Review: Upbeat Animated Songs Celebrate Representative Democracy in 'We The People'

by Karin McKie

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday July 6, 2021

'We The People'
'We The People'  (Source:Netflix)

Executive producers Chris Nee, Kenya Barris (Blackish), Michelle and Barack Obama offer an antidote to the firehose of propaganda and disinformation from Fox News and QAnon conspiracy cultists: The upbeat, colorful animated songs of "We The People," a short series now airing on Netflix that illustrates how democracy is also a verb.

Like its predecessor Schoolhouse Rock, the short music video vignettes feature rollicking animation to share musical lessons about representative democracy (watch with closed captioning to catch all the lyrical nuances).

H.E.R.'s "Active Citizenship" features Yellow Submarine-like cityscapes to encourage listeners to vote. Adam Lambert's "The Bill of Rights" incorporates live action alongside animation to tell viewers of all ages (though 'tweens are probably the best target) that the Constitution is never done, and that "These are your rights, I wrote 'em down, so that you'll never bow down to a crown" (something that's happening with increasing frequency in the rising cult of authoritarian personalities).

In "Taxes," Cordae reminds folks that the American Revolution was started because of taxation without representation, and also states that voting is crucial to the allocation of tax dollars.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, and others serve a Hamiltonian rap about "The Three Branches of Government," featuring "the democracy we want to see" including a Black female president and a Supreme Court justice wearing a hijab. The refrain from the legislators is the hopefully-not-forgotten "we work for you."

"Speak your mind, you're not too young, you know, the future's in your hands," sings Brandi Carlile in "The First Amendment," which also provides refreshingly liberal talking points like "There is only one wall built with wisdom / It's the wall between church and the state."

Kyle Harvey's "Federal vs. State Power" offers the best R&B groove, and Bebe Rexha's "Immigration" features prominent Americans born in other countries like Madeline Albright, Eddie Van Halen, and Alexander Hamilton.

Famous court cases are summarized in Andra Day's liberal joy ride "The Courts," which ends with a tribute to the legalization of same-sex marriage and the refrain of "all rise." Janelle Monae's "We the People" proclaims, "we don't want the life without the liberty."

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman ends the series with a spoken word performance of her "The Miracle of Morning," which evokes Maya Angelou's 1993 inaugural poem "On the Pulse of Morning." The vibrant animation ends with an evocation of Gorman's historic January speech, and considers rising out of the wreckage of the COVID pandemic, saying "From these waves of woes, our world will emerge stronger."

This energetic, necessary series provides positive counter-programming to the current assault on American democracy.

"We The People" premiered on Netflix on July 4.

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at