The right’s problems with children’s entertainment

You’ve likely heard about Fox News targeting the Muppets, but it’s worth appreciating the extent to which this ties into a larger pattern.

It’s a glamorous pig, not a communist pig, that the Muppets are best known for. But Miss Piggy, Kermit and the gang have been accused of brainwashing kids with an “anti-corporate message” in their new movie, according to Fox News host Eric Bolling.

On Fox’s “Follow the Money,” Bolling alleged that the new Disney installment of the “The Muppets” franchise was evidence of a liberal Hollywood conspiracy to brainwash children. The film features an evil oil baron named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who wants to raze the Muppets’ old theater to drill for the black gold. The gang reunites to host a major fundraiser to win their theater back.

Bolling actually went after Muppets twice, first accusing the movie of trying to “brainwash our kids” against capitalism, and then again soon after, insisting the Muppets are “terrible” for “demonizing” capitalism.

Bolling even invited Dan Gainor of the right-wing Media Research Center on the air, who argued that children have been “indoctrinated,” which is one of the reasons “we’ve got a bunch of Occupy Wall Street people walking all around the country.”

Obviously, sane people realized this was all terribly silly, and Bolling was apparently embarrassed when his on-air comments generated national attention.

But what amazes me is how often the right goes after children’s entertainment. Perhaps the quintessential modern example was Jerry Falwell going after Tinky Winky the Teletubby, but that merely started a lengthy, larger campaign. One religious right group went after “Shrek.” Another targeted “Shark Tale.” James Dobson launched a broadside against SpongeBob SquarePants, while Fox News’ Neil Cavuto perceived “Happy Feet” as political propaganda. The “Harry Potter” series has been targeted any number of times by conservatives complaining about witchcraft, and the Christian Coalition targeted Twilight because “it’s just not normal for young people to idolize a vampire.”

For the record, I’ve never seen or read any of the entertainment these conservatives don’t like, so I’m not really in a position to defend the content. But when far-right Fox personalities perceive secret political messages from the Muppets, it’s a reminder that conservatives sometimes have too much time on their hands.