The Bizarre Buzz Lightyear Political Controversy Making People Lose Their Minds

The Bizarre Buzz Lightyear Political Controversy Making People Lose Their Minds 1

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

This week:

The Week’s Biggest Political Controversy… Buzz Lightyear?

Because nothing is pure or sacred, even Buzz Lightyear is now at the center of—I shudder as I type this—“discourse.”

Implausibly, this is not even in reference to the, at this point, very expected and very tired debate about how Hollywood can’t leave anything alone. Listen, it is 2021. If you’re not bracing for every character, subplot, or backstory of a beloved intellectual property being mined for new content, you’re not being altruistic. You’re being delusional.

Disney released the trailer for its new spinoff film Lightyear, which is coming in 2022, and almost immediately it became a No. 1 trending topic and sent people into a frenzy. Politics, somehow, became involved?!?!

The new film finds Chris Evans, trading his Captain America shield for a spacesuit, as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, who Tim Allen had played in the four previous Toy Story films. Because nothing triggers impassioned knee-jerk responses quite like nostalgia, longtime fans of the Toy Story franchise cried foul at what they assumed to be Allen’s recasting. More, they imposed an agenda on it.

Allen is an outspoken conservative, an anomaly in Hollywood that has proven to be controversial in recent years; some speculate that his series Last Man Standing was canceled for that reason. A classic case of Disney distancing itself from anyone who might rankle the woke liberals! Cancel culture finds its way to the sentient toy universe! What’s next?!

The anti-Evans-as-Buzz outrage built to the point that the Lightyear director felt compelled to respond. “I wanted the film to have like a gravitas to it and a seriousness to it, but also have an actor who could bring comedy with that seriousness. He was really the first and only choice,” said director Angus MacLane.

The important context here is that—you’ll never believe this—people responded with anger without bothering to learn or understand what this project is.

Lightyear isn’t about the toy that Allen voiced in the films, and will likely voice again in future projects. It’s not a prequel or an origin story of Buzz Lightyear as we know him in the Toy Story films.

It is about the “real-life Space Ranger” in the world of the franchise that a toy was made to honor. I guess it’s sort of like if someone had a toy of Neil Armstrong. The toy is not the human. In the case of Lightyear, the toy of Buzz Lightyear is voiced by Allen. The astronaut that inspired the toy is voiced by Evans. Lightyear exists in a separate world from the one Andy’s toys inhabit. The film will follow the “real” Buzz’s journey from test pilot to celebrity Space Ranger.

In any case, just a typical week in our hellacious online existence when a silly Buzz Lightyear movie warrants an explainer to discredit bizarre right-wing political outrage that a 90-second trailer inspired.

At least after seeing the teaser footage, there is one thing we can all agree on as a nation: Young Buzz Lightyear can absolutely get it.

The Movie Event of the Year

It’s going to be a great fall and winter for great movies.

I’m at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival right now where some of the best films I’ve seen this year—and that you’ll get to watch yourself in just a matter of weeks when they hit theaters and streaming services—are screening: Kristen Stewart’s transfixing turn as Princess Diana in Spencer, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s stunning directorial debut The Lost Daughter, the tender and heartwarming C’mon C’mon with Joaquin Phoenix, and the crowd-pleasing film about Serena and Venus Williams’ father, King Richard, starring Will Smith.

The list goes on—Belfast, Bergman Island, The Worst Person in the World (Google all of them, and then make plans to see them)—but I can’t imagine any of them will compare to the greatest cinematic achievement of the year. Perhaps of modern times, even.

I am talking, of course, about the second trailer for House of Gucci. (Watch it here.)

I have not seen this full film; I don’t know of any critics who have. What I am referring to is the two-minute-and-25-second teaser showcasing Lady Gaga and Adam Driver’s performances in this telling of the story behind the assassination of Maurizio Gucci.

I have no idea if the finished project will be any good. Frankly, I don’t care. Lady Gaga parading around in an array of outrageous wigs and dresses while speaking in her “It’s-a-me… Mario!” Italian accent and gesticulating like she’s a flight controller landing an airplane in a hurricane? It’s spicy marinara sauce as a movie. Only this won’t give me crippling heartburn.

I Absolutely Hate This

Me: Ted Lasso is a masterpiece television show that found a way to help us acknowledge the darkness in the world as well as our own pain, and develop the tools to work past that and better ourselves. Every human should watch.

Also me, after seeing this photo of Mitt Romney and Kyrsten Sinema’s Halloween costumes: Cancel Ted Lasso immediately and remove any evidence of its existence from the world.

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The Only Good Thing

It’s been a rough week (aren’t they all), so I think we all deserve to gaze lovingly at this photo of Jennifer Coolidge vacuuming a farm’s grass next to some chickens to restore a tiny bit of that swiftly waning will to live.

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What to watch this week:

The Harder They Fall: Regina King in a Western movie. Hello! Er… howdy! (Wed. on Netflix)

Last Night in Soho: Anya Taylor-Joy finally in a movie set in the 1960s, where she was beamed from. (Fri. in theaters)

Judy Justice: It’s been months since Judy Sheindlin was paid tens of millions of dollars to yell at poor people and normalcy must be restored to society! (Mon. on IMDb TV)

What to skip this week:

Christmas Movies: It is not yet Halloween, yet channels like Hallmark and Lifetime are already launching their holiday movie slate. We must rise against this! (Sat. on Hallmark and Lifetime)