Friday, April 7, 2017


A kids film about an ant named Flik, brave, innovated but is known for consistently messing things up for his ant colony. After destroying the colonies food supply that was supposed to pay off the villainous grasshoppers he puts on a strong face and embarks on a mission to find a crew to, instead, defend the colony. He finds a motley crew consisting of different kinds of insects with a wide variety of personalities and strengths who ultimately find confidence in themselves and also are able to save the colony from the grasshoppers.
This film teaches kids about the importance of friendship, courage and teamwork despite criticism of teaching kids disappointment through failure and ostracizing others. This film according to Gionettis ideology takes a leftist point of view about reform. This movie promotes differences and wants those that are different to come together for the better of a whole community.
A Bugs Life teaches kids to accept and respect others for their differences. Not all of the bugs are ants and that is widely accepted by the characters in the film. They work as a team with different strengths to accomplish their final goal saving the colony. This message allows kids to believe that they are individuals and even if their strengths are different then those around them they still have something to feel proud of and something they can attribute to a group.
Friendship and courage are also strong themes in this movie. Friendship is shown through all of the relationships between the bugs in the film. You will find that the bugs are often times very supportive of each other, even when they find themselves in hard situations or if they are at fault for something. Courage in this movie is often seen through the main character Flik. Flik is often times found in rough situations ruining things for the colony as a whole but in the end he is proud of all of his hard work, and comes out of his shell to ultimately face what everyone has been afraid of.
It has been said that one of the main problems that parents have within this movie is some of the vulgarity of humor and innuendoes. The lady bug a as a male character, the fat name-calling of the caterpillar and the carless attitude of the roach that mans the circus. These are questionable parts of the movie in terms of gender roles od a 
ge appropriateness.

I think that this movie is a great movie for kids, the messages within the movie are positive and the lessons kids learn from them are something they can take with them as they grow older. Friendship and courage are seen commonly, and can be easily mimicked at a young age. Individuality is also celebrated thought this movie, and when kids are young they often times feel insecure. The gender roles are commonly overlooked, and are incredibly subtle in relation to the movie as a whole. I loved this movie growing up and although I may have looked past these positive lessons I think that some of them have stuck with me on the long run.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

It is not unfamiliar for there to be a deeper lesson embedded in the plot of children’s films. Disney is especially notorious for their life lesson inspiration for films, but are they always sending the right message? There are many instances where a film may contain some sort of scene or line that alienates one kind of person or thing such as implying that a woman is good for cleaning or a man is great because he is strong, but this is not the case. Mulan, a film created by Disney, features a young girl who bravely takes her father’s place in war and ultimately becomes the reason for the fall of the Huns. It all sounds wonderfully inspiring, but the question is: does Mulan do a good job at portraying a positive message to the audience, or do the skimmed over negatives have a greater impact on the audience (children)?
“Scare tactics can also be used to stampede legitimate fears into panic or prejudice.” (Lunsford 72). The same can be said for the draft in China for the war against the Huns. To be selected for war was an honor. It meant you were a strong and brave man and during that time,
nothing overpowered the importance of honor. Similarly, a woman was expected to be beautiful and to go to school and learn to be proper so that their matchmaker could find them a husband, and Mulan was no exception to this standard. I believe that, while not a direct threat, losing one’s honor in the Chinese culture could have detrimental effects to the name of the family, so it was not something to be taken lightly (therefore making divergence a scare tactic).

There is nothing more empowering to young women than seeing a girl take on a challenge and perform exceedingly well. The pure fact the Mulan was the main reason that China defeated the Huns sends the world a message that your gender does not define you. You can be as great as any other man. Mulan goes against the grain as she begins her journey through training and war. In one of the final scenes, she uses her womanly nature to distract the Huns and take them down. It is in this scene, where she is battling the leader of the Huns in a dress with her hair down, that girls can become inspired. Here is this woman sliding across the courtyard with a warrior on pursuit. She battles him in an epic scene on the rooftop before defeating him and ultimately getting honored by the emperor in front of millions of people. 
Although this seems utterly perfect, there arises a bit of sour as we come to realize that there really isn’t an in-between stage between being honored and being dishonoredHad Mulan not defeated the Huns, she would not have been honored by the emperor and her family name would have sunk to the bottom. What is this telling girls? If you cannot be the greatest, then don’t try to be anything more than you were meant to be. It won’t work out. The scene where she is singing and cutting her hair with the knife along with bandaging her breasts so they are not visible to become more of a male figure sets the tone that to be great you must at least act like a man, or you will never get anywhere. Only when you succeed can you be yourself.
It seems to me that the positive message in this film far outweighs the negative. It seems that Mulan was able to find her strength and bravery and bring awareness to the capabilities of women to a greater extent than the attention placed on the fact that she had to be much greater than man. In some ways, that is how the feminist movement begun; a woman outshining men. In the end of this analysis, I believe that the positive messages in this film were much more powerful and effective than the negative.  As Disney said, “It might be hard at first, but we promise it will work out in the end.”

