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I've had the theory that the moral depiction of dragons in popular fantasy gives a decent rough indicator of the global financial situation. In a boom, you see, the hoarding of gold is more likely to be considered to be a harmless eccentricity, even something desirable, and dragons are noble and nice. But in a recession, when everyone hates the people with all the money, then dragons are villains. Examples: Smaug is the archetypal asshole dragon, and The Hobbit was written in the Great Depression.
A subtrope of Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory, when works are interpreted as being allegories for political issues (most often ones of war) at the time of the writing, with no prompting from the author. Sometimes, this is applied as retcon, with works written decades before the event being interpreted as allegories for it. (This may be a result of Older Than They Think.) Such interpretations may be instances of History Repeats, "Funny Aneurysm" Moments, Hilarious in Hindsight, and Harsher in Hindsight.
Even still many people think that somehow everything has to be inspired by what is most recent and that the author is targeting Small Reference Pools — and furthermore that the writer wrote the work shortly before publication, when in fact it normally takes a year to get from completed manuscript to on the shelves even if the writer had no difficulty selling it, and the work may have taken years to write.
Even the most innocent or netural subject matter can take on political (or sociopolitical) connotations due to the associations people tend to make in the wider scheme of things. The following are seemingly apolitical topics that may be interpreted as political due to the "culture wars" of recent decades.
Anything involving homosexuality, and whether it's depicted positively or negatively
The screenwriter for the anime has, according to this column, admitted that the war themes explored in the anime were meant as a commentary on America's participation in the Vietnam and Iraq wars. The Ishvalan civilians represented the natives of these countries, caught in the middle.
The screenwriter in question, Shô Aikawa, is also responsible for the notoriously anti-Semitic Angel Cop, and is a fairly vocal 9/11 Truther. Make of that what you will.
Shortly after its release, many began suspecting that Code Geass's Britannian Empire and its resource-grubbing expansionism was meant to be a thinly veiled potshot at America and the War on Terror, to the point where some began calling for a boycott of the show's eventual US release. In an interview near the end of the first season, director/co-creator Goro Taniguchi stated that this is not the case, insisting that the whole reason he made the show was to tell an entertaining story and not to make any kind of political message. That the main character was Britannian probably helped reduce any backlash.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex gives the Villain Ball to the United States of America in the 2nd season... or more specifically, the American Empire, one of the 3 divided American countries who places a high priority on military industrialism and right-wing conservatism. The anime doesn't clearly state that the United States of America is a different country from the American Empire, which may lead viewers into thinking that the United States in general is the villain. The truth is that Shirow Masamune divided the United States into 3 different countries (The United States of America, The Ameri-Soviet Union, and Imperial Americana) as part of the continuity that Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell both take place in back when he wrote both series in the mid-'80s and early '90s. There were no intentional implications, but it still makes the whole thing Harsher in Hindsight when compared to some of George W. Bush's foreign policies during his administration.
The villains in the two series are, respectively, a corrupt politician trying to make a profit in the healthcare industry and a right wing agent trying to instigate a war for personal gain, while the two main Anti-Villain-turned-AntiHeroes are an anarchist hacker and a socialist revolutionary. It's not particularly hard to see the show's political slant.
The American Empire in the series has a defense treaty with Japan which means Japan "technically" cannot have an army, just like present day USA and Japan. In the series, the American Empire is also portrayed as an openly imperialist power, invading countries like Mexico. Since many leftists (e.g. Che Guevara, Malcolm X) regards USA as an evil imperialist empire and considering how the series give the socialist revolutionary and anarchist hacker quite the sympathetic portrayal...
Witchblade Takeru, hoooooo boy. Falls in line with the 'history recycling scripts' below. Depending on the age of the reader, the crazy warmongering US Senator can stand-in for any number of America's foreign jaunts from Korea onwards, with Takeru and her little village representing the oppressed peoples fighting back and driving them off. Most commonly due to how the village looks, however, and the choice of weapon deployed, it winds up being analysed as a Vietnam parable.
High School Of The Dead: One of the most prominent examples would be Souichiro Takagi(father of Saya), whose a right wing ultra-nationalist who comes into conflict with some of the Straw Liberals who still consider "them" to be human. The protagonists themselves are emphasized to be more individualistic based on the ensuing conflicts.
Creator+Mark Millar continues to insist that any political allegory in Civil War, a plot in which superheroes who didn't want to register with the government were rounded up and shipped off to what's come to be called "Space Guantanamo" by both fans and the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, was completely accidental.
It's been suggested that Stan Lee intended the two mutant leaders to represent the competing tactics of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. (Professor Xavier) and Malcolm X (Magneto), and the analogy is very frequently mentioned in discussions of the books. More broadly, they represent alternative paths that oppressed people can follow: appeal to the consciences of the oppressors by taking the moral high ground, or defend your rights by force.
This could be a genuine case of Small Reference Pools but many Brits find it deeply irritating that Americans, having only seen the 2006 film version of V for Vendetta tend to assume that both it and the comic were about the Bush administration. The comic was written over twenty years before and was, according to Word of God, about the Thatcher administration while the movie simply made Norsefire more "generically" fascist (and stripped out most of the ambiguity).
The debate can get ugly when those Americans then assume Fawkes was a hero; he's hated in the UK to this day as a religious terrorist, to the point where there's a holiday devoted to burning him in effigy. Fawkes was actually a counterrevolutionary, admittedly an extreme one—he did try to blow up Parliament—but at the time, Parliament was the ruling committee of the single bloodiest political revolution in European history up till that point. The early English Reformation killed people at four or five times the rate of the Spanish Inquisition, with (according to a British historian) less fair trials. And nobody killed by the Inquisition ever had a book of the charges against him bound with his own skin, the Elizabethans did that at least once.
It's also clear from the context of the movie that the story takes place in the far future: while it's possible that today's issues will still be relevant when that time comes, it's quite unlikely that the Bush family will be involved somehow. And even if the Bushes are still politically active, it's a good bet that their political and sociocultural attitudes will have adjusted to the changing times (as, in fact, they already did in the past).
However Alan Moore was quoted as saying about the movie, "[The movie] has been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country.... It's a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neoconservatives — which is not what the comic V for Vendetta was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about England." (And for the record, the comic's antihero is not a liberal and its villains are not conservatives.)
