Every film these days has some sort of message that it’s trying to convey. When you watch a children’s film, the message is more overt for the audience because they want kids to understand it. At the opening scene of Matlida the viewer gets insight into what the story is about. We hear the narrator say, “Everyone is born, but not everyone is born the same. Some will grow to be butchers, or bakers, or candlestick makers. Some will only be really good at making Jell-O salad. One way or another, though, every human being is unique, for better or for worse” (Matlida film). The movie centers around a young girl named Matlida, who is raised in a family that is disinterested in her from birth. Matlida and her family are on polar opposites of the spectrum. She is intelligent, hard-working and honest while they are lazy, selfish and are always looking to make a buck even if it means lying and cheating. Growing up in this type of family, Matlida has learned how to become self-sufficient and teaches herself most things on her own. Once her parents finally agree to send her to school, she has a principal, Miss Trunchbull, who shares similar views as her parents. She is a purely evil individual who is demeaning and cruel to all the students. On the flipside, at school Matilda’s teacher, Miss Honey, is sweet, kind and encouraging to everyone.
Miss Honey is the person who introduces the cliché message to be one’s self and embrace differences, which ultimately leads to good triumphing over bad. The fact that Miss Honey accepts Matilda and is delighting by her intelligence shows that she is a person with good character, or ethos. Up until meeting her teacher, Matlida had been punished and shunned for being extraordinarily smart. Now that she is comfortable with being herself, she discovers that she has telekinetic powers. It is logical that Matlida would use her powers to stop the evil Miss Trunchbull from harming others and making her feel bad about herself. At this point, the aforementioned cliché message could cause some confusion among the child viewership, because Matlida ends up using the same kind of fear tactic on Miss Trunchbull that was used on her. At the end of the film, Matlida uses her powers to imitate a ghost that has come to haunt Miss Trunchbull, and scares her into running out of the classroom. The whole school rallies around and throws their lunch food at Miss Trunchbull until she is forced to leave (Matlida film). The audience sees the “good” now turn to evil in order to overcome the real evil. This may send mixed messages to children that it’s okay to retaliate and bully someone else.
This film and its messages are intended for an audience of children because the story centers on a young girl and her life situations. Although some of the circumstances contain adult subject matter, such as abuse and neglect, they display it in an over-the-top, fantastical way that makes it seem unrealistic. Children don’t really have telekinetic powers, therefore when watching the movie they can separate the story from reality. Lunsford writes in Everything’s an Argument, “you can slip humor into an argument to put readers at ease” (Lunsford 48). Director Danny DeVito plays with humor to appeal to the audience’s pathos and make light of these sad topics. The fact that the possible problems with the cliché message are done in such a comical way allows it to not overshadow the positive message. This film gets two tickets because the positive message still shines through all of the destructive messages.