Vegan message in the Angry Birds movie
Friday, our kids had the day off school and we took them to see the Angry Birds movie. It was cute. I laughed a lot (I have an incredibly childish sense of humour, and if I’m honest, I thought it was hilarious). I also found it surprisingly insightful, for a movie based on an iPhone game.
The plot line of the Angry Birds movie – for those of you who have neither played the game nor seen the movie – revolves around birds getting angry and attacking a bunch of pigs (literally, I’m not being rude) who steal their eggs.
Confession time: somehow, in all my years of playing Angry Birds, I never knew the pigs actually wanted to eat the birds eggs. It honestly never even crossed my mind. I guess I thought they were empty nesters who wanted to foster a bunch of baby birds? (Yes, my mind works in mysterious ways).
Anyway, it turns out that there is why more going on at bird island (where the birds live), than meets the eye (or my eyes, I’m a little thick).
There are the shades of colonialism – when the pigs initially land on the shores of bird island, they pretend there are only a couple of them. They seem friendly and wow the native birds with their futuristic technologies (TNT and trampolines).
The majority of the birds are impressed with the pigs, except Red (the red bird that you always see in the game), who smells a rat, as it were. As time goes on, more pigs appear, but the birds still don’t want to believe anything is afoot. Unfortunately, before Red can persuade the other birds the pigs are up to no good, the pigs have flown the coop. They’ve also kidnapped the birds’ eggs, which they plant to take to Pig Island and cook for a feast.
Cleverly, unlike the game – which leaves more up to the imagination – the film puts more emphasis on the fact that the eggs are the birds’ children. The birds mourn their loss. They also emphasize that these eggs can’t simply be replaced with new ones (despite one character’s amusing suggestion that they do just that).
The returning pigs are greeted like heroes by the inhabitants of Pig Island. An excited crowd carry signs like “we love cholesterol,” and the pig leader – King Mudguard – gives a rousing speech about bringing the treasured eggs back home to his people. Of course, by now the audience identifies with the birds and is outraged at the pigs heartless egg-pilfering.
I can’t help it! I’m a foodie!
In the end, when Red asks the King pig why he would want to eat their children, he excuses his appetite with a shrug and the weak response “I can’t help it – I’m a foodie.” Although this is almost universally recognized as a legitimate reason to eat animal products, the audience is inclined by this point to agree with Red that this is an unsatisfactory excuse.
Many children’s books and movies subtly question society’s normative treatment of animals. Charlotte’s web, Black Beauty, Babe, Bambi, Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians, the Fox and the Hound – each of these classic stories is meant to elicit a sense of empathy and force us to question our sense of entitlement. More sensitive readers and viewers can’t help but wonder how to square their eating and entertainment habits with the values they want to live by.
Of course, because the messages are often subtle, not everyone will receive them. The Angry Birds movie is perfectly enjoyable on its own. But it’s always nice to find a more nuanced message beneath the laughs and hijinks.