All movies---and especially children's movies---have a primary message: good is rewarded; be true to who you are; follow your heart; wishes are good; visit Disneyland ... whatever. But it's always there, and it's always obvious.
The primary, overt, not-even-slightly-subtle message of the deplorable movie Hop, out on DVD March 23, is that the very idea of Hispanics succeeding is a joke.
The star of Hop is a rambunctious young drummer bunny named E.B.---short for Easter Bunny. E.B.'s elderly father, Mr. Bunny, Sr., is the Easter Bunny. He oversees a vast candy factory (that, judging from the mountains of Kisses it produces, is heavily subsidized by the Hershey Company). On Easter every year, Mr. Bunny delivers the factory's Kisses and colored eggs to children all over the world. (Although, he pointedly notes, "We haven't cracked China yet." Because nothing says children's movie like the theme of economic and cultural imperialism.)
Mr. Bunny's factory is run by Carlos, whose name and heavy accent leave no doubt that he is Hispanic. Like Carlos, the legions of workers at the factory are yellow chicks. Carlos, however, is a good deal less cute than the chicks he oversees. He is twice as tall as they. And while they are fluffy balls of adorableness, Carlos is simply out-of-shape fat. But the main difference between Carlos and his workers is that they are all wide-eyed, childlike simpletons, while Carlos is conniving, evil, and violent.
When young E.B. goes missing (he runs away to Hollywood in a failed attempt to find a decent plot to this movie), Carlos, back at the plant, decides to finally reveal to Mr. Bunny, Sr. his passionate, long held desire to be---or at least perform the functions of---the Easter Bunny. Donning rabbit ears to help Mr. Bunny envision him in the role, he makes an ironclad case for why should be the proxy Easter Bunny: he's been Mr. Bunny's dependable right-hand man for years on end; and he knows the business inside-out (as opposed to E.B., who has never shown any interest whatsoever in the job he was born to inherit).
Carlos is clearly the man for the job. And Mr. Bunny does, after all, need someone to step in and deliver the candy. He's grown too old to do it himself; this is the year that E.B. was supposed to take over. But E.B. had disappeared.
"Why not me?" asks Carlos. "I can do it! I'm ready!"
The idea of Carlos filling in as the Easter Bunny strikes the father as so outlandish that it makes him laugh in Carlos' face. As, still chuckling, he walks away, a foreboding shadow fall across Carlos' face. Now, for the first time, evil Carlos emerges.
"Yeah, see you later," he murmurs angrily. "Enjoy your life of privilege."
And suddenly this children's movie, in no uncertain terms, is about racism and class warfare. We are given virtually no reason for Carlos being summarily refused the job for which he is clearly qualified: it can only be because he's Hispanic. We know it's not because he's not a rabbit: when out of nowhere the young white man in the movie decides that he wants to be the Easter Bunny, Mr. Bunny, Sr.---knowing full well the guy knows absolutely nothing about the job---bestows upon him the title and function of co-Easter Bunny.
Dedicated, hard-working, fully knowledgeable, vastly experienced Hispanic? Absolutely not.
White guy with no knowledge or experience? Yes, yes, yes.
That's the message of his shameful movie: if you're born privileged, or white, you can easily go straight to the top. But if you are unfortunate enough to be born Hispanic, then you can do the work, and you can supervise lots of others of your type---but, for you, that's where it stops. If you kowtow and keep your place you might make it to second place. But first place will always be denied you---and you will never be told exactly why.
When it first came out, my wife and I saw Hop at the movies. A Mexican couple and their little girl were sitting directly behind us. Before the movie began, the three of them were happily chatting, excited and eager to see the show.
When the movie ended, and the lights came up, not one of the three uttered a single word as they gathered their stuff to leave. Heads down, they rose and slowly filed out of their seats like they were leaving a funeral.
What had that little girl just learned?
Mark Cassello, assistant professor of English at Calumet College of St. Joseph, has written a great piece about this movie. He has also launched a Facebook events page, ¡Stop Hop! Protect Children from the Racism of Hop!, which I urge you to join. Please share that page across your social media, and encourage others to also join it. (Twitter hashtag #StopHop.) This movie is just too toxic to allow for business as usual.