I watched Fantastic Mr Fox. I thought it was wonderful. So I watched it a second time. And it all made sense. It is an allegory about class. The three farmers represent the power elite. The other humans represent the liberal class — as defined by Chris Hedges in Death of the Liberal Class. And the animals are the working class. So let me go through this because it probably isn’t obvious.
The hardest characters to understand are the non-owning humans: the liberal class. We aren’t talking the middle class. We are talking about the upper half of the upper class: the people in the top 10% of incomes. These are the people who are supposed to keep the power elite (the top 0.1% — more or less) from getting out of hand and taking everything for themselves. And in so doing, they prevent the working class from rebelling. But like in our own time, this class has totally lost track of this first duty. All they do is allow the power elite to take more and more by oppressing the working class.
The three farmers are a very accurate representation of the rich in our society. But this kind of representation is so out of favor that it has an anachronistic feel to it. This is probably because the farmers are the one thing that I most remember being the same from the book. And the book was written in 1970. You know: when powerful labor unions still existed in the US and UK — when workers still saw their wages go up with productivity and took it for granted. I know that the rich don’t think of themselves as Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. It’s called cognitive dissonance. It’s what allows people to have billions of dollars while others starve and then use those billions to buy elections so that they can acquire more money. Now that I think about it, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean are too good a representation of these “people.”
Now clearly, Mr Fox has his personality issues. He’s a narcissist. Yet most great leaders are. Does he create a better future for all the other animals? I think the answer is less muddled in the book. There, Mr Fox is only stealing chickens to feed his family. And in the end, the animals seem to be in a better place. In the film, the farmers’ attacks on the animals are really the fault of Mr Fox’s narcissism. And at the end, the animals are living in the sewer and stealing from the grocery store. I’m not sure that is a long-term strategy for success. But it is clear that the animals had no choice after the farmers started their campaign against Mr Fox.
The film provides the other alternative by way of the wolf: the animals could separate themselves from human civilization. In other words, unlike the truly ridiculous notion in Atlas Shrugged where the rich “go on strike,” the workers actually could leave. And it would shutdown everything else. Of course, that isn’t the case in Fantastic Mr Fox because unlike in the real world, the humans do not depend upon the animals (workers). So on that point, the allegory breaks down. But those are the choices for the working class. We can flee or we can fight. We workers have enormous power if we stick together. Because there is no doubt: the system is broken. The farmers are destroying our homes, without a thought to the fact that they are only harming themselves. Even for their sake, we need to stop them.
As a film, it is really charming. And it is totally Wes Anderson. I was curious about it because he’s not known for animation. But it looks exactly like you would think it would. And it is filled with flights of fancy. It’s just a wonderful film, even if you don’t care about the politics.