Thursday, October 30, 2014

Finding Nemo

Whether we are conscious about it or not, the movies that we watch shape how we think about certain things and people. Many times the people writing movies have an agenda and slyly put their own ideas about certain people are situations. It is important that the audience is aware of this strategy so that they don’t automatically think that whatever the message of the story is right or wrong. This is especially important for children’s movies. Children very impressionable because many times they haven’t had first hand experience with things talked about in some of these movies. The messages in movies can be either good or bad. In children’s movies there is typically always a positive cliché message. However, what is not so obvious are the hidden negative messages that some of these movies include. One children’s movie that includes a negative message is Finding Nemo.

In the 2003 computer-animated film, Marlin, a paranoid clown fish in the Great Barrier Reef, is separated from his son Nemo as a diver captures him on his his first day of school.  Marlin, who usually does not leave more than two feet from his anemone, sets off on a journey to find his son. On his way he meets Dory, another fish, who suffers from memory less. The two of them go together on the search for Nemo. They go on and encounter various obstacles, like dangerous creatures in the sea, in order to rescue Nemo from a dentist office. Meanwhile, Nemo and the others in the tank at the office plot a way to escape.

This film includes a positive message to both children and parents. The message to children is that disobedience has consequences. Nemo was rebelling against his father’s orders and saw up by the boat. Nemo touched the boat with his after his fathers warning and suddenly got netted up by a diver. Through this story, children may learn that disobeying their parents may lead to trouble just as it did with Nemo. If Nemo would’ve listen to his father, he would have avoided the dangerous situation. The father, Marlin, was very protective over Nemo. A message that this film has that may be directed towards parents is not to be so overbearing. Nemo had been so smothered by the protection of his father that he just wanted to rebel. This film shows that when you smother you children too much, it may lead them to do exactly the opposite of what you tell them to do.

Even though this film has positive messages, there is a negative message hidden in there as well. Although it is not obvious to the average viewer and especially not to kids, this film presents that argument that humans are bad and are always the environment. We see the first example of this pretty early on in the film when the diver captures Nemo. This action is obviously showed as bad because Nemo becomes separated from his father. Another example of how humans are shown in a bad light in Finding Nemo is when Marlin is talking to the sharks. He says to them, “Humans, they think they know everything”.  The relationships between the animals are humans in this film can be interpreted as a way to focus in on the idea that animals should be left alone in their natural habitat without any interference by humans. The film uses the animal characters to position humans as a threat to the ocean and all of its inhabitants.

Overall, both the positive and negative messages portrayed in Finding Nemo were presented effectively. I would give this film 4 out of 5 stars because of its positive message that relates to kids as well as adults.

Despicable Me or Adoption PSA?

Despicable Me is an adorable story of a super-villain, striving for world domination, who is changed into a kind hearted hero after he adopts three adorable little girls as part of an evil. Despicable Me is said to have many underlying ideas, both positive and negative. Though these underlying themses are all recognizable, I find Despicable Me to be a very endearing story with an extremely positive theme that sheds light on a big issue in America.  

The negative underlying idea found in Despicable Me is very common and almost a trite idea in the children’s genre. This idea is the equation of extremely intelligent to evil.  This is shown very obviously by antagonist of the film, a very quirky and genius villain, Vector. The film shows him as being highly intellectual by the name they give him, “I'm applying for a villain loan. I go by the name of Vector. It's a mathematical term, represented by an arrow with both direction and magnitude. Vector! That's me, because I commit crimes with both direction and magnitude.” Vector is a term used in Physics and Calculus, which clearly equates him to genius while his plan to dominate the world shows his evil. The other way the film accredits evil to intelligence is through the main character, Gru. Gru is also a villain, who is also a genius. The film shows Gru from a young age aspiring to be an astronaut, and even at age ten was able to make prototypes of rockets, and then actually create those rockets. Both prototypes and rockets are very difficult to make and require an extreme amount knowledge and smarts. In essence, considering both of the evil characters of the story are also afflicted with brilliance, the children might take away the same idea.

