No, Higher Ground isn’t where the Obamas plan to move to from their beachfront Martha’s Vineyard mansion when they flee the rising ocean levels caused by climate change. It’s the name of their production company, which in May 2018 inked a “high eight-figure” production deal with Netflix to go along with their $65 million contract with Viking Press to write their memoirs. Announcing the Netflix partnership, the former president promised that “these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all.” (That’s what Oprah always says, too, about her own noble but inert efforts as producer.)
Anyway, a year after their big announcement, the Obamas — apparently not wanting to rush too precipitously into anything — finally made public their first slate of Netflix projects. One is a biopic of Frederick Douglass. (That topic took a year to come up with?) Others include Bloom, a drama series about the “barriers faced by women and by people of color” in New York’s post-war fashion business, and Fifth Risk, a documentary series about “everyday heroes” in government. (Can I write the one on Maxine Waters?)
But the project we’re here to talk about is the just-released We the People. It’s a series of 10 civics lessons for kids, each in the form of a four- or five-minute piece of animation. (Somehow, the word “cartoon” seems inappropriate, given that this show is almost entirely lacking in humor.) Nine of the 10 episodes are music videos featuring original songs performed by some of the biggest names in the music business today. (I know that they’re some of the biggest names in the music business today because I’ve only ever heard of two of them.) The 10th features a poem. Perhaps needless to say, all of these videos exhibit the hyper-Benetton-ad-level diversity — e.g., hijabs galore, and more people in wheelchairs than you’ll ever see in real life — that is de rigueur everywhere in the entertainment industry nowadays.