Wall-E or Leftist Propaganda?


For a film that has no dialogue for the first forty minutes of the film, Wall-E does an impeccable job of conveying two clear and important messages.  Wall-E, the titled main character, is a robot that remains on earth cleaning up waste, while the humans cruise throughout outer space in luxury.  Set around the year 2800, the remaining humans have grown accustomed to living in space and no little to nothing about the wasteland of a planet their ancestors left behind 700 years ago.  In an attempt to stay in the company of an explorer robot (EVE) that he has become acquainted with, Wall-E stows away on a rocket that is set to return to the luxurious spaceship carrying the humans.  A discovery by EVE begins a series of events that take herself, Wall-E, and their outcast friends on a journey that decides the future of humanity.  The message that the film portrays to kids is that friendship and teamwork are tools used to succeed at any task.  As for the underlying and more serious message, it may be that only older children and adults will see its blatancy.  It warns against the reliance on technology, over consumption, and the deterioration of our planet.  According to Giannetti, this would fall under the leftist agenda.  Watching this movie as an adult, I cannot help but notice the obvious message that Pixar presents about the possible future of humanity.  It overtakes the more innocent message about friendship and teamwork and can almost be considered leftist propaganda. 
             Throughout the film, Wall-E befriends anyone and everyone that he meets.  His friendship with EVE leads him on a journey to space where he meets more robots and has his first human interaction.  Putting himself first, he helps EVE track down an important item and takes it to where it needs to be, although he has now ulterior motive other than the desire to help a friend.  He sacrifices his metal body near the end of the film to keep open the slot where the all-important item needs to go (pictured below).  Wall-E suffers severe damage to his body and needs major repairs following this incident.  No one asked him to do what he did, but he risked his life for a cause that did not benefit him.  A character like Wall-E shows children that selflessness is a valuable quality. 

            However, it is not just Wall-E that does all the heavy lifting to save the day.  The captain of the ship as well as the robots who did not function properly all played a vital role.  A scene that sticks out is when all the robots and people relay the important item across the deck to EVE who slots it in the opening Wall-E kept accessible by sacrificing himself.  The clip is featured below and is a prime example of teamwork.  Pixar shows kids that you cannot do everything yourself; sometimes you need your friends to help you out. 
(Long, but a great example of teamwork)
            As a kid, it is hard to look past all these other messages to see the serious underlying message that speaks to our flawed society.  Now that I am older, however, it is hard not to notice these stern messages and they even overtake the others.  The beginning of the movie depicts Earth as a toxic land full of waste, uninhabitable by any living thing.  Only one company is shown the entire time (Buy-N-Large), and they seem to have a monopoly on every sector.  The most obvious message to our society has to be the fact that every single human on the spaceship appears to be severely overweight and it is implied that they have not walked for possibly their entire lives.  These strong messages make me wonder if the producers had more than one agenda for this film.  Breitbart TV asserts that Wall-E was “a 90-minute lecture on the dangers of over consumption, big corporations, and the destruction of the environment.”  It is hard for me to disagree, because even though the storyline deals mostly with a robot trying to help his female companion, a majority of the scenes contain underlying hints toward these leftist views.  The images below show how blatant the leftist agenda appears within the film.

         Because I am now critiquing this film as an informed adult who is more aware of the underlying themes and message of a movie, I must say that the message warning humans about going down a dangerous path is much stronger than any of the other lighter ones.
         I believe that Pixar did an amazing job of producing a feel-good movie that kids thoroughly enjoy, while still conveying a serious message to its older audience.  I am giving it a full 5 stars.