But though the negative theme is easier to spot, the positive idea found in Despicable Me clearly wins out. The positive theme is also much less common but it is a very prevalent issue. In America there are over 100,000 children in foster care ( Despicable Me is an argument for adoption of children in foster care, especially in America. This positive argument is that adoption is a beautiful thing, and can bring many unexpected joys, and happiness to all parties involved. Gru starts the film as an evil villain whose only want is to steal the moon. As part of a plot to steal a shrink ray from his competition, Vector, Gru adopts three little girls from foster care. In the beginning Gru is clearly only using the girls, and plans to return them after they do their unknowing part. But as the story grows, Gru unexpectedly and very rapidly forms a clear bond with the little girls and truly begins to love them. He is playing dolls, and having tea parties with them, and is starting to become cheerful and encouraging and good and lose his evil wants. But as Gru begins to become happy from being a father to his “little kittens”, he unfocussed on his evil plot, and so the girls are returned. Not much longer after, Gru is stealing the moon, something that he has dreamed of since he was a little boy, yet he is again unhappy. He realizes that now, his happiness lies in his adopted daughter’s happiness. Not even his lifelong dream can bring him the joy that being an adoptive father can bring him. He even goes as far as to say that his “Three little kittens, changed his heart.” Adoption is not always considered as an option for American families, but Despicable Me is able to show the joys and betterment it can bring for both the orphans and the families who take them in as their own. It is truly endearing, and really brings a good light to an underpublicized issue. “Cinema can be a powerful source of moral persuasion” (Giannetti 4). The film brings awareness and being a film has innate power of persuasion. Though it is a children’s film, children cannot see it without their parents and the parents are the ones who would adopt. Despicable Me exemplifies to those parents that adoption can bring such happiness, and America needs more of it: adoption and compassion.

The good awareness for adoption is also able to negate the idea that intelligence is evil. Gru, who is extremely brilliant, ends up being a goodhearted, kind, and still very intelligent father of three beautiful adopted daughters. Since Gru is changed by his new family, but is still a genius, Gru now equates goodness to intelligence.
I love it when good beats out evil (but don’t we all), and cute fathers daughter interactions,  and I have also always planned to and thought very highly of I have to give Despicable Me all five pickles.


