Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: Taking a Look At The Monsters

Many parents know, perhaps better than they'd like, Pixar's Monsters, Inc. A couple of weeks ago, they released their sequel, Monster University. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of the movies.

Monsters, Inc. is an enjoyable little bit of animation that contains some slapstick moments that are good for clean(ish) family entertainment speckled with a few witty remarks to keep adults' attention.

The first movie almost seems to symbolically champion "green energy" initiatives as the monsters find that laughs are more efficient power sources than screams. That isn't really the case, if examined closely. the message it does hold is that more efficient energy sources should be explored and harnessed once the technology reaches that point where they are more cost-effective. Such would be a case for nuclear power, natural gas, and several others. The technology is already there. They are already more cost-effective and efficient.

The movie also may appear to target the ubiquitous "bad corporation". A better examination would reveal, however, a government-run bureaucracy with its own shock-troops that are interfering in business, preventing those better energy sources. The collateral effects were one unscrupulous business leader pursuing a more dangerous and invasive means of tapping energy sources because the government bureaucracy prevented any other research.

The bottom line is to talk to your kids about these symbols. They are potent, but can easily be perverted to push a false narrative if parents fail to do their own research. Based upon the facts, parents can help direct kids' natural curiosity and help them find their own facts and draw their own well-researched conclusions. Those are always superior to ones dictated to them by some politician's agenda.

Along similar lines, the sequel has some important morals.

Collectivism will tell you that kids need to be segregated based upon some demographic identity. That is simply not true. The truth is you have to arm your kids with drive and a work ethic. Never tell them that they cannot do something. Instead, encourage them. But let them know that they may have to work harder at some things. They shouldn't just expect something because they were born and breathing. Also, anyone earning something is not "stealing it" from somebody who didn't.

Monster University is ripe with that message.

The movie is cute and humorous. It takes some of the comedy themes from classics such as Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House. It repackages those comedic themes in a family-friendly animated feature.

The movie contains a theme of competition. If the competition is within the rules, it can be stiff. Those who win, fairly, earn their just rewards. Those who cheat, don't.

The movie also shows that natural talent alone can take somebody only so far. The same goes with hard work. However, hard work can take you farther than natural talent. The two combined are unstoppable. If you love what you are doing, the hard work is a passion, and a joy, not a chore or burden. To motivate the initiatives requires competition. In life, there are winners and losers. It's a fact of life. Not everybody can win. If you did better and learned, though, you didn't lose. You just didn't earn that big, shiny prize. It's a much needed dose of reality in times where they don't keep score at little league games and everybody, including that nose-picker in right field who lets the ball just roll past him, gets a "participation trophy".

One of the chief protagonists is a professor who tells "Mikey" that he doesn't belong. She does everything she can to "spare him the humiliation", thinking she is doing the right thing. In the end, she ends up admitting that Mikey surprised her. She then encourages him to "never stop surprising people". In that, she is not a protagonist. He method may have been questionable. However, in the really real world, there are people who will prejudge you. That should never deter you from succeeding.

Again, that is a valuable lesson to teach your kids. The more people say you cannot, the more hard work you need to devote. If you do so and refuse to give up, eventually, you will surprise everybody with what you will do. The only person you shouldn't be surprising is yourself. Nor should any setback deter you or discourage you. Each is a lesson in what you need to do better or differently, until you get the formula right.