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.