"Hop": So Racist It Hurts
The primary message of the movie Hop isn’t that Easter is swell, or that talking bunnies are adorable (the main one in this movie, E.B.—short for Easter Bunny, doncha know—is certainly that), or that Russell Brand is delightful (he is!). The primary message of Hop—and I mean right up front, plot-wise—is that if you’re Latino you have no more a chance of really succeeding in life than any bunny in the real world has of (as E.B. does) pooping jelly beans.
E.B.’s father is the Easter Bunny. (Which means that if my father named me as E.B.’s father did him, I’d be Food Salesman. But whatever.) As such he oversees a vast candy factory (in which Hershey’s Kisses are prominently product-placed), and every year delivers sweets and colored eggs to children all over the world. (Although, he notes, “We haven’t cracked China yet,” he notes.)
What fun, right? The candy factory is great! It’s so colorful!
Easter Bunny Sr. has a second-in-command at the factory, Carlos. Judging by Hank Azaria’s brilliant voicing of him, Carlos is Mexican. Carlos is in charge of the vast ranks of workers in the magical candy factory. They, like Carlos, are yellow chicks. Carlos is decidedly less adorable than the chicks he supervises. He’s twice as tall; and while they are round and fluffy, he’s mostly just out-of-shape fat. And while all the other chicks are child-like, wide-eyed simpletons, Carlos is downright sinister.
When E.B. goes missing (he runs away to Hollywood in his quest to be a famous rock drummer), Carlos, back at the plant, decides to come forth with his apparently long held desire to be—or to at least perform the functions of—the Easter Bunny. Donning little bunny ears to help the father envision him in that role, he makes a great case for himself: he’s been the father’s right-hand man for years; he knows the business inside out (and certainly much better than E.B., who has zero interest in the job he was born to inherit); he’s in every way prepared for the promotion. And the father does, after all, need someone to this year 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.’s disappeared.
“Why not me?” says Carlos. “I can do it! I’m ready!”
The idea of a chick acting as the Easter Bunny strikes the father as so outlandish that it makes him laugh in Carlos’ face. As, still chuckling at the notion, he walks away, a foreboding shadow fall across Carlos’ face; this, for the first time, is where evil Carlos emerges.
“Yeah, see you later,” he angrily murmurs. “Enjoy your life of privilege.”
And there it is. Suddenly, this movie is very clearly about class warfare, and race relations.
Carlos never gets to be the Easter Bunny. And we’re never given any reason whatsoever for why he’s automatically disqualified for the job that definitely needs filling, and for which he’s undoubtedly the most qualified. We do learn it’s not because only rabbits can be the Easter Bunny; when the good-looking young white man in the movie decides that he wants to be the Easter Bunny, the father—knowing full well the guy knows absolutely nothing about the job—happily bestows upon him the title and function of “co-Easter Bunny.”
So, to summarize: If you’re born to it, or a good-looking white man, you can go straight to the top. But if you’re Mexican, you can do the work, and you can supervise lots of others of your type who really do the work—but you’ll only be able to advance so far. You can maybe make it to second place. But first will be denied you—and you’ll never be told why.
That is the primary message of this children’s movie.
When my wife and I saw Hop last night, a little Mexican girl and her family were in the theater seats behind us. Before the movie started, the family was happily chatting, excited about the upcoming show. When the movie was over, not one of them uttered a single word. Heads down, they filed out of their seats like they were leaving a funeral.