Gunnar Nystrom
Ms. Waggoner
Intermediate Composition
31 October 2014
Take a Risk
            Everyone dreams. It is natural for people to want more than they have and to dream about the things that they desire in life. Even from an early age, children are taught to dream; to be creative beyond what anyone would ever expect of them. Even the film industry has realized that people desire to dream and that we all have a craving for that which we cannot have.  The movie industry has included ideas concerning unrealistic dreams in all different kinds of movies, especially those suited and created for children. In the movie, Madagascar directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, the indication of following your dreams results in a life lesson for the viewers.
            Madagascar presents the mostly child-based audience with this experience of carpe diem, or “seize the day”. From early on we get the sense that the film is trying to teach a positive lesson, a lesson that encourages people to shoot for the stars. In one of the first scenes, Marty the zebra is being presented his birthday gifts by his friends in his cage at the New York Zoo. He is told to make a wish when he blows out the candle on his cake and he ends up wishing that he could go to the wild. His friends disagree and his closest friend, Alex the lion, decides to have a conversation with him telling him how great the zoo treats them. But Marty just continues to look at the wall mural behind his cage depicting an African savannah with zebra running through the long grasses. When his friends wake up the next morning, they realize that he’s gone. Marty wanted to leave because he has dreamed of being in the African wilderness and being free. Marty actually came up with the idea when he realized that the penguins were trying to do the same thing. The penguins gathered spoons and popsicle sticks and tried to dig a hole to Antarctica where they heard they would be able to be free. Alex and the rest of Marty’s friends decide to go after him. When Gloria the hippo charges through a brick wall, two monkeys come into the scene and spontaneously decide to follow. They have this interesting goal of throwing poo at some Tom Wolf character. In a sense, many of the animals have decided to make their dreams become a reality and ultimately “seize the day”.  
            In addition, when the animals are shipped and abandoned on Madagascar, they meet the leader of the lemurs, King Julian. When King Julian sees them he states that he has a plan and that the lemurs can use the so-called “New York Giants” to protect them from the fossa, a group of predatory felines. King Julian, while incredibly clumsy, has taken an impulsive advantage over the situation in order to better himself and the other lemurs. According to Andrea Lunsford in her book, Everything’s an Argument, the audiences will often “naturally judge the credibility of arguments in part by how stylishly the case is made” (Lunsford 111). The film stylishly conveys its argument through its comical genre. As a comedy, Madagascar is able to provide its message through a clever and almost covert manner as a result of its constant humor.  Interestingly though, while this movie is directed at a child dominated audience, the humor is still considered witty to the adult population. This allows the film’s positive message of seizing the day to reach more of a general population, making it even more effective. However, the movie does not just convey a positive message, it also sneaks in a more negative connotation.
            Throughout the movie, we get this sense of the wilderness as a bad place to be and how the zoo represents what is safe and understood. While the counterargument can be made that by the end of the movie the zoo animals like the wilderness, they still decide to return home to the zoo. We get this sense that animals do not belong in the wilderness, but actually belong in the zoo for us to see. At the beginning it even shows the zoo animals being pampered in their cages and fed a variety of different delicacies. While the movie does a surprisingly great job of presenting this issue, the issue itself is made very cautiously and secretively so it’s incredibly hard to pick up on. An attractive point to consider is how the audience is just a bunch of listeners, and “listeners remember beginnings and endings the best” (Lunsford 472). At the end of the movie while Alex is talking to the other animals he creates a spontaneous suggestion explaining how they should visit some other places on the way home and take a little vacation. This completes the film’s lesson of seizing the day and really sums everything up. The audience finally starts to realize what the movie is trying to teach them and how they should continue to follow their imaginations.
            As a result, the positive lesson is much more effective and easily noticed when compared to the negative message. The positive message of carpe diem is seen through a variety of sources and scenes throughout the film whereas the negative lesson is rarely included. In the end, I would give this movie five pickles for its effectiveness at conveying a positive message and ultimately a positive movie-watching experience. It makes you think that when an opportunity presents itself, maybe you should just take the hint. Take a chance and just go with it.

The Fur and the Hunter


          The Fox and the Hound, a movie loved by children from the 1980s and on, and personally my favorite movie as a child. This movie tells a beautiful story about two kids (the fox and the hound) that became best friends before they knew that they were not allowed to be. They were forced apart because society says that the hound is only allowed to hunt the fox, they cannot be friends. Copper (hound) left to go learn to hunt and when he came back he warned Todd (fox) that they could not be friends anymore because of these allegations made by society. It hurt, but what hurt more is when Copper actually ended up attempting to hunt down Todd. But, when Copper was in trouble with a bear, Todd showed that friendship triumphs all. And that is the message that we are sending to little kids. We are telling them that keeping these life long friendships and developing relationships is one of the most important things they could ever do (Side note: as a communication major this is actually scientifically proven to be true).
          Now that I am grown up, I can clearly see that this movie also implicates the issue of race into it. Although the 1980s are not known entirely as being a huge time for racial movements, it was still a delicate time for race and racial issues. African American’s still did not have equal rights (in fact, they still do not to this day) and this movie was trying to release the message to kids that while friendships are important, it is even more important to drop past discriminations of what society is telling you and be friends with everyone despite race. This message clearly went over the heads of children—I didn’t get it until this year—because it is one that is very profound. But, maybe in this case Disney was not trying to reach the children with this message? Disney could have been attempting to reach the parents because after all they are our society. Our thoughts and actions and views come directly from them. So, it’s very possible that Disney is reaching out to our parents and saying that controlling our intimate relationships because of race, or because of society’s thoughts on race, is wrong.
          But then there is the issue of Animal Rights in the movie. First, Todd’s mother was shot and killed by a hunter in the beginning of the movie. Next, Todd was shot at multiple times by their neighbor. After that, Copper and Chief were both tied up to barrels and left outside all day everyday (which I am completely against because pets are family). Then, his owner kept Todd inside and he is a wild animal so that is cruelty, and after that Todd was driven out to an animal reserve where he was dropped off. Todd has been babied by this owner his whole life, and in reality if he was just dropped off in the wild he would essentially be left to die. And the list goes on and on with an inclusion of more gun firing, actual fire, and bear traps. It is hard to “understand how people can watch these cute characters…suffer in real-life situations, and then continue to partake in the cruelty,” (Lauritsen, “Do Disney Movies Have an Animal Rights Agenda?”) but how can they not continue to partake in the cruelty? Disney never clearly tells that the animals’ rights in this movie were in question. I know that it is wrong, and most people with hearts and a love for animals know its wrong, but there is always the outlier that does not see how this is wrong. People like Michael Smith who states “the animal rights movement is based on a fundamentally wrong premise – that animals are basically the same as people – its recommendations and demands should be ignored” (Lauritsen, “Do Disney Movies Have an Animal Rights Agenda?”). That is the down fall to this movie, it shows that animals have feelings towards each other and can be friends, but it never actually shows that animals are capable of being family to the hunter, they are just tools, objects, and fur.


