Recently, authors Benjamin Hoff and Ernest Shepard have explored the philosophy of Winnie the Pooh. In similar vein, interesting concepts can be discerned behind the storyline of Monsters Inc. I have notched up a good few viewings with my three year old daughter! So without taking away the fun, here goes..
Firstly, at heart, it is an old fashioned pitting of good versus evil, the good guys Sulley and Mike, up against Randall and Waternoose, the villains of the piece. Interestingly, Waternoose, nominally the boss, is portrayed as manipulated by the evil Randall, ensnared by his own greed and desire for success, masked by an aura of `for the good of the company/city’. Reminded me of the attitudes of some of the commercial executives behind the current financial crisis.
With Randall, we seemingly have a more typical `baddie’. He is upfront, will stop at nothing to achieve his ends, and is shown as jealous of the honest success of Sulley. To begin with, the goal appears to oust Sulley as top scary-monster, but, chameleon-like as he is, a darker, more sinister Randall emerges. His real goal is the kidnap of children, and using his `scream extractor’ to effectively silence them, in order to power Monster City the quick, easy, and unethical way. The use of technology, without recourse to moral values, has a long history; however, our age is the age of nuclear weapons, spy satellites and cyber-crime, for example, the dark side of new technology.
Traditionally, children, like other minorities, have been denied a voice, a say in the issues that affect them. In the film, Boo, is a little girl with a difference. She is not scared of Sulley, and this ultimately begins a process that enables Sulley to see beyond the obvious, and expose the corruption that `goes all the way to Waternoose’ as the film puts it.
Empowerment is the modern name for the same process, enabling minorities to find a voice and learn how to use it. For all the corruption, greed and hypocrisy of this world over the last couple of hundred years, it is cheering to reflect on some historical examples. The abolition of the slave trade, the ending of racial segregation in countries such as the United States, and South Africa, the downfall of Nazi Germany and its repression of minorities, as well as legislation and organisations protecting children, also those with physical or learning disabilities.
At one point in the film, when all seems lost as Sulley and Mike are banished to the Himalayas, pragmatic Mike, berates Sulley the idealist, for risking everything over just one child. Sulley battles on, and ultimately succeeds in rescuing Boo, with Mikes help. Co-operation, not antagonism wins through. Only a story, but how many of these characters can you recognize in your world?