It's also curious that, with Barack Obama now President, the movie/comic have lately been embraced by libertarians/Tea Party types who, just a few years ago, condemned it as "liberal propaganda."
Smurf versus Smurf, where the Smurf village is divided in a mutually hostile Northern and Southern part because of language differences, gets a whole new perspective when you remember that it is originally a Belgian comic book.
For the record, the northeastern part of Belgium (Flanders) is Dutch, and the southwestern part (Wallonia) is French. But this seems pretty superfluous when one realizes that the original Belgian name for "The Smurfs" (Les Schtroumpfs) combines both Latin and Germanic linguistic elements.
The superhero Black Panther was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966, almost at the same time of the creation of the Black Panthers party. But Lee and Kirby were first. Marvel even attempted for a short time to rename the character to "Black Leopard", to avoid the misunderstanding, but returned soon to the original: they created it first, why should they give it up?
Iznogoud: Despite physical and psychological similarities, Iznogoud was not inspired by French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He did, however, meet Jacques Chirac at one point. Which in no way prevented photoshops of Sarkozy dressed as Iznogoud from appearing on the Internet shortly after his election, mostly with captions on the subject of "Well, he finally succeeded." There was also a Google bombing mixing Sarkozy and Iznogoud.
Tintin: Entire analyses and debates have been held to determine whether the comic strip is right wing or left wing. The accusations for its right wing position are the use of national and racial stereotypes and Hergé's own associations with far-right people like Léon Degrelle (leader of the Nazi collaborating Belgian party Rex during World War Two) and working for Le Soir during World War II, a newspaper that was owned by the Nazis. On the other hand Tintin has travelled the world and met people of various races and nationalities. Some of them bad, some of them good. There's no overt political undertone in the series and Borduria is portrayed as a cross between a Nazi and Communist state. Hergé himself always said: "The left claim I'm right wing, the right claim I'm left wing."
Astérix: Asterix has also interpreted by right wing people, xenophobes and racists as propaganda for an all white, all French, rural, traditionalist France that keeps foreign invaders out of the country. This claim is not in line with the creators. The series' writer René Goscinny was Jewish and survived World War Two, knowing firsthand what it feels like to be persecuted.
If The Incredibles had been pro-Objectivist, Syndrome the millionaire tech genius would have been the hero who worked not for the adoration of others but solely for himself. The political tone of the film is much closer to early-nineteenth-century anti-democratic Conservatism.
Ratatouille has a scene where Remy's dad tells him how they have to hate and fear humans because humans will never stop trying to kill them, and there's nothing that can be done about it, so stop hoping for peace and just fight the war, or sentiments to that effect. While it's written well enough that you could put his words in the mouth of any leader in the midst of a bitter and apparently endless conflict, it's almost impossible to watch the scene without thinking "terrorists".
The process by which Darth Sidious takes control of the Galactic Republic in the Star Wars prequel trilogy has been interpreted by some as a metaphor for the perceived centralization of power in the Bush administration — a claim George Lucas denies, and which is pretty blatantly not the case, seeing as the principal details of the story were sketched out in the mid-'70s, and summarized in the foreword to the novelization of A New Hope.
Even for us "real" people, the Galactic Empire is not all that unusual. All military dictatorships begin in more or less the same way.
Another way to read it is as a deliberate parallel to the Nazi party: everything from Palpatine being chancellor before assuming absolute power, to the name "stormtroopers" (the meaning of SturmAbteilung, Hitler's SA). Given Imperial Officers were wearing copies of actual Nazi uniforms it was probably intentional. Interestingly, this same idea could have been played with a different historical parallel: Augustus replacing a corrupt Roman Senate with himself, as (arguably) the right thing to do, at least in the short run.
George Lucas has gone on in interviews to point out that much of the reason that the prequels, first thought up in the 1970s, seem so contemporary is that the contemporary political situation itself happens to uncannily mirror the 1970s. In both cases, there's an unpopular overseas conflict going on that has America being accused of empire-building by the rest of the world, while the Republican president's being criticized for overstepping his authority and trying to consolidate power away from the legislature with the rationale that desperate times call for desperate measures. It's not so much that the prequels were written about Bush, it's that they were written during the Nixon and Vietnam days - and then The War on Terror came along and recreated that situation just a few years after The Phantom Menace was released. Sort of a Life Imitates ArtImitatingEarlier Real Life.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a famous example. Produced at the height of the 1950s anti-Communist paranoia, the movie has often been taken for an allegory for that, although nobody's clear about whether pod people represent Communists, or whether they represent McCarthyists who attack those who are different. The lead actor has stated on the DVD that the movie wasn't intended to be any kind of political commentary (since Senator McCarthy and his followers had already been discredited in the eyes of most Americans by the time filming began, it's unlikely that the allegory was anything but subconscious).
For that matter, Don Siegel (the film's director) was no liberal - the pod people can be just as easily read as actual Commie plants.
The 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland made things a lot clearer, and kept the paranoia but changed the focus to environmental pollution.
300. Complicated again, as the (accurate to the comics) movie adaptation was made during The War on Terror, which Frank Miller supports, but the original comic was written a decade earlier. Notably, though, people who take this tack disagree on whether the Spartans are meant to represent the US and the Persians Islamic terrorism, or the other way around; it could be seen as brave Western freedom-lovers fighting Middle Eastern tyrants, or as a vast and diverse empire underestimating a local population and getting its butt kicked. (Of course, forgotten in all this is the fact that the Persians were not Muslim at the time the movie is set, and would not be for several centuries more.) At a March 2007 press conference, director Zack Snyder found himself nonplussed when asked by a reporter whether King Leonidas was meant to be George W. Bush or Osama bin Laden. Original author Frank Miller claims that his comic to a large degree was inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, which is often considered to be a metaphor for the Cold War. Whether such a message was intended or not is far from clear. So far, almost nobody has come forward to claim that 300 might just be a commentary on, you know, the sociopolitical situation in the city-states of Greece a few centuries before the birth of Christ mostly since the movie is laughably inaccurate and ignorant of the political realities of the time.
Some interpret the sonar cell phone subplot in The Dark Knight as an allegory for modern day safety measures by the former Bush administration.