Life In The Day Of A Bug

Life In The Day Of A Bug
A Bug’s Life is a children’s movie that shows the faults and adventures of a small ant named Flik.  Flik ultimately saves the colony from the grasshoppers with the help of a group of circus bugs.  This movie presents two different arguments to the public.  The negative message is government taxes too high.  They are taking away the incomes of the hard working middle class.  On the flip side, the positive message is the stand up for yourself and friends when it comes to bullying.  This is a problem in our society today that can only be fixed by the kids then it is happening to or witnesses. 
The ants work all year to store up enough food for the grasshoppers to just come and eat it all.  Once this happens, there is barely any food left for the ants themselves to eat.  At the beginning of the movie, the only ant that finds this to not be acceptable is Flik.  Flik then risks his life to find a solution to this problem.  When relating this to the government and taxes you can see that the middle class works too hard for 25% of their income to be taken away. Lunsford says, “providing appropriate evidence ought to become a habit when writing an argument” (Lunsford 74).  All the facts are there, and the facts are that some families don’t make enough money to lose that much, which then makes it hard to support a family with children.  This argument is very prevalent in society today, creating all three of the big appeals.  Ethos comes from the credibility of the argument being debated about in elections throughout America.  Pathos is from the emotions this topic stirs.  People love their money, and seeing it taken away just like that can fire some people up.  And finally Logos; just like in A Bug’s Life, there are solutions to the problem. And the reasoning behind these solutions makes sense.  This argument was very effective for one huge reason; people love their money, or in the ants case, food.
At the end of the movie, the ants get more confident with themselves, with the help of the circus bugs, and finally stand up for themselves.  Princess Atta, who is making all the big decisions regarding the colony, is quoted saying, “You see Hopper, nature has a certain order.  The ants pick the food, the ants keep the food, and the grasshoppers leave!”  Hopper is the bully in the movie.  He forces the ants to pick food for him and his kind all spring, not giving the ants enough time to pick for themselves.  Princess Atta and her kind have been scarred of the grasshoppers their whole lives, but the turning point in the movie was when they finally stand up for themselves.  Bullying happens every day, to kids of all ages.  And how can something like this be stopped?  By the kids themselves take action.  A Bug’s Life encourages children of all ages to take a stand on bullying.  Logos is created again by the argument being apparent in society.  Emotions are easy to get going, especially with a topic that is behind the issues of so many teenagers in this generation.  And lastly, the Ethos is from the credible argument proving that this does happen, whether people chose to ignore it or not.  In the movie, this positive argument does a better job of presenting itself. As Lunsford quotes Bill Clinton saying, “Feel their pain”(Lunsford 44).  Viewers can feel the ants pain.  It is obvious that the ants are being bullied by the grasshoppers, and very clear that the ants finally take a stand for themselves. 

Both arguments that are presented in A Bug’s Life are prevalent in society, which is why the movie did so well in the box office and why if you bring it up to anyone around the age of 19, they will tell you they love the movie.  I am giving this movie a perfect five pickles because the arguments were clear and concise, with solutions to each.