Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nice Robot, Don't Hurt Me.

One of Viri's favorite movies is now one of mine. It's one that most of you have probably seen, 1999's The Iron Giant. I really can't say enough good things about this film, the second movie about a huge sentient being that I saw this week, and the far less strange one. (I highly recommend the strange one too. Just don't see it with kids.)

The movie, in case you haven't seen it, is about a giant robot who lands in Maine, and is befriended by a little boy. A strange CIA type guy is trying to find the robot and destroy it, and the boy and his beatnik friend help the robot hide. It's an amazing story, exploring themes of love and friendship and humanity, and it's cleverly (or bizarrely, I guess, depending on your perspective) packaged into this kids' movie about a big robot. (As Viri insists, a "nice robot.")

It's one of the rare films that makes me teary-eyed every time I watch it. The basic message, and one that my three year old quickly got, is that you are who you choose to be. Not who you pretend to be, or who others say you need to be, but who you put work and energy and time into being. It's a cool message, and one that director Brad Bird would slip into his big Pixar movie as well. It's a nice message for the intended audience, I think. As a parent of young children, it's a nice message for your kids to see. They are just entering that age when they will be defined by their friends, their social status, and any number of other things. It's good to be reminded, and to remind them, that your choices define you. Our free will allows us to pick up or set aside options, and to take charge of the process of becoming. Part of that, of course, is choosing friends and social circles and other things that will define us. Part of it is realizing those things are part of our world, and learning to love what there is to be loved.

Already my son is learning that we grow, and change, and we can take charge of that process. We can't control every element of a situation, or even a lot of the elements; but we can make choices that matter. It is choosing that makes you a nice robot, or a bad robot. Not exactly how Viri would put it, but the basic sentiment remains. (Viri said things like this, and basically summarized the movie: "I'm a nice robot! I'm big! Don't hurt me! I'm mad, I'll shoot you with my laser cannon! I'm going home now. I help people. Robot's going to get fixed? All better? Good.)

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