Imagine Schoolhouse Rock crossed with a corporate diversity seminar — along with a little acid — and you’ve got something close to Netflix’s We the People — a ten-part animated series from Barack and Michelle Obama that seeks to “reframe” how children think about the U.S. government, American history, and civic engagement.
The best that be said about this superficial civics lesson is that each episode is only five minutes long. The series brings together psychedelic animation and instantly forgettable songs to teach kids about citizenship, voting, taxes, and activism. In case you were wondering which way the political winds are blowing, the musical line-up includes left-wing stalwarts Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andra Day, Janelle Monae, and Bebe Rexha.
Netflix, which made the series as part of its production deal with the Obamas, has described the show as “an exuberant call to action for everyone to rethink civics as a living, breathing thing” — which sounds an awful lot like the left’s argument for packing the Supreme Court and curtailing Constitutionally protected freedoms.
But the show is often too shallow to cause much offense. The woke signifiers feel forced and obligatory. Almost everyone in this animated universe is a racial minority. The repeated image of a raised fist name-checks Black Lives Matter without really doing it.
Occasionally, creator Chris Nee smuggles in a veiled dig at former President Donald Trump. “There’s only one wall built with wisdom. It’s the wall between church and state,” Brandi Carlile sings in a section devoted to the The First Amendment.
Ultimately, We the People functions as an advertisement for the Obamas and their third term in the White House. The episode devoted to the judicial branch, performed by Andra Day, ends up as a laundry list of Obama’s Supreme Court victories, including the gay marriage ruling in 2015.
The final episode features a recitation by poet Amanda Gorman, who spoke during Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Who is We the People for? Young children likely won’t know what to make of the show’s lysergic animation, which feels like an attempt at counter-culture coolness. Anyone above the age of ten will find the show almost insultingly simple-minded.
The real audience is of course Netflix executives and the show’s elite pop stars who are patting themselves on the back. Once the acid high wears off, the lingering buzz is one of unmistakable self-congratulation.