Aloysius O’Hare and The Lorax

I finished off my free one-month subscription at Netflix with The Lorax. First, I would just like to say that it was a horrible movie tainted with adult perspectives of how to appeal to children and their imagination. The movie also features random appearances of Zac Efron and Taylor Swift as the main characters as well as numerous awkward musical numbers that did not appeal to me at all.

I came upon one particular character, however, that I found interesting: Aloysius O’Hare. He is the greedy man who owns the large corporation that sells clean air to the residents of Thneedville, often using violence or coercion to make sure his business is profitable. He runs his company and its factories at the cost of the environment.


Is Aloysius O’Hare Asian?
Despite his Irish last name, the maybe two-feet tall, tiny, angry business man is oddly East Asian-looking with his straight, slick hair. There has been some debate on this — most will perhaps lash out at me and tell me to stop trying to fit him into a racial category. That the character is racially ambiguous. But the point is that to me, he instantaneously looked Asian (perhaps it’s because there was a vague resemblance to Edna Mode from The Incredibles).

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 7.24.21 PM

The vague association with the Asian race is reaffirmed when you put his character into the context of the storyline. Even though the man who actually chopped down the trees and killed the environment was the Once-ler, O’Hare is the one that seized that opportunity to sell clean air to people and the clear villain in the story. His disregard for environmental concerns, seeming dictatorial “confinement” of the Thneedville people, constant surveillance, and withholding of the truth from the people seems similar to the American portrayal of Chinese or North Korean governments. At one point, O’Hare says to the main character:

You’ve got a beautiful town here, Ted! I can’t think of any reason you’d want to leave town again. Ever.

It Doesn’t Matter If He’s Asian
A fellow blogger posted a reply to the suggestion that O’Hare is an Asian character:

He’s a shorter person with straight, shiny black hair, and I guess that fits the standard expectations for an animated Asian character, but his facial features aren’t racialized. His name’s a long way from Chinese, too: Aloysius O’Hare. Plus he has no accent in the movie.

Before we even address anything I should note that this blogger’s argument against O’Hare being Asian is incredibly flawed. He puts forth an invalid argument that a character (1) without stereotypical chinky eyes, (2) with a “white American” name, and (3) a lack of an “Asian” accent could not possibly be Asian. We should not rely on heavily stereotyped images of Asian people to determine if O’Hare’s portrayal is indeed racially Asian or more importantly, has any impact on the Asian/Asian American community.

So let’s take it back a bit. Yes, there is a possibility that O’Hare is not an Asian portrayal — but then why did I think it was? Maybe there’s still something there. Seeing that all the regular residents of Thneedville were mostly white and not a single Asian character was featured in the movie, maybe I thought Aloysius O’Hare was Asian because he is possibly the closest looking character to an East Asian person in the entire movie. Or perhaps the comical emasculation (via his incredibly short stature and frequently ridiculed status) was an all-too-familiar depiction of Asian men in the media.

This is a bigger problem than just this cartoon of a racially-ambiguous evil environment killer. Certain familiar portrayals of Asians in the media is what even sparked my initial connection of this man to being Asian. And that’s not just me being racist or hypersensitive — it’s the media that’s the problem.


8 thoughts on “Aloysius O’Hare and The Lorax

  1. I actually agree with you. The second I saw O’Hare, I thought he was of Asian descent. If you notice, his eyes are smaller than the other characters’ eyes. His hair is shiny and straight, traits often attributed to Asians. Furthermore, his skin looks a little more “yellow” than the other characters. His name means nothing. My boyfriend’s first and last names are both “white, American names”, but he is Korean.

    I am really getting tired of seeing Asian characters pigeon-holed into stereotypical roles:
    For men:
    *Kick-ass kung-fu Master, who, despite being on par (or better) than his white action-hero counter-parts, never, ever gets the girl (especially if the girl is white).
    *Tech nerd/geek who is seen as asexual or a pervert, but will never get the attention of any female character.
    *Weird foreigner who will never adjust to Western culture and sometimes even has a “funny” (by Western standards) name.
    *Evil tyrant-ruler, optionally greedy (Which poor Aloysius seems to be)

    For women:
    *The hyper-sexualized villianess, aka: Dragon-lady
    *The sex object for white action-hero man, who is always helpless who need “big, strong whitey to come and save her from the evil men (who may or may not be Asian themselves; sometimes, even her family).

    Why does this continue? Why is that Asians are still allowed to be portrayed in such a manner?

  2. Totally agree. Just another “evil Asian businessman” to take the blame away from the main character (besides the Lorax). Had to laugh because I also immediately thought of the “Asian” character in The Incredibles and also the hundreds of bowl-cut jokes I had to deal with growing up in the U.S.

    I was relieved to find your blog after searching to see if anyone else felt the same way, thanks!

  3. I never thought he was anything other than Asian. It’s actually a surprise to me that people’s understanding of his race was otherwise.

    I also feel that O’Hare gets more of a bad rap than he deserves. Had he elected not to found O’Hare Air, everyone in Thneedville would have died at the hands of the Once-Ler. While one can argue that he might have abused his power to some degree (though my theories on O’Hare, inc.’s true motives state otherwise), I think anyone who considers O’Hare to be a bona-fide, cold-blooded villain is in the wrong.

  4. I agree, but also you could say that it doesn’t have to directly coincide with physical portrayal of Asian men or an Asian man, maybe it just symbolizes an Asian man maybe from North Korean government since some of the depictions of the town and such look similar to North Korean conditions, but then again I’m only a teen and am not all to acquainted with world affairs.

  5. Honestly, I thought this was going to be a bad take about how the Onceler, an in-universe white colonizer and predatory capitalist, is the real victim in the narrative despite being the root cause of all its problems. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

    I am Asian-American myself. I don’t think I have to point out the parallels between what the Onceler did and corporate colonization that occurs in poorer Asian countries. Or how capitalism-induced pollution is a problem primarily associated with China. Even the whole “selling fresh air” thing is something that is uniquely associated with China.

    So the fandom’s reaction to the Onceler in contrast to O’Hare made me uncomfortable. The former, by virtue of being visibly white and attractive, is portrayed as sympathetic in-canon and within the fandom even though he’s guilty of much, much worse in comparison to the Asian-coded O’Hare.

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