While not as overt as TDK's themes of eavesdropping and extraordinary rendition, the speech in Batman Begins about how Gotham is beyond saving seems to be a metaphor for similar attitudes towards the Middle East. It doesn't exactly help that the character is, at that point, referred to as "Ra's al Ghul" (meaning "head of the demon" in Arabic) and talking about a city that is presumably located in the Western world. Talk about turning the tables.
"Gotham's time has come. Like Constantinople or Rome before it the city has become a breeding ground for suffering and injustice. It is beyond saving and must be allowed to die."
The Arabic name is just a red herring, since the man portraying Ra's al Ghul is really Japanese, and the genuine Ra's al Ghul is actually French!
The Dark Knight Rises got this in the week prior to its opening, where Rush Limbaugh claimed that the name of the villain, Bane, is a thinly veiled jab at Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's former company Bain Capital, which had been in the news for the past few weeks. This is a pretty obvious fact-check failure, as Bane has been around as a character for at least two decades. Bain Capital had only been in the news for a few weeks, and Bane was revealed to be the villain of the movie almost two years prior, when Mitt Romney himself wasn't even a likely presidential candidate. Furthermore, Chuck Dixon, Bane's creator back in the 1990s, is a political conservative (which is pretty obvious from the subtext of many of his stories), and he announced that he hadn't intended Bane to be any sort of political commentary; his only goal in creating Bane was to sell comic books and make money.
The plot points about Bane pitting Gotham's lower classes against the well-off and those in power has been interpreted as being in reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement, though whether the film is meant to be either for or against OWS or free-market capitalism differs wildly depending on who you ask.
It doesn't help that what Bane's goons do to Gotham's elite is seriously reminiscent of the French Revolution, and the rhetoric of OWS is itself at times reminiscent of the rhetoric used during the French Revolution.
Batman Returns (1992) was another Batman film that ran afoul of controversy. In fact, it was so obsessively covered by the media that star Michael Keaton found himself angrily cussing out a group of reporters for asking him too many questions about the movie. Though Batman Returns was presented to the public as just an escapist fantasy, it in fact featured a recall election in Gotham City as a major plot point - and since the film was released in the late spring of 1992, when many U.S. voters were preparing to turn incumbents of all sorts out of office (this was the year when third-party candidate H. Ross Perot helped a great deal to tip the presidential election to Bill Clinton), many critics and pundits couldn't help seeing the movie as a commentary on all that. (It certainly didn't help that director Tim Burton admitted in an interview that the Penguin was supposed to be an amalgamation of all the current political candidates.) Batman Returns also began shooting just a few months after the Persian Gulf War ended, making a climactic plot to destroy the city with remote-controlled missiles and the line "The liberation of Gotham has begun!" (a play on a Pentagon official's remark that "The liberation of Kuwait has begun" as Operation Desert Storm was launched) sound quite suspicious indeed. Then there is the Penguin's declaration of "Burn, baby - burn!" which was a quote popularly attributed to rioting blacks in 1965 Los Angeles - and only one month before this movie arrived in theaters, Los Angeles was again rocked by a similar race riot (due to the acquittal of a group of mostly white police officers in the beating of drunken black motorist Rodney King) that resulted in many burning buildings, which makes it hard to not connect the dots when we see the Penguin's minions firebombing Gotham City storefronts with rocket launchers. Then there was the accusation that the Penguin's hooked nose was meant to make him look Jewish, and on and on and on...
Come to think of it, this trend goes all the way back to the original 1989 movie, which features a scene in which Batman appears silhouetted against a giant neon sign that says "AXIS." That's been popularly interpreted as an admission that Batman is a Nazi stormtrooper, but Word of God has never confirmed it.
Anthony Lane at the New Yorker has a strange talent for looking at action movies and seeing endorsements for fascism. Take a look at his reviews for Speed Racer and Watchmen.
Some critics have claimed that Showa Godzilla movies are Japanese nationalist propaganda revolving around WWII, though Ishiro Honda's pet themes was anti-nationalism and unification of enemies against greater threats. Other critics have claimed that the nuclear explosion that created Godzilla was a metaphor for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the monster representing America. Godzilla was later changed into a good guy in later films after relations between the two nations had markedly improved.
The Examinerwrote a piece speculating that the reason Godzilla seems fatter in this movie is for him to be a critique of the excesses of American greed and consumerism.
Breitbartnotes that "only Barack Obama's Hawaii, Harry Reid's Nevada, and Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco are destroyed" and jokingly speculates that this was intended as a Take That against the Democrats.
Reviewers often claim that Cloverfield is an allegory for 9/11. This would be easier to refute if Abrams didn't deliberately draw on 9/11 imagery.
Clips from Spaceballs posted on YouTube tend to invite comments declaring that President Skroob is obviously Bush. They don't let the fact that the film was released thirteen years before Bush (and one year before his old man) was elected get in the way. Anyway, it's obvious based on his appearance that Skroob is based at least in part on Adolf Hitler (and, of course, on Emperor Palpatine, the Big Bad of Star Wars, which Spaceballs spoofs).
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had shades of this, with the suspending of liberties and trials for suspected pirates by a corrupt government intent on wiping out a bunch of terrorizing marauders. Never mind that the suspension of civil liberty, especially in colonies and especially for pirates, was a historical occurrence far predating any modern political situation.
Some have interpreted Inglourious Basterds as an anti-American attack on torture and interrogation methods. Others consider it to be promoting war crimes. The film is morally ambiguous enough that it's hard to agree whether the Basterds were supposed to be heroes or not.
What's really unfortunate is that Inglourious Basterds is at its heart a fundamentally simple tale of a Jewish girl avenging the massacre of her family - but since she is killed before the end credits roll, it's understandable that audiences would fail to recognize her as the film's true protagonist.
Even more mind-boggling is that some critics claimed it was a pro-Iraq War/Bush-supported propaganda piece. This is a little odd since the original source was written by a British author several decades ago and the movie was directed, written, and co-financed by a New Zealander. Oh, and the films were shot back-to-back and were going into production by the time Bush came into office.
Lets take a look at Monsters (2010)...You have a bunch of aliens from Mexico trying to get into America and succeeding despite a gigantic wall and security to keep them out. These aliens are stereotyped as villains in propaganda. These aliens are apparently not metaphors for Mexican immigration to the U.S according to director Gareth Edwards, but that hasn't stopped people from drawing the comparison.
