad than they were before--and some only slightly. The single product that can actually claim to be good, not just less bad, continues to go ignored, even when that product is the point of the whole darn film.
But it doesn’t strike anyone, anywhere that an excessively merchandised movie about trees would lack any product tie in for…trees.
For the thousands of businesses and millions of Americans who grow, sell and landscape with trees, the Lorax is just another reminder that they aren’t really relevant to today’s society. When you aren’t invited to the party, and nobody notices, that is the definition of irrelevance.
But look on the bright side, at least you plant folks aren’t sell-outs!