Yes, Virginia, Monsters Do Want to Kill You

 

hotel transylvanisThe kids dragged me to the latest cartoon cinematic feature, Hotel Transylvania 2, last Friday. (Don’t worry about me; I pulled the old sneak in the water bottle full of wine trick again.) Luckily, I knew the level of quality I was getting into ahead of time as we had previewed Hotel Transylvania 1 at home a few days before going — how else are you going to follow the nuanced plotline of the sequel if you don’t watch the films in order?

Anyway, every once in a while between sips of Chianti, I’d pull out the earbuds reporting my podcast (Ricochet, of course) to get some idea of what was going on in the movie as my kids love to recap the show on the ride home. Aside from the obvious annoying stereotypes — when, oh, when will Hollywood finally leave the hardworking people of Transylvania alone? — I had deeper issues with is the overall plot of this children’s tale.

I’ll grudgingly give a spoiler alert now (if you honestly are in need of a spoiler alert in a film where Steve Buscemi plays a werewolf T-ball coach, we’ll get a drink since you need to get out even more than I do). But the basic gist of Hotel Transylvania 1 and 2 is that monsters and humans are all okay and have just been misunderstanding each other all these centuries.

The slacker and main human character – another issue of mine is it is near impossible to find a positive male role model in movies who is between 15 and 60 and does not wear pajamas and shoot lasers out of his eyes – falls in love with, marries, and has a kid with a young vampire lady. The vampire father-in-law has issues with his monster daughter having her family with a human, of course, and much predictable lame humor ensues, including a monster road trip to try and convert the grandson into a vampire.

Not that I’m too concerned that my kids will retain what they saw at Hotel Transylvania 2 beyond the next Skylanders level, but my issue with the message of these kids movies is they are indicating that all parties enter into situations in good faith and it is just our misunderstandings that cause conflict. Sorry, but no. Sometimes a zombie just wants to eat your brain because he wants your brain and it’s not because you misunderstand each other.

It seems the only place a true villain can be found anymore for kids is superhero movies where the only one capable of taking on the evildoer is some mutant or bionic man or moderate swing-state voter. Well, I’m sorry, but these things just don’t exist. Kids need to learn that there is true evil that cannot be reasoned with in this world and sometimes it takes seemingly ordinary people to stop it.

In my free time, I’m submitting a screenplay for Hotel Transylvania 3: One More Attempt to Milk this Sucker where the slacker son-in-law changes his ways, gets a job, and is forced to put a selfie stick through the heart of his vampire father-in-law in order to save the local townspeople. Wish me luck.

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  1. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    We are lacking good monsters and good villains aren’t we. Which is odd because the world is awash in evil.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Did you want to collaborate on the screenplay?

    • #2
  3. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever
    @PleatedPantsForever

    HC – that’s just it. One of the purposes of children’s fables is to teach a lesson. When you look at the classics it’s a lot about recognizing danger and evil. Now it’s all about how it’s really just a misunderstanding. The programing starts early.

    A – sure, but all I have so far is three bullet point ideas and an old shoebox with a mockup of a scene using my kid’s legos, though that is probably more than most screenwriters have

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    The real challenge is subverting their subversions without their noticing it.

    • #4
  5. David Sussman Contributor
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    Funny! I saw the first one, but fortunately my youngest is now too old for #2.

    I think there is a variant age factor here. By the time the kids get to teens, they seek out fear themselves. The popularity of Walking Dead or the local Halloween haunted house is geared toward the age set the enjoys being frightened.

    But when the kids were young, I didn’t need them to feel real fear or lose sleep. They will do enough of that once they’re old enough to understand the news.

    BTW: Love the idea of nipping away while podcasting Ricochet. Brilliant.

    • #5
  6. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever
    @PleatedPantsForever

    DS – thanks. My seven year old sometimes threatens to turn me in (I think he’s trying to blackmail me for a bigger icee at the theatre) but I’m not sure the 17 year olds working at the movie theater would care

    • #6
  7. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Go for it you guys. I read Grimms’ Fairy tales to my children and grandchildren. I sent Uncle Remus ‘n Brer Rabbit for my great grandchildren.