Magda Goebbels stalked out of the premiere of Die Reise nach Tilsit. It was about a foreign woman seducing the husband of a virtuous German wife under her eyes — while Joseph Goebbels carried on with the Czech actress Lida Baarova (the German wife won in the end, in both cases; Hitler sent the actress back to her native country and told Goebbels there would be no divorce).
Battle: Los Angeles has a scene that could be seen as commentary on "enhanced interrogation" techniques in the war on terror: The soldiers have captured a wounded alien soldier, and they cut it apart (while still living), trying to find the vital organs so they can know where to aim to kill aliens. There is no dialogue condemning or justifying this act (although the information they find does put them on even footing in the battle).
This review argues that the events of the movie can be seen as some sort of twisted karmic payback for America's foreign military actions.
Now some are calling The Muppets political. Many people on more conservative news shows were upset that the movie's villain was a CEO who wanted to drill for oil, saying that the Muppets were promoting class warfare for children. They didn't do their research, since it later becomes clear that Tex Richman is evil not because he is a CEO, rich, or wants oil, but because he is unable to laugh and laughter, aka the third greatest gift ever, is necessary for happiness. In a possible Author's Saving Throw, Disney made the villain of the next Muppet movie a Russian war criminal, which Fox News could conceivably interpret as a Take That against communism (even though Constantine Frog is not a communist).
The Chinese historical/fantasy movie Hero was regarded as highly controversial particularly in America because of the conclusion of the main character accepting that a brutal dictatorship is the only thing that can stop the centuries of civil war and allowing the evil emperor to live is better for everyone than allowing the wars to continue forever, which was widely interpreted as Chinese political propaganda against human rights activists and the democratic movement. Mostly likely a case of Values Dissonance, as the Determinator is still a very highly regarded trope in America, while the movies message of Know When to Fold 'Em finds much more acceptance in Europe.
Ever since Planet of the Apes hit theatres in 1968, people of all political tendencies have interpreted the franchise as a metaphore of black people rising and taking over white people (and let's leave it at that). The movies' antinuclear, pacifist message is far more evident.
It's probably more deliberate in the sequels. For one, director J. Lee Thompson admitting to modeling the ape rebellion in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes after footage of the Watts Riot.
Critics and viewers interpret Patton as everything from a straightforward, patriotic war movie to a satiric condemnation of militarism. Critics regularly made comparisons to the then-ongoing Vietnam War, analogies reinforced by Richard Nixon's alleged obsession with the movie. Since the filmmakers wanted a warts-and-all biopic of George Patton, whose historical reputation remains controversial, some of this was likely by design.
Iron Man: With Tony taking the fight to Middle-Eastern terrorists in the first film and refusing to hand his property over to the government in the second, there aresome who see him as the ultimate conservative/Republican/Libertarian/Objectivist super hero. Which actually makes sense, considering that Stan Lee has talked about how he enjoyed the idea of creating a character like Tony Stark in the middle of The Sixties, saying that he wanted to create "the quintessential capitalist," explore Cold War themes, and that "I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military....So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist....I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him....And he became very popular."
Predator has been noted as an allegory for the Vietnam War — an unseen enemy who is well versed in camouflage, defeating a "superior" American force. (The Predator's technological advantage notwithstanding.)
J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has often been in various and conflicting way by different people, often seeing it as a direct allegory of something. Tolkien himself denied it was an allegory of anything, but that due to its archetypal quality had lots of "applicability".
Some have interpreted the Lord of the Rings as an allegory for World War II, despite Tolkien's explicit denial that he was into allegory, stated dislike of the concept, irritation at speculation over the one Ring's "symbolism" and the fact the storyline was conceived, in part, from World War I.
There were also accusations of the reverse. The Shire was likened to idealized Germany, and the rampant racism (every good race is pretty, tall and blonde, as "Aryan" ethics... notwithstanding that most of the characters are not blonde or tall, Tolkien hated how the Nazis use of Germanic and Norse legends put them in bad light, and it is on record that he berated a German editor who asked him if he was "Aryan" (see Quotes page).
Richard Adams has always claimed that Watership Down is simply a children's book. However, many fans disagree with him and see the book as a rabbit version of Animal Farm with the allegory taking aim at fascism and appeasement. Others see it as an attempt to fashion an English version of The Aeneid. This would make it a children's book that includes infanticide, main characters ripping each other to shreds, a character that sees fields full of blood, mass poisoning, and several characters being shot or torn to bits by larger animals.
At risk of going against the idea of the page, George Orwell's Animal Farm is, on at least one level, a fairly direct allegory for the history of Russia from 1917 to 1945. But some of the analysis gets a little confusing. Does Boxer represent a specific individual, or just downtrodden yet willing workers in general? Is Benjamin a cautionary tale about those who know what's going on, but don't act on this knowledge, or an Author Avatar? Saying this, the simplest answer is "probably both".
Wicked (the book, not the musical) has been seen by critics as a metaphor not only for Nazism/Fascism but also for Nixonian politics. Then again, it may have been intentional...
Some have claimed that Umbridge is Margaret Thatcher. The similarity boils down to "both are right-wing female politicians I don't like". Some have also compared Umbridge to Sarah Palin (who was largely unknown even to most Americans at the time the book was written) based on the same logic. Apparently being female (and conservative) is the all-important qualifier for declaring that a disliked politician "is" Umbridge (there are no comparisons to Angela Merkel yet, though).
The movie version of Umbridge looks somewhat like Merkel. Ergo Rowling obviously intended her to be Merkel!
Discworld gets a bit of this from time to time. For example, while Thud! is clearly about racial and religious hatred a lot of people think specific groups are direct stand ins for other groups. Weirder are the claims that Jingo or Monstrous Regiment are directly about the Iraq war (even though Jingo was written years before it).
Jingo was written years before a Gulf War, but after the first one. But from a British perspective, a war over "some damn island that's only useful in case we have to go to war" is much closer to the Falklands.
The background plot about the island is based on Ferdinandea, but the characters openly discuss the fact that this is only an excuse for the various other things that happen, which could map fairly well to several different conflicts and events.
The children's Book The Rainbow Fish is about sharing, but many pundits accused it of being socialist propaganda written to turn children against traditional American values.