Everlasting Gobstoppers and Everlasting Fears

  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a childhood classic. The story has had many iterations but from its book debut in 1964, its film debut in 1971 to the most recent remake in 2005, the story has stayed relatively the same. It is the iconic rags to riches story of Charlie Bucket. Charlie and four other lucky children receive golden tickets in their candy bars, which grant them a behind the scenes tour of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. Unlike the other children who each have a ‘flaw’ be it gluttony, brattiness, vanity or laziness, Charlie is a near perfect representation of a good boy. His perfection is rewarded later in the movie when each of the other children is removed from the tour due to a side effect of their flaw while, Charlie inherits the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate from Mr. Wonka. This reinforces the message that children should be good and they will be rewarded. However, the film also contains negative messages. Each child is punished for his or her misdiscretions in ways that would cause lawsuits were it to happen in reality. This prompts the negative message that people deserve their suffering. When one closely looks at the punishments it is clear that this movie is not suited for children and instills fear rather than good behavior.

  The film would not have survived for the past fifty-three years if people did not believe it had some positive qualities. Parents enjoy showing the film in the hope that their children will take in the message that if they are good, they will be rewarded. This message is expressed overtly in the film. Augustus Gloop is the first child to lose his spot on the tour. He loses his spot while he is eating ravenously from the chocolate river and falls in. His gluttony is shown as a bad trait and his removal from the tour shows that children who behave in such ways will not be rewarded. The oompa loompa’s sing, “What are you at getting terribly fat? What do you think will come of that?” reinforcing the idea that his actions are wrong. 

  Violet Beauregarde is a greedy gum obsessed girl who finds her demise when she chews a piece of gum that is still experimental and she turns into a human blueberry. She turned blue and swelled to the point that she had to be rolled out of the room to be juiced by the oompa loompas. This is her punishment for taking the gum she was told not to touch. The message that good children will be rewarded and bad children will suffer is shown again in the removal of Veruca Salt. Veruca is the epitome of a spoiled child. Upon learning that Mr. Wonka’s factory contains geese that lay golden eggs, she demands that her father buys her one. When Wonka refuses, she begins to throw a tantrum until she falls into the appropriately named ‘bad egg’ chute. Immediately after the oompa loompa’s sing,”If you're not spoiled then you will go far, You will live in happiness too." This is meant to express to children what the correct way to act is.

  The final child to be removed from the tour is Mike Teavee. His sole characterisitic is his love of television. His passion for tv inspires him to take part in Wonka’s latest contraption, a chocolate transporter. He desires to be part of tv so intensely that he goes into the transporter himself. Through this process he shrinks himself and is carried out in the palm of an oompa loompa’s hand to the lyrics,”If you are wise you'll listen to me. What do you get from a glut of TV? A pain in the neck and an IQ of three. Why don't you try simply reading a book?” making it abundantly clear the proper way a good child should behave.

  Through the elimination of these children, Charlie is the only one remaining. He has not shown any deep running character flaws, and has been a picturesque good child. For this he is rewarded with the Wonka empire, while the other children are in rooms across the factory being juiced and broken out of pipes. The message to children is clear: do you want to be good and end up like Charlie, or be bad and end up like the other kids?

  While, none will argue that these children acted appropriately, many parents would find issue in how they are punished. These are children after all, in a movie aimed at children with its PG rating. Yet they are being punished in such brutal ways, and it is meant to seem like they deserve to suffer? In 1964 when the book was written, a spanking may have been acceptable punishment. In 2017 anything more than a time out could be considered by some a cause for concern. However, none of the punishments displayed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have ever been the cultural norm. Augustus Gloop after falling into the chocolate river is sucked into a clear tube where he is stuck and can barely breathe. His mother is in distress begging Wonka for help because her son cannot swim and Wonka replies with “No better time to learn.” When prodded with further calls for action the most he can muster is a quiet “Help. Police. Murder.” It is not entirely clear what occurs to Gloop, after this when he is seen leaving the factory he is noticeably thinner. 

  Another character who leaves the factory in a far different form is Violet. She took a piece of gum when she was told not to and in response is permanently changed. Wonka states that the oompa loompa’s can de-juice her, but that her skin will be forever violet. Charlie’s grandfather can be heard in the background laughing, as if to say that this is fair retribution for a child who took a piece of gum. 