    • #7
  8. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    My heart sank when my nephew corrected me about his T-rex: “No, he’s a nice dinosaur.”

    • #8
  9. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    I still can’t make up my mind for the future.  SMOD2016 or Cthulhu?

    Arahant – Where have you been?

    • #9
  10. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Nice post.

    I thought you were referencing an address at the American Philosophical Association.  However, the internet suggests I was mistaken.

    • #10
  11. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    I don’t think my wife is pleased that I read books to my children in which there are bad guys who kill people. Really, really kill ’em dead. But I think it’s important for kids to know that there is evil and that good people fight it.

    • #11
  12. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    The Chronicles of Narnia (see my Avatar), which we read to our children, has real villains and real death. We also read our kids Treasure Island. (Monsters Inc. had cute monsters, but also real villains and monsters.)

    • #12
  13. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/204759/defense-monsters-jonah-goldberg

    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/06/opinion/la-oe-goldberg6-2010apr06

    Goldberg as always has beaten me to the important philosophical points. The whole telos of monsters is to warn human beings that they are capable of horrible things.

    So in response to monsters, humanity should always be wary of their innate sinfulness.

    I kinda want to write a disney story about a Japanese Ogre. An Oni, he wants to tear apart the weaker children who mercilessly make fun of him. But his adoptive Granfather always disdains his violent inclinations. For the Oni, his entire life he is tormented by humans and is always tempted to horrible violence but he never acts on it. His dear Grandfather dies, some other villains shows up and he defeats the bad guy and saves the town that hated him. The ending scene is him saying that he harbors feelings of ill will against the villagers who always did him wrong but he doesn’t act on it. He walks away into the sunset towards a greater purpose as tries to abandon the vicious ogre-like parts of his personality.

    But that has to deal with innate evil. It’s not politically correct anymore.

    • #13
  14. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    DrewInWisconsin:I don’t think my wife is pleased that I read books to my children in which there are bad guys who kill people. Really, really kill ‘em dead. But I think it’s important for kids to know that there is evil and that good people fight it.

    Do it while you can.  They are sanitizing all of the old classics.  I distinctly remember that when I was a kid, the first two pigs got eaten, and the ugly stepsisters cut off their toes trying to fit into the glass slippers.  Not any more.

    • #14
  15. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Eustace C. Scrubb:The Chronicles of Narnia (see my Avatar), which we read to our children, has real villains and real death. We also read our kids Treasure Island. (Monsters Inc. had cute monsters, but also real villains and monsters.)

    Right on!  Good stuff.

    And Tolkien.

    And that nice old abridged edition of George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin.

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Judge Mental: …and the ugly stepsisters cut off their toes trying to fit into the glass slippers.

    And the birds pecked their eyes out. Ah, Ashterolla!

    • #16
  17. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    [M]y issue with the message of these kids movies is they are indicating that all parties enter into situations in good faith and it is just our misunderstandings that cause conflict. Sorry, but no.

    This is one of the things I like so much about Dracula: the main characters are exceedingly — painfully — nice, naive Victorians who have to come to grips with the fact that they have encountered an unambiguously evil monster and that only they can destroy him.

    • #17
  18. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    [M]y issue with the message of these kids movies is they are indicating that all parties enter into situations in good faith and it is just our misunderstandings that cause conflict. Sorry, but no.

    This is one of the things I like so much about Dracula: the main characters are exceedingly — painfully — nice, naive Victorians who have to come to grips with the fact that they have encountered an ambiguously* evil monster and that only they can destroy him.

    *”unambiguously”?

    • #18
  19. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Seconding the Tolkien recommendation in this context. Well, pretty much any context.

    • #19
  20. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Yikes! Good catch, Augustine.

    • #20
  21. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Yikes! Good catch, Augustine.

    Need to get an editor to check that stuff for you Tom.  (stuff happens)

    • #21
  22. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Pleated Pants Forever: then please PM me the next time you’re in Chicago and we’ll get a drink as you need to get out even more than I do.

    You’re lucky this post went up AFTER I came up to Wrigley for a concert!

    • #22
  23. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Monster stories are meant to teach kids a healthy fear of animals and nature, too. I remember when my very young nephews grabbed a snake without knowing if it was venomous or not. When I was that age, my neighbor’s dog was killed by a snake… and that dog was bigger than I was.