Apparently the author of Enchantress from the Stars, Sylvia Louise Engdahl, got enough questions about this that she answered in on her website's FAQ. Many people were under the impression that The Federation's relationship with the Younglings (a primitive planet with medieval technology) was an allegory for how 19th century European scientists viewed other races as primitive animals.
Vladimir Nabokov insisted that his dystopian novel Bend Sinister was not meant to satirize the Soviet Union (or any other totalitarian regime), even though it features a country called Padukgrad and a dictator called Paduk.
While Word of God has stated that Breaking Bad is a story of how "Mr. Chips became Scarface," the original driving force behind Walt's meth manufacturing; to help pay for his medical bills, has prompted pro-single payer health care advocates in the US to use the show to highlight the issue of health care costs in the United States,◊ as well as the War on Drugs. Even the creator has claimed that the show could not be set anywhere else but the United States.
Both political parties, Democrat and Republican, see The Alliance in Firefly as the other and the Browncoats as themselves. Word of God says that was an accident.
The same can really be said for any Evil Empire Plucky Rebel Group dynamic in fiction. Everyone wants their side identified with the underdog rebels fighting the big bad evil.
This point was amusingly made on Coupling in which Sally was trying to argue that as a Leftie she was the good guys and come "the revolution" they would make significant changes. Patrick points out that her party is in power and thus the Tories are now representing the Rebel Alliance with the Lefties as the Evil Empire.
A rather odd example is That's My Bush!. Despite being created by the people who did South Park and featuring the former President's administration and family as characters, it wasn't intended as political satire, but rather a parody of cookie cutter 80s sitcoms. (Parker and Stone admitted that, just in case things had gone the other way, they also had a pitch for a sitcom about Al Gore, and said they would have used more or less the same jokes no matter who'd actually won.)
Battlestar Galactica (Classic) had some great Writer on Board moments of lambasting Cold War era fans of detente, portraying anyone who'd rather try to make friends with the Cylons as a naive patsy for not realizing just how Always Chaotic Evil the Cylons were. The pilot movie, in turn, turned out oddly prophetic about events following the 9/11 attack.
Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) takes this to new, but inverted, levels. The occupation of New Caprica, for example, was explicitly written to echo the American occupation of Iraq. The writers have said they purposefully wrote close to the deadlines to get their commentary closer to current affairs.
The third season of Star Trek: Enterprise drew heavily on current events. Earth is savagely attacked, apparently out of nowhere, and the NX-01 (bringing along a cohort of Space Marines) heads into a treacherous region of space to find the culprits. Many fans were afraid this storyline would be untrue to Trek's philosophy, but they needn't have worried: the aliens aren't all bad (though there are a few problems - like that the most humanoid ones get a Face-Heel Turn but the reptilian Xindi stay evil (although you wouldn't say no tothe head reptile, either) and the insectoids stay evil get cold feet while in transit to Earth and are blown up by the reptilians for their troubles), Archer's new hard-edged attitude isn't always endorsed, and there's enough ambiguity all round to keep it from being Strawman Political in either direction.
Prior to that, a couple of first-season episodes — "Fortunate Son" and especially "Detained" — examined elements of the war on terror. But contrary to a common assumption, the decision to name the first season's bad guys "Suliban" happened long before 9/11. They were named after the Taliban, but only because Rick Berman thought that name had the exotic sound he wanted; no one was expecting it to become a household name.
A book claimed that Stargate was white supremacist propaganda.
Others interpreted it as the final victory of science over religion, fought by heroic atheists and liberated ex-faithful against an amalgamation of the leaders of the world's faiths.
The series does make the point that gods aren't defined by their powers, but rather by their actions and benevolence. The Goa'uld and the Ori, who abuse their positions of privilege over their subjects, are not fit to act as gods over the people they rule. This was probably intentional, but considering Daniel's statements about fire being bad (the Ori use fire as a good symbolism, even choosing to appear as it instead of the default ascended light form) coming from the Ancients, it doesn't seem to mean they were against Christianity.
Christianity gets directly mentioned exactly once in the series, and then in a positive light. The True Companions travel to a world where the people were culled from Middle Ages England. Daniel posits a theory (which turns out to be wrong) that the Goa'uld who controls this world may be posing as the God of the Abrahamic faiths. Teal'c dismisses this idea, stating that he's read The Bible and finds it impossible to imagine that any Goa'uld could be as benevolent as the deity from that book.
This Slate article, which explains that Jerry Seinfeld and his comedy routine represents conformity and lack of identity in a totalitarian government. Um . . . right.
Slate (and to a lesser extent Salon) absolutely loves this trope. Any even remotely popular pop culture phenomenon eventually becomes the victim of a pretentious, middlebrow Slate article that tries to analyze it and wring out some sort of important insight concerning our society. The nadir was probably this piece, an earnest, serious 1,300-word examination of....Ugly Guy, Hot Wife.
Heather Havrilesky, in her regular TV show review column for Salon.com, has a tendency to embrace this trope. Particularly when reviewing reality television, for some reason.
What is particularly funny about the Slate article is that Ugly Guy, Hot Wife is actually a trope that can be analyzed - it is part the basic Odd Couple dynamic that provides comedy, and having one of them be ugly is a visual shorthand that enhance this. The reason the ugly one is male is because of society's traditional (and outdated) expectation that women should take pains to look nice. The article mentions precisely none of this (presumably because it is too bloody obvious), instead attributing it to bizarre subconscious desires by men and women, and the whole thing ends being patronizing to both sexes
President Evils are an atavistic evil archetype in what might as well be called American mythology. Practically every American president was roughly comparable to President Clark if you believe the opposition. Drawing from this folklore, is in a sense no different then appealing to Babylonian myth.
JMS has written several episodes where he purposefully did not take a stand in the issue presented, but rather presented both sides and let the viewers draw their own conclusions. This hasn't stopped many people from claiming that such episodes are clearly (for/against) (their views/views opposing their own). One example of an inversion of this trope is the episode Confessions and Lamentations, which is about a fresh outbreak of an alien disease that was believed to be spread through immoral behavior. A lot of people claimed this episode was meant as an allegory for AIDS, missing the fact that it's a closer parallel to the Black Death (which is even discussed in the episode itself). JMS has gone on record as stating that the point of the episode was to say that politicizing a disease is never a good idea. He did, however, explicitly compare the Clark administration to George W Bush in one of the DVD commentaries.
