Lou Dobbs vs. Miyazaki

So the time comes again when I have to (half) defend Fox News. The network has a surprisingly lengthy recent history of taking issue with the subtext of children’s entertainment. Lou Dobbs similarly criticizes “The Secret World of Arrietty,” the new to the U.S. Miyazaki-scripted Ghibli film, which I’m reviewing in the next issue of Nichi Bei Weekly.

Dobbs claims that the film, about a four-inch-tall family that “borrows” basic necessities from the humans whose house they secretly live in, “plainly [has] an agenda” and is “plainly demonizing the so-called one percent.”

Most of the comments in response to Dobbs’ commentary mock him, and with good reason. The idea that major entertainment corporations are colluding to push a liberal agenda on kids is pretty ridiculous (publicly-traded companies have no agenda other than increasing the value of their stock). And although Dobbs never explicitly claims it, his use of a bizarre montage of clips of President Barack Obama saying among other things, “Everyone should do their fair share,” seems to be implying that the President somehow has something to do with the films — an even more outlandish notion.

But Dobbs does have one thing right: The artists who created these works did put deliberate messages in them (the other example Dobbs cites is the upcoming “Lorax” film adapted from Dr. Seuss’ openly pro-environment kids’ book). According to Hiromasa Yonebayashi, “Arrietty’s” director, Miyazaki explicitly told him that “in this particular [economic] time it might be very important to create this kind of story where little people borrow a bit from other people.”

And even though they argue the point in a completely over-the-top manner, Dobbs and company are also correct that the messages in kids’ entertainment matters. I just happen to disagree with them that teaching kids to share and take care of the environment is somehow harmful.

About Ben Hamamoto

Ben Hamamoto is a writer born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He's been published in the Oakland Tribune and has written for New American Media's YO! Youth Outlook and the Nichi Bei Times. He is a research manager for the Health Horizons Program at the Institute for the Future. He also edits Nikkei Heritage, the National Japanese American Historical Society’s official magazine and contributes to Nichi Bei Weekly.


  1. I do not think you have a point, because every successful work of art has a message, regardless of whether it is for kids or for adults. We even have a message when we tell people stories in our everyday discourse. If there was no message, then we wouldn’t watch it, so it’s ridiculous to criticize any work of art because it has a message. I can’t think of any successful book, movie, show, or play that does not have a message of some sort, even if it was reinforcing the cultural norms of society. Just the act of having a hero defeat a villain, or choosing what gender to make the main character, or deciding to make a happy ending sends a message.

    Both of these movies are based off of classic children’s literature, from the 50s and 70s. Niether of these stories are new, and the Lorrax had clear environmental agendas as a book. I am still trying to figure out how the borrowers is bad, and goes against the 1%. Maybe there is something special about the movie, but since it is a japanese film, I don’t see why it would be criticizing America’s wage gap in the first place.

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