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What Liberals Might Learn From Monsters, Inc.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Fear sells. But joy sells even better. 

That was the upshot of the wonderful 2001 animated Pixar movie, Monsters, Inc. Little did its Hollywood creators imagine, I suspect, that they laid out the fundamental philosophical divide between those on the left and those on the right.  

The movie features the considerable talents of actors John Goodman and Billy Crystal in the starring roles of James “Sulley” Sullivan and his best buddy, the cycloptic Mike Wazowski. Sulley and Mike are cute-ish monsters who inhabit a world of cute-ish monsters on earth that is hidden from the human population. The monsters are dependent on the humans – specifically, human children – to meet their energy needs. Somehow the monsters have learned how to convert the screams of children into energy and capture it, thereby powering monster-world.

Mike and Sulley work as “scarers” in the energy production company in monster-world called Monsters, Inc. They are part of an elite cadre of monsters whose job it is to sneak into human children’s rooms at night, pop out of their closets and frighten them, channeling their screams into portable energy-storing devices that the monsters take back with them to their world. The monsters are able to transport themselves discreetly between the two worlds through the children’s closet doors, which are actually portals into monster-world.

The serious-minded Sulley and the clownish Mike are dedicated employees of Monsters, Inc., and Sulley is considered an icon among his energy-producing monster peers for being the best scream-inducer/energy-producer of all time.  

The Monsters, Inc. company is filled with characters that you might find in any cut-throat corporation: a Machiavellian snake-like monster named Randall Boggs, who is jealous of Sulley’s talent, and seeks to sabotage him whenever possible. Then there is the “always-watching” and nasty “Roz,” the monster with 1950s plastic eyeglasses that I think my Mom wore, who is sort of the HR director from hell. And we have a superficially gregarious company chairman, Henry J. Waternoose, who is hiding the fact that his company’s production level is dropping, because human children are become harder to scare.

The monsters in monster-world, initially including Sulley and Mike, are taught to believe that human children are toxic and are terrified of them. This poses a problem, because the hapless Randall accidentally leaves a portal door open, enabling a curious, cute little human girl to enter the Monsters, Inc. factory through her closet door, where she encounters Mike and Sulley.

Overcoming their initial fright, Sulley and Mike discover the kid isn’t toxic after all and quickly bond with her. The plot then becomes saving the human kid from detection by all the other monsters in Monstropolis and somehow getting her back to her bedroom. Much rollicking fun ensues as Sulley and Mike have to evade and deceive their fellow monsters.

Through Mike’s zany antics, which make the girl giggle, our heroes discover that in fact children’s laughter produces much more power for their energy storage machines than does fright. The dogmatic and, it turns out, mean Mr. Waternoose, refuses to recognize this newfound discovery and is forced out of the company. Then its entire business model changes. They embrace joy and laughter and the company’s production soars. 

This is where our political lesson comes in.

Leftist politicians like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Robert Francis O’Rourke and the lot try to garner support, donations and votes by scaring the American people with rants about rapacious corporations and “millionaires and billionaires” who are denying the “little guy” fairness by wanting to keep the money they’ve earned. They accuse President Trump and Republicans generally of hating “immigrants” for wanting controlled borders and enforcement of our immigration laws. They seek to frighten their weak-minded followers about “assault weapons” (whatever that means) and demand the imposition of more gun control laws, which would have zero effect on those intent on breaking other laws, like those against murder. It is the philosophy of victimology and fright.

Republicans, and conservatives particularly, on the other hand, believe in the potential of human beings. They seek to create the conditions in society which promote self-empowerment and the ability of people to use their God-given talents and innate drive to succeed. For real conservatives, life is joyful. America truly represents the Shining City on a Hill. It is the pinnacle of meritocratic opportunity. 

Ronald Reagan viewed America this way. And I think Donald Trump does as well. They project this philosophy in markedly different ways, given their upbringing, career paths, and personality types, but in essence they embrace the same joyful outlook about human potential and the ability of America as it was originally conceived by its founders to promote it. 

I’ve watched Monsters, Inc. many times since my kids were little. Really, I’ve mostly listened to it while driving on long car trips while the kids watched it in our minivan from the backseats. It never dawned on me until listening to Elizabeth Warren today that the dour cynicism of Democrats and their desire to frighten their supporters mirrors, in a way, the outlook of Randall Boggs and Henry Waternoose. They refuse to see what Mike Wazowski and Sulley Sullivan came to recognize and embrace: That happiness and joy are the best approach to getting the most out of life. That is also the outlook that I think most conservatives embody and the one which President Trump and all Republican politicians should promote.

So break out a bag of popcorn, pop Monsters, Inc. into the DVD player, and enjoy.  Sulley and Mike are on to something. 

William F. Marshall has been an intelligence analyst and investigator in the government, private, and non-profit sectors for more than 30 years. He is a senior investigator for Judicial Watch, Inc. and a contributor to Townhall, American Thinker, and The Federalist. (The views expressed are the author’s alone, and not necessarily those of Judicial Watch.)

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