Angry Birds America
I just read there is going to be an Angry Birds movie, and my first thought was, “What could that film possibly be about?” The game wasn’t some epic tale that was easily adapted for the screen. It wasn’t written by a master storyteller thus commanding a (big movie voice) “Tale That Must Be Told.”
Then it hit me like a pile of feathers.
I have not seen a treatment, trailer, or treatise on the Angry Birds movie, but as I sit here staring out my window at hummingbirds and finches, it occurs to me that the methamphetamine of smartphone time-wasters, the one that addicted all of us so many years ago and made us believe it was safe to pass on to our children, the game that spawned Target aisles full of merchandise…that menace is something far deeper and disturbing than we first thought.
On further reflection (and by that, I mean the two minutes I spent figuring out that reflection in the window was just a more tired and cynical version of the me who played Angry Birds until I saw little blue fragmentation birds in my sleep), I’ve discovered the game is an allegory for modern America.
Stick with me here, because this is going to escalate faster than a yellow bird after you tap the screen.
We begin the game identifying the enemy. It’s the pigs. They’re unnaturally green and worrisome, and we’ve been presented a version of the story in which the porcine plunderers have hoarded our eggs for whatever malevolent purposes unnaturally green pigs are—according to this narrative, anyway—predisposed to relish. Distressingly, once the actual game starts, we don’t see our poached eggs anywhere.
In fact, near as I can tell, the pigs’ only prima facie offenses are that they exist at all, that they are not—like the feathered protagonists—birds, and that they seem to be sitting on a vast supply of riches.
Oh, and that they are most certainly the wrong color.
As you might expect, the pigs have done their best to protect themselves with walls and roofs of varying degrees of strength, and they sit peacefully on whatever wealth they have accumulated. Some of the big ones—the ones protected by the thickest of layers, naturally—wear crowns.
Left unsaid (except for the opening video propaganda) is one important thing: at no point do the pigs attack. They grunt noises we can’t understand, and our vision of them looks particularly ugly—what with their bejeweled crowns and whatnot—but they aren’t coming across that expanse of green to attack the birds. They are minding their own green pig business and committing the unforgivable sin of having wealth and not giving it to the birds.
This non-aggression cannot stand.
There appears to be no other option—check that—there is no other option but to attack. If you barely touch your screen, you set off the first in what will inevitably be countless attacks on an enemy you either hate because of some trumped up (and–cough–probably filmed on a Burbank sound stage) propaganda about egg-stealing pigs or (and let’s be honest here: probably) because those pigs are sitting on a damned fortune.
It doesn’t matter how vast and powerful of a defense the pigs build, you have a new weapon to fight them. Simple red birds, fragmenting blue birds, dead-aim yellow bird missiles, bloated raven bombs, and obese Little Boy city incinerators. You have the arsenal, and it only serves one end: to kill the enemy so you can take its treasure.
That is the game. For each group of pigs you kill, you get their treasure. What’s more, you get rated on just how much damage you can inflict on your enemy. When one star of destruction isn’t good enough, you can try again to get three stars. The only good pig is a dead pig? No, the only good pig is a THREE STAR DEAD PIG!
Even more fascinating is the greater reward a drone bird pilot receives for his efforts in the art of massacre. If you accumulate enough successful sorties, you receive bigger, faster, more accurate weapons that, indeed, only serve the purpose of killing more pigs. It is not only not yours to question why, but it’s also not yours to question where all these new war machines come from and who might benefit from their production. Yours is but to hate the pigs and make them die.
Lest you’re worried, I gave myself a full four minutes to consider that I may be projecting my weariness onto a game that millions of people have enjoyed. Perhaps I, a disaffected middle class American, am taking the beautiful creation of some northern Europeans and blaspheming it with red, white, and blue bird filth. It’s very possible that in the countless seconds I thought about this that I might have misinterpreted the true meaning behind the game.
So, I thought on the purest Angry Bird of them all: the lily-white mama bird, the winged protector of the skies, the soaring mother who, indeed, also supports the violent, squealing bloodbath on the ground.
What does she do? What is her grand contribution to the war effort?
She drops her own eggs—her own beak and blood!—from the skies into the maelstrom below. The war effort began with a video inspiring the birds to avenge the stolen eggs. So, what do those birds do?
They sacrifice their own eggs as casualties of war.
They destroy what they set out to protect.
Nevermind. There isn’t any way I can be right about this.
I mean, when has America ever done anything like that?
Now, as the film begins, please silence your cell phones. Actually for that matter, just silence anything that may distract people from the screen in front of them.