     In response to throwing a tantrum, Veruca Salt falls down an egg chute which Wonka states leads to the furnace. Wonka is entirely unfazed and merely says that,”She was a bad egg,” while her father jumps desperately down the chute in hopes of saving her. The oompa loompa’s sing,“Blaming the kids is a lion of shame. You know exactly who's to blame: The mother and the father!” One can’t help but ask the question if that’s true, why is it the children who are being sucked into pipes, juicied, and dropped down chutes into furnaces?

  The final child, Mike, is so enthralled by the idea of being able to take part in his favorite activity, tv, that in doing so he disregards Wonka’s wishes and jumps into the transporter. This has the unfortunate side effect of shrinking him to merely a few inches tall. Wonka ‘consoles’ Mike’s mother by suggesting that they place him in the taffy stretching machine, but can be overheard telling an oompa loompa that he won't hold him responsible if anything goes wrong. Mike goes from being a few inches tall to nearly ten feet tall due to the oompa loompa’s stretching.

  The film means to suggest that the children deserve these fates. However, Wonka seems to be at fault for them. He only half-heartedly tells Mike to not jump into the tv when he says, “Stop. dont. come back.” He also fails to stop the other children from their fates despite knowing what will happen. This suggests the theme that people deserve their suffering. These are all children who made small, inherently childlike mistakes. The movie goes on to be hypocritical as well further weakening the positive theme it claims to carry.  Charlie, a nicer boy than the others, makes mistakes throughout the film. He and his grandfather drink bubbles in direct disregard of what Wonka says and yet are not immediately punished. Why does Charlie not deserve a punishment but the others do? Is it because he confesses to Wonka? One must certainly hope not because the other children were never granted such an opportunity. This leads an audience to believe that children are rewarded more out of luck than as a byproduct of being good. 

  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a sugary story with needlessly dark implied themes. People do not deserve their suffering, but that is the most prominent theme in the movie. How could one take away the theme that good children will be rewarded and bad children will suffer when someone who makes an equally bad mistake is rewarded? This film will only confuse children and should be targeted towards an older demographic, who will not be hurt by the film’s theme. Overall, I give the film 3 out of 5 everlasting gobstoppers. It is very entertaining and a classic, but it’s target should be an older, less impressionable crowd.

                                The Sandlot - Implicit Messages

The Sandlot is a coming of age movie centered on one of America’s greatest institutions, baseball. Its target audience is preteen through mid-teen boys. This lighthearted comedy is about a rather shy fifth grader, Scotty Smalls, who finds himself in a new town just before the end of school. Being a baseball neophyte, both in his knowledge and skill, he is befriended by Bennie Rodriquez, the best baseball talent in the community, who teaches him to play the game. Through this friendship, Scotty becomes part of a ragtag team of boys who are also social comrades through thick and thin. Through the summer, they share many adventures including a major “pickle” as it was described. One day when the boys have damaged their only baseball, Scotty comes to the rescue by taking his stepdad’s prized Babe Ruth autographed ball as a replacement. When Scotty launches a homer over the fence, the baseball lands in the neighborhood’s scariest yard, protected by a monster junkyard dog known as “The Beast” who, by legend, has eaten trespassers and is owned by the meanest man in town. Facing sure “death” if not returned to Scotty’s stepfather’s trophy room, their only option is to retrieve the ball. This leads to their hilarious quest to make this happen. According to Giannetti’s thesis discussed in Understanding Movies, this movie, set in the 1960s, takes a rightward leaning slant which can be demonstrated in a number of ways. One marker of this is that boys are “disciplined, respectful, and obedient to their elders” (Understanding Movies). The movie pays homage to the legends of the game like Babe Ruth and honors adherence to the rules of the game. While the overt theme of the movie is that baseball is the greatest single passion a young boy can possess, there are also underlying implicit messages, both positive and negative, that can be identified. On the positive side, there are messages about comradery, social interactions, problem solving, overcoming fears and dispelling stereotypes. From a negative perspective, women and girls are objectified, portrayed as subservient to men, and cast in a negative light. There is also a distant coldness that can be observed in a stepparent’s interaction with a stepchild and devaluation of that child’s worth. Undercurrents of a lack of investment in the overall relationship can also be identified. For this review, a closer analysis of just one positive and one negative message will be addressed. In the movie The Sandlot, in keeping with the humorous and lighthearted tone of the film, the positive message of problem solving is by far the more dominant message in comparison to the negatively framed awkward relationship between a stepfather and a stepson.

