To be honest, I'm unconvinced that an animated film could truly convey the proper tone of any serious issue, or at really convince me of anything (except for Waking Life, which convinced me that armchair existentialism sucks). But then again, I know next to nothing about "serious" animated films, other than the fact that The Chipmunk Adventure was seriously epic. Please, no one leave comments about "really high quality" anime.
So what sort of work do "mixed messages" do? Louis Althusser has one answer: In his response to Andre Daspre's La Nouvelle Critique, where Daspre accuses him of depreciating art by including it in his definition of ideology (for Althusser, ideology encompasses the very mediated relations that constitute our subjectivity, both imagined and real), he responds with a counter-example not unlike Orr's critique:
"Balzac and Solzhenitsyn give us a 'view' of the ideology to which their work alludes and with which it is constantly fed, a view which presupposes a retreat, an internal distantiation from the very ideology from which their novels emerged. They make us 'perceive' (but not know) in some sense from the inside, by an internal distance, the very ideology in which they are held."So for Althusser, it is the discrepancies between form and content, what Marcherey calls "decenteredness," that makes ideology visible. This follows the Freudian model: Just as transference, displacement, condensation, etc. are the true objects of Freudian dream analysis, so too are mixed messages--those "internal dissonances" that Marcherey imbues with significance--the objects of artistic analysis that often prove the most compelling, or serve the greatest political purpose.
But while it's easy to identify the subversive intent of the device in, say, Balzac's satire, identifying internal distantiation (what a word!) in films such as Natural Born Killers (Ridley Scott's hypocritical criticism of the bloodthirsty spectator culture in the ultra-violent Gladiator also comes to mind) raises the question: For modern-day directors, is such conceptual dissonance satirical or simply accidental?