J. Michael Straczynski: A lot of our episodes are constructed to work as mirrors; you see what you put into it. "Believers" has been interpreted as pro- religion, anti-religion, and religion-neutral..."Quality" has been interpreted, as you note, as pro-capital punishment, and anti-capital punishment. We do, as you say, much prefer to leave the decision on what things mean to the viewer to hash out. A good story should provoke discussion, debate, argument... and the occasional bar fight.
The Visitors in V (2009) have been interpreted as symbolizing Barack Obama. This isn't helped by the fact that the show's plot (the alien Visitors, who receive the devotion of the people, are secretly plotting to destroy the world) bears a lot of similarities to various right-wing fears about Obama — compare the Visitors' alien nature to the "birther" conspiracy. Doesn't really help when the aliens provide "Universal Healthcare", and call it spreading hope... The writers have denied this, and claimed that the show is more about post-9/11 America than the current President.
The children's television show Teletubbies was accused of promoting the homosexual agenda to children.
In the Eighties, the showrunner purposefully tried to avoid political subtext as much as possible for a variety of reasons (lack of desire to piss people off, lack of desire to make allegorical stories about the real world in favour of interacting with the series' own history as a work of fiction, and several other reasons). This caused some Broken Aesop moments, like when the series pitted two of the most political villains in the series's history against each other in an apolitical action story where nothing indicates either side is anything more than just a nasty lizard creature - and of course the politics ended up in there anyway (for just one example, Turlough's arc can be read as an allegory for homosexuality). This restriction ended when the producer stopped caring, freeing the then script editor to make clearly and transparently political stories about BBC politics ("The Greatest Show in the Galaxy"), Margaret Thatcher ("The Happiness Patrol") and lesbianism ("Survival").
When the show came back in 2005 with the main writer being out of the closet gay, many people accused the show of trying to push the gay agenda. Especially when Captain Jack Harkness (Anything That Moves) arrived.
This concept is made fun of in "Blink":
Sally: How can you know what I'm gonna say?
The Doctor: Look to your left.
Sally looks to her left, and sees Larry transcribing everything she says.
Larry: What does he mean by "look to your left"? I've written tons about that one. I think it's a political statement.
The Daily Mirror published an article claiming that in "The Beast Below", the Doctor's line "And once every five years, everyone chooses to forget what they've learned. Democracy in action" should be read as a call to the public to re-elect Gordon Brown's Labour government. If so, it didn't work.
It takes a pretty nuanced view of what the KGB sleepers do, as well as showing the less-than-savory methods the FBI Counterintelligence people get up to.
It should be noted, moreover, that the Fox television network (founded in 1987) and the Fox News Channel (founded in 1996) are two separate entities with differing agendas, even though they're owned by the same man (a man who, remember, was originally an Australian newspaper publisher with no ties to the Twentieth Century Fox film studio, which is wholly American). A lot of Fox's entertainment programming (most notably The Simpsons) regularly ridicules Rupert Murdoch and the political beliefs he represents - and Murdoch himself, a social conservative, has vehemently butted heads with his own entertainment division in the past.
"The sketch appears to be at least partly ironic commentary on attempts by the Japanese government and others to maintain optimism in the face of Japan's severe economic troubles, depicting men impoverished to the degree of having no clothing but the figurative fig leaf (though in this case the leaves are attached to the men's briefs) yet maintaining an irrational, irrepressible belief in their own potential for success."
The Gorillaz song Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head from Demon Days. Listen to the lyrics, especially the closing lines.
The Rush song entitled "The Trees" has lyrics about maples who feel they don't get enough sunlight and oaks who can't fathom the maples circumstances. Oddly enough, according to lyricist Neil Peart, the song is about trees. Really. He was watching an old cartoon about anthropomorphic trees one night and decided to write a song about it.
"Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas was taken as an allegory for the civil rights movement, which was in full swing at the time of the song's release. Martha Reeves denied any political meaning to the song, but it was popular enough at rallies that it became controversial anyway.
"Helicopter" by Bloc Party (which features such lyrics as "Stop being so American" and "Just like his dad") is frequently misinterpreted as being about George W. Bush. Vocalist Kele Okereke has gone on record as saying he actually wrote it about himself.
Dave Gilmour's "Blue Light", a song about a generic Femme Fatale, was thought by many to be about Margaret Thatcher (blue being the color of Thatcher's Conservative Party).
"Cruise", from the same album, is a heavily sarcastic song on the common contemporary theme of protesting against the deployment of US nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on airbases in the UK. This didn't stop it being taken as a song supporting said deployment by people who didn't get the sarcasm.
To refute such allegations, they wrote "Links 2-3-4", "Links" being the German for "left". The song declares that politically, the band are to the left, one repeated line being roughly "my heart beats to the left". Just to troll, though, they made the song sound like a military march, and "Links 2-3-4" is an actual German marching cadence, so the album containing the song was referred to by a reviewer as "Music to Invade Poland to."
The liner notes to Steely Dan's "Kings" invoke this trope for an aversion/subversion (depending), with a disclaimer stating (more or less) that "this song is in no way political." Sure, given that this song's chorus is "We've seen the last/Of Good King Richard...Raise up the glass/To Good King John", and that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were very embittered '60s liberals writing in 1972...
Russel Morris' Mind Screw "The Real Thing" was interpreted by many as a commentary on The Vietnam War ("Is there a meaning here? Is there a meaning there? Does it really mean a thing?"). Word of God was that was actually bemused speculation about Coca-Cola's slogan.
The Doors' 1968 song "The Unknown Soldier" is usually taken to be a denunciation of the Vietnam War, which was at its height at the time. This is plausible, especially when Morrison describes the soldier's wife learning of her husband's death on the TV news (Vietnam being the first major war to receive extensive televised news coverage), but the lyrics are worded in such a way that, the television reference notwithstanding, the song could be applied to any war between World War I and today. And the Doors tended to remain silent on political matters, anyway.