One of the most positive implicit messages that is championed in this film is that of problem solving. The prime example of this is the progression of methods employed by the boys to accomplish their goal to reclaim the baseball. First off, they tried a wooden broom handle to pull the ball back towards the fence. This failed when “The Beast “stomped on the ball with his foot and shredded the handle with his teeth. Not discouraged, the boys attached a metal pan to a sturdy metal pole, passed it through the fence and trapped the ball. As they were pulling it back towards them “The Beast” again foiled the plan, crushing the pole and throwing the mangled mess across the baseball diamond. Undaunted, they upped their game and fastened a catcher’s mask to the suction end of three vacuum hoses. Centering the mask over the ball, the vacuums were turned on securing the baseball. As it was being lifted over the fence, “The Beast” attacked, knocking it loose. He damaged the hose ends causing each vacuum to blow up. Not phased, the boys came up with an even more ingenious plan. Wearing the catcher’s chest protector with ropes tied to it, threaded through pulleys, one of the boys was lowered into the yard very stealthily, so as to not disturb “The Beast”.  All was going well until they came face to face. Jerking the boy to safety, the ball was jarred loose, ending that plan. Pulling out all the stops, Scotty constructed a sophisticated robot catapult. Rolling it down a track into the yard, the catapult was positioned and cleanly thrust the ball into the air. At the last possible second, “The Beast” leaped high into the air and caught the baseball in his mouth. Finally, after much soul searching and preparation, Bennie jumped into the yard, grabbed the ball and alluded “The Beast” during a lengthy chase. Mission accomplished, the elusive ball was back in their passion.
The positive message of problem solving is by far the most dominant. I have highlighted just one example, but there are many others woven throughout the film. This is a life skill that successful leaders must possess, according to analysis done by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman published in the Harvard Business Review. Creativity, hard work and perseverance are all components of problem solving that were demonstrated in the movie. This message was effectively delivered and generates an all things are possible message. Even when faced with adversity, there is always a solution to be found.

In selecting a negative implicit message that can be found in The Sandlot, the stepfather and stepson relationship between Scotty and Bill is the best example. Scotty’s mother and Bill have been married for a year, yet Scotty and Bill’s relationship is distant. Every time Scotty addresses Bill, he stutters and stammers. Bill either ignores him or gives Scotty a curt response. In their new house, Bill has a trophy room, and it is strictly off limits to Scotty.  Having just met the sandlot boys, Scotty wants Bill to show him how to catch and throw, but his meek requests go unfulfilled. Not until his mother steps in, is Bill willing to give him a lesson. That doesn’t go well at all because Scotty is terrible at baseball. The audience can see Bill roll his eyes, sigh and show annoyance at Scotty’s ineptitude. Interestingly enough, as Scotty hones his baseball skills through practice with the sandlot gang, his newly acquired ability makes Scotty attractive to his stepdad who then accepts him because he has become a “jock”.
The implicit negative stepfather stepson relationship is well delivered, much in part to the performance of actor Denis Leary whose bread and butter has been to play intolerant, flippant sarcastic roles. As a stepdad, he delivers a believable performance as a self-centered, self-consumed king of his castle character. The reason that this relationship is not the dominant implicit message is that the audience sees it as a work in progress. This is reinforced by the bonding between the two as Scotty demonstrates his new found athletic prowess. Interestingly, what was once a negative implicit message at the beginning of the movie, actually turns into a problem solving success for Scotty. His hard work to become good at baseball provides an area of interest and commonality between the two of them.

The Sandlot is a humorous movie about the escapades of a group of preteens and their love of baseball. Upon close analysis, implicit messages can be identified. Of these, the positive message of problem solving is the most dominant, as it is woven throughout the film. With its real life implications for success, if mastered, this is a valuable message for young people to be exposed to. The Sandlot does this well. Of less emphasis and importance to the film, a negative implicit message concerning stepfather and stepson relationships can be observed. In its delivery and coverage of these implicit messages, this film hits a grand slam and is most deserving of a five star rating.