    We say today that inhuman monsters aren’t real. But I think that kind of monster is just an animal that is big, dangerous, and mysterious. TV and internet have taken so much mystery out of life.

    My dad read us Jack London stories. Even weather can kill you.

    • #23
  24. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Aaron Miller: My dad read us Jack London stories. Even weather can kill you.

    Oh, I had forgotten about the Jack London books. I bought a lot of them for my grandsons, and just last Feb turned them over to my great grandsons.

    • #24
  25. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Kay of MT:

    Aaron Miller: My dad read us Jack London stories. Even weather can kill you.

    Oh, I had forgotten about the Jack London books. I bought a lot of them for my grandsons, and just last Feb turned them over to my great grandsons.

    Perfect just before bedtime. London is one of those authors who would cut his word count in half by including pictures.

    But I used to be an avid reader of Poe, so I guess I can’t complain about never-ending descriptions and tedious plots.

    • #25
  26. TheRoyalFamily Member
    TheRoyalFamily
    @TheRoyalFamily

    While I see the general point, and the general societal point, and haven’t seen this particular movie (and thus don’t know the themes as presented, etc), I don’t see the inherent problem with the movie as described. Sometimes a thing like this is just a fun inversion of the usual tropes. Again, I can’t speak to the quality of this particular film (and likely never will), so I don’t know if it was clever or even funny in any way, or just kids’ dreck, but there’s nothing wrong with misunderstandings. Not every piece of entertainment has to have a moral point, especially re: good vs. evil.

    Aaron Miller:My heart sank when my nephew corrected me about his T-rex: “No, he’s a nice dinosaur.”

    This, however, is degenerate.

    • #26
  27. Sheila S. Inactive
    Sheila S.
    @SheilaS

    We really enjoyed the dynamic between the father and daughter vampire in the first movie. He was a pretty good role model, I thought. Responsible, protective, loving, set limits, loved her mother and kept her memory close, and willing to learn to let his daughter grow and become her own woman without destroying their relationship in the process. Haven’t seen the second. Having said that, yes, there’s an obvious attempt to push an all inclusive societal agenda in there. I don’t necessarily think it’s a terrible thing for kids to learn that it is wrong to reject someone who’s different simply because they’re different, as long as there’s context.

    I can’t bring myself to take it too seriously for my kiddos when we do make sure they are exposed to the other stuff, too. My youngest daughter and I are steadily making our way through The Lord of the Rings, after having read The Chronicles of Narnia last school year. My daughters and I are also kind of true crime buffs (the older kids, not the 12yo), and if that doesn’t make you aware that not everyone has your best interests at heart I don’t know what will.

    Parents who care about their kids being conditioned by Hollywood and the media make an attempt to counter it. Parents who don’t are probably lost causes anyway.

    • #27
  28. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Son: Daddy… Th..th..there’s a monster under the bed.

    Me: Damned straight. But he’s on a locked chain. And if you walk in on your mother and me any time in the next two hours I’m slipping him the key. Now close your eyes and GO TO SLEEP.

    • #28
  29. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    EJHill: Now close your eyes and GO TO SLEEP.

    You are horrible! why don’t you just lock your bedroom door? :-)

    • #29
  30. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    Every time my dad found out some classic was being dusted off and shown in a real theater, he’d take us to see it, just in case the opportunity never came up again.

    So the first two movies I can remember seeing with him on the “big screen” (Dad sadly maintains that we don’t really know what a “big screen” is) were Disney’s Snow White, and Dracula, with Bela Lugosi.   (For years, they blended together into a bizarre sort of double feature in my mind, but he insists that was not the case.)

    Now and then, my mom would have misgivings about some of the films he’d let us watch but she’d usually allow it, under one condition:  If any nightmares resulted, dad was the official first responder on comfort duty.

    And that is how my father ended up having to sleep on the floor of the family room with my sister and me, the night he let us watch the Late Show, Premature Burial, which left us too scared to go upstairs and sleep alone.  (No lasting emotional scars, btw.   Within weeks, I was re-purposing the plot into a great ghost story at summer camp.)

    • #30
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