In order to counter the misconception that rock music and conservatism are wholly incompatible, the magazine National Review offered a list of "Greatest Conservative Rock Songs." Problem is, close examination will reveal that only about 40 percent of the songs are truly conservative; the rest are either libertarian or are just "old-fashioned" in a way that really isn't political at all. (For example, one song is considered "conservative" because it contains a Latin prayer.) Plenty of songs were included because they were at least partially anti-communist (did you ever hear of a popular song that was pro-communist?), as if conservatives have ever had a monopoly on anti-communism (and anyway, one of these songs is only "anti-communist" because it depicts the color red negatively!).
"Disarm" by The Smashing Pumpkins has been interpreted as being about the abortion debate because of the out-of-context lyrics "what I choose is my choice", "the killer in me is the killer in you" and "cut that little child" (although if those lines were all meant to be about abortion, they'd be pretty self-contradictory). Lyricist Billy Corgan has said it's an autobiographical song about his relationship with his parents growing up.
The repeated cry "Viva la liberta!" in the first act finale of Don Giovanni is read by some as Mozart's support for the French Revolution.
More blatantly, the depiction of the corrupt and foolish Count in Figaro is definitely a statement by Mozart against aristocratic rule.
All this despite the fact that Mozart didn't write words. Mozart wrote music. Lorenzo da Ponte wrote both libretti, the latter based on Beaumarchais' "Le Marriage de Figaro."
The Magical Flute however, is generally considered a Masonic propaganda and a critique of Austria under the repressively Catholic monarchy of Maria Theresa.
Giuseppe Verdi's Nabucco, with the famous Chorus of Hebrew Slaves (the Jews held captive in Babylon crying for the loss of their homeland), was written at a time where the movement to unify Italy was gaining momentum. The chorus became an unofficial anthem of the movement.
Verdi's later operas Don Carlos and Aida both have fanatical priests with political power as the main antagonists.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The entire augmentation debate is just like the abortion debate. Clinics built for augmentations being protested and firebombed by detractors, supporters declaring that it is their body and they will do with it what they like, and people against it using religious statements to oppose it. In one protest, you can see signs that say, "I regret my augmentation" much like "I regret my abortion" signs. And much how in real life how people on the fence about abortion will say "I don't mind it in cases of rape, health issues, or incest," one can hear characters say "I don't mind it in the cases of amputees." The Humanity Front and Purity First has many real-world analogies, with a legitimate political group sharing goals and views with a terrorist organisation, such as Sinn Féin and the IRA or Animal Rights groups and the ALF. Conspiracy-wise, Sarif Industries is under fire for trying to end Neuropozyne dependency, and in Real Life, there are proposals to develop embryo transfer to the point that abortion would not be lethal to the fetus - these cannot get off the ground due to anti-technologists protesting stem cell research... and stem cell researchers would probably rather not have the supply of aborted fetuses for stem cells cut off. The anti-aug crowd want augs eliminated, and Versalife is making a killing on Neuropozyne.
Halo has been compared to the War On Terror. The UNSC (Mostly played by Americans) vs. the genocidal, insane, religious Covenant. Bungie's religious references don't help. However, Bungie has denied this, and it is helped by the fact that they have a well known plan to take over the world.
And the fact that Halo's main Myth Arc was plotted in the mid-nineties, several years before the events of 9/11 kicked-off the War On Terror. The first game in the series happened to be released shortly thereafter, but over four years of work had gone into it by that point, with trailers and interviews already establishing to the public the work's setup.
Other's believe it's actually an allegory for the Crusades
After the end of Apartheid in South Africa, the new multi-racial government set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights abuses under the old regime. In Halo: Combat Evolved, the multi-racial Covenant have a ship called the Truth And Reconciliation. Draw your own conclusions.
Some believe that Jak and Daxter series were allegorical for the usage of child soldiers in African nations. A carefree youth is captured and mentally abused til his mind becomes violent enough to attack anyone a voice in command tells him to. Then someone hands him a gun for the first time in his life and he's a natural with it.
Advance Wars throws up some interesting ones by having the various nations and COs represent different countries, with many of the parallels focusing on World War II. It can get confusing, though: it's generally agreed that Green Earth represents Germany, but their COs represent all of Western Europe: Eagle is World War II Germany (superior air force and Lightning Strike being the English translation of "Blitzkrieg"), Drake is probably Britain (naval superiority and various parallels with Sir Francis Drake fighting off the Spanish Armada), Jess is probably Napoleonic France (superior land forces and resupply powers: compare Napoleon's "An army marches on its stomach" quote) and Javier is probably Spain (because he talks and acts rather like Don Quixote). Olaf is obviously General Winter as well as a Communist defector, Grit the very embodiment of Soviet artillery doctrine, and Colin and Sasha, amusingly, are either kulaks or the NEP. Kanbei embodies samurai honour, Sonja an amusing inversion of actual Japanese military security (which leaked like a sieve), Sensei the IJA's own special forces and Grimm's focus on all-out offensive reflects the closing days of Japanese desperation in both Ichi-Go and kamikaze.
Pikmin has been interpreted as an allegory to socialism.
When Bioshock Infinite was first announced, people immediately thought the xenophobic and imperialistic Founders were an allusion to the Tea Party, which Ken Levine denied. And given the events that have been happening in the US since then, you can bet that when the game is actually released, the Vox Populi will be immediately be dubbed an allusion to Occupy Wall Street despite said group not even having had existed when the game started being developed.
Although Ken Levine did go to an Occupy Wall Street rally to do research for the Vox...
Of course Ken Levine also denied that Bioshock was a criticism of Objectivism, so he may just be a master of accidentally making scathing attacks on political ideologies.
This game reviewer takes an Everyone Is Satan in Hell approach to gaming. One particularly hilarious review is of Tetris, claiming it to be communist propaganda. When he reads about a study showing playing puzzle games like Tetris is good for the brain, he decries them as "Darwinist", "militant atheists", and admonishes the head of the study for not using scripture in the treatment of PTSD.
Gears of War: It turns out in the third game that Imulsion, human society's main fuel source, was responsible for the entire conflict because it turned the locust into the lambent, who forced the surviving locust to seek refuge on the surface, leading to the war with the humans. Even before any of that had come to light, humans had been engaged in unending wars over imulsion resources.. Let me say that again. A rare and valuable fuel source (oil) is responsible for centuries of non-stop war, the destruction of society, and turning everyone into mindless zombies.
