Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Escaping Abuse by Means of a Giant Peach

       Growing up watching James and the Giant Peach, I was always aware of the gloomy feeling and darkness that outlined the film, but I never knew the message beyond the surface level excitement of a giant peach that travels. As a child this movie brings about such a surface level moral dilemma, James does not like his home and therefore takes a giant peach for a ride with some friendly bugs and enjoys the adventure. Kids just get the basic idea that James does not enjoy life at home and looks to others for some sign of hope. Kids just learn that they can dream and reach those dreams with the help of others. Beyond this child-like thinking, the true significance becomes apparent as a more mature viewer looks for deeper meaning in a movie. James is an orphaned child that is abused by his wicked aunts. Throughout the film I was continually disgusted by the harsh treatment they gave the young boy. From threatening words such as “don’t dream of leaving […] no one will tolerate a worthless person like you” and their continual “shut up”s, to the physical treatment we only hear about. The aunts constantly voice the threat of hitting, spanking, and starving James. Even the idea of death from the “Rhino” that killed his parents is constantly thrown out as a way to keep the boy inline. From the first five minutes of the movie it is clear of the harsh treatment of the boy, so why put this all in a children's movie? 
Ronald Dahl, the author of James and the Giant Peach wrote many great novels that have now been transformed into Disney movies. He wrote this book in the late 1950’s with it being published in 1961. This happens to be shortly after the three year long Korean War. This war orphaned many children who's fathers and/or mothers had died in the war. In the late 50’s we saw the first real push of adoption in the United States. Without people feeling a need to adopt, these orphans would have been kept in unstable and often bad conditions for who knows how long. Dahl used this children's story to send a hidden message of pathos to parents who read the book to their children. It was a perfect situation, the parent obviously loved children because of their own, and here they can have this subtle idea of orphans implanted into their minds. Once people were revealed to the realistic treatment of many orphans, they would be much more likely to be emotionally and morally driven to adopt. In this situation it would be helping the less fortunate and doing a good deed. The creative use of what seemed like a simple backdrop for the huge peach adventure James goes on, was actually the true meaning of this movie.
As the movie continues, James is showed in brighter colors, cleaner looking, sounding more cheerful, and even laughing. The bugs that surround him are more family than he has had since before the death of his parents. The theme of the bugs as family is continually brought up with the final impactful moment being the newspaper showed right before the credits. The headline read, “Family Celebration!” with a picture of the bugs and James with a giant smile on his face. Here he looks so incredibly joyous and well taken care of. This final moment is creating a logical reason in parent’s minds to adopt and save these children from the harsh treatment they most likely will receive.
       Because of Dahl’s incredible ability to fit in such a harsh and often avoided topic into a children's movie while still keeping it appropriate for kids, I give him five pickles. His credibility he has built up from other novels and movies is reason enough to see this film or read the book. Once trapped inside the story, the older audience is emotionally and morally driven to soak in the underlying message this tale tells. While it keeping it in the background through the entirety of the movie, Dahl lets the movie still be child focused because of the sheer innocence of the overall idea of James, his peach, his new bug friends and the whimsical adventure they go on.

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