Oddworld: Abe's Oddesee and its sequel Abe's Exoddus show us how putting Capitalism and Profits over Morality and Humility destroy society. The Mudokons have been compared to communism (Abe is Blue, Mudokons live with each other and share the same possesions) and the Glukkons are obviously a play on Gluttons as they are money hungry and have no problems torturing and even trying to kill and sell the Mudokons as food. All for profit sake.
Some who had played Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War addressed the anti war posturing as commentary on George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. The plot itself is actually based on the Cold War where insiders on both sides are instigating the war with the real message being the characters are against war, but are willing to fight the ones who live on War for Fun and Profit.
Upon being discovered by the rest of the galaxy the Krogan were ruthlessly exploited by races far more technolgically developed than they were, and once they were no longer needed and became a problem, the development of their a civilization was neutered both physically and societally to the point of being almost totally untenable. The historically minded will note the similarities to the European colonization of Africa and the post-decolonization issues that continue to be a problem today.
American audience members in particular will notice the similarities between the Alliance's reaction to the Geth and the American government's reaction post-9/11. In the second game especially, this actually approaches the point of parody at some points and the game takes numerous digs at it, from the laughably inept and pointless citadel security to thinly veiled codex entries.
Codex on spying on Geth space:Theoretically, the geth could be preparing a devastating attack against which the Council could be defenseless, or the geth could have died out, so that the defense budget against them could be gaining the Alliance nothing but economic ruination.
Interestingly, this is despite the fact that Cerberus, with it's methods of funding itself, political activities, cell based command structure, and the types of violence it engages in, is actually a very accurate depiction of how modern transnational terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, operatenote Well, aside from the bringing people back to life and building super-advanced warships part. Cerberus is also portrayed as the only group with the ability to actually do anything about the problem of the Collectors. What this means is probably best left to the player to determine.
In The Order of the Stick Redcloak summoned a fiendish mammoth as a mount. Following the strips usual way of portraying fiendish creatures, it was red. Eventually the author had to specify that no, it was not supposed to be any kind of reference to the Republican party.
With a higher potential of controversy was the duel between Miko and Redcloak at the watch tower. Right before the 2006's U.S. Congress elections. On one side, you had a blue-themed character that tried to do Good in the world, but for misguided reasons. On the other side, you had a red-themed character that is doing evil deeds but has a decent reason for doing them. The Blue-themed character won the fight (after the electoral results of Democrat victory).
Terinu can be easily interpreted as an anti-colonialist story, given that Peta Hewett hails from Down Under and has stated that the Varn genuinely believed that they were bringing "Civilization" to the Earth when they invaded in the backstory. Never mind the Ferin being viewed by every antagonist as a resource to be harvested and not a free thinking race in their own right.
Erfworld has also been subject to this, with multiple fans trying to claim that Stanley the Tool is Erfworld's take on George W. Bush. It's true that Erfworld is based on layer upon layer of puns and references, but claims like these just get annoying (especially in the face of more obvious puns and references concerning Stanley).
And then Ansom was killed and turned into an undead to serve as Stanley's chief warlord. Have fun figuring out how that fits into either theory.
Domain Tnemrot. The entire story is about rich people forcing the poor into slavery, and the main character goes on rants about how the rich should be using their money to help the poor rather than spend it on frivolous entertainment. On the page this rant appears, though, the author insists that this is in no way a political comic and it's all just a part of the setting, while the main character's views are just a product of the environment he's grown up in.
One Homestuck fan went out on a limb and speculated that Eridan's character arc is an allegorical critique of Barack Obama's presidency.
There was particular guy in the comments section of Terra's early pages that saw leftist political metaphors all over the place in the comic. (For reference, the comic is about guerrillas fighting to put an end to a corrupt Forever War between two superpowers.) Author Holly Laing's response was surprised confusion.
They have also been interpreted as a metaphor for the KKK, probably by Americans who have only seen the animated series, and were unaware that it was based on comics by a Belgian author, Peyo.
Adventures of the Gummi Bears are about the evil Igthorn (who wears blue) trying to shut down an illegal brewery hidden in the forest. Igthorn's mooks are shown as dumb and ineffectual. The liquor Gummi Bears drink makes them crazily jump around. And they are friends to children! Anarchistic, anti-government and pro-alcohol/drugs propaganda, if you ask me.
But Igthorn wants the juice for himself to make him and his underlings stronger. And what is up with the kingdom anyway? They hate Igthorn and his army, but are helped by the Gummi Bears again and again without their knowledge. Well, in my opinion, you missed by far, my friend.
In the commentary for Dog Days, Bill Plympton tells of how the French view his Dog Trilogy as a metaphor for George Bush, even though that wasn't his intent, nor does he even like to make political cartoons.
South Park gets misunderstood all around. Its detractors point to its frequent use of politically incorrect material as comedy, saying that this "proves" South Park is racist and so forth. And some of its supporters (young conservatives and libertarians, mostly) see how South Park ridicules the politically correct and "enlightened" and love to think of the show as being a (somewhat ironic) defense of "traditional" American values - neglecting to notice that the show's creators try to offend everyone, regardless of where their political/social/cultural sympathies lie. Whether or not they do a good job at this is likely where the problem lies.
Co-creator Trey Parker is a Libertarian, and he and Matt Stone have expressed conservative views both in and out of the show, leading some commentators to coin the term "South Park conservatives". However, they have been quite outspoken about their desire never to be pinned down to either end of the political spectrum. Some choice quotes:
"We hate conservatives, but we really fucking hate liberals."
"People on the far left and the far right are the same exact person to us."
Perhaps in smaller circles, but not unheard of, are the comparisons to the Occupy movement. A lot of the Equalist rhetoric has a similar ring, in any case (though there's really only so many ways one can preach that type of egalitarianism, and Occupy was hardly the first such movement).
Overall, the goals of Amon (equality), Unalaq and Vaatu (tradition and bringing back the spirits), Zaheer (freedom) and Kuvira (order) are straight up allegories for the real world ideologies of communism, fundamentalism, anarchy (Zaheer himself stated to be one) and fascism. The fact that the show takes place in a 1920s style world where these four ideologies began to hold ground reinforces this notion. Furthermore, these villains are all known for their moral ambiguity and cases of The Extremist Was Right, lampshading the moral complications of ideologies itself.