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. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive
    Great Ghost of Gödel
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    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.

    • #31
  2. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever
    @PleatedPantsForever

    EJH – I’m probably getting into C of C territory here but, two hours?! Wish I were a superman like that ;)

    • #32
  3. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Generally I would agree. Monsters should be monstrous. On the other hand, it is just a kids movie, and it isn’t really the first to make light of these characters I believe Bugs Bunny was fooling around with a comical Dracula long before the makers of this movie were even born. The Adam’s Family and the Munsters also take a similar approach to these iconic characters and tropes. Frankly I find this far less annoying than the emo, glittering, underwear model  approach to monsters. Where they are all just so darn sexy and wounded, by their “intolerable” existence.

    • #33
  4. Augustine Member
    Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Valiuth:Generally I would agree. Monsters should be monstrous. On the other hand, it is just a kids movie, and it isn’t really the first to make light of these characters I believe Bugs Bunny was fooling around with a comical Dracula long before the makers of this movie were even born. The Adam’s Family and the Munsters also take a similar approach to these iconic characters and tropes. Frankly I find this far less annoying than the emo, glittering, underwear model approach to monsters. Where they are all just so darn sexy and wounded, by their “intolerable” existence.

    So many nice thoughts, so nicely put!

    • #34
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    TheRoyalFamily:

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

    This, however, is degenerate.

    Why can’t he be a nice dinosaur? Simba is a nice lion. What just cause he eats the flesh of other sentient talking animals he has to be bad? That is racist! Check your omnivorous privilege.

    • #35
  6. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    Valiuth:Frankly I find this far less annoying than the emo, glittering, underwear model approach to monsters. Where they are all just so darn sexy and wounded, by their “intolerable” existence.

    Frankenstein and The Wolfman, two of the best classic monster movies were about the intolerable nature of being a monster. Unlike the stories you’re alluding to, the protagonists of the old films lived in misery and there was no workaround, no redemption beyond death.

    As for the OP, I can do nothing but shrug. Hayao Miyazaki is revered for writing films without a clear villain or one who is sympathetic. I like it that way. People and conflicts are complex. If I had children, I’d show them Ghibli rather than Disney. Guess this is the point I should admit my favorite Miyazaki film is Laputa, which is unusually conventional in its good-vs-evil plot. (Apologies to those who are baffled by all these foreign things.)

    • #36
  7. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    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.)

    The most interesting part of Treasure Island, I found while listening to Maedel read it, was that Long John Silver was able to play the part of the honest man when he thought he had to in order to get the drop on his soon-to-be victims. I thought that was rather a good lesson for an eight-year-old to learn.

    • #37
  8. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    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.

    One of many very smart moments in a very smart movie.

    • #38
  9. Mate De Inactive
    Mate De
    @MateDe

    This is why I hated Frozen. Oh no Elsa froze the world and tried to kill her sister (three times) because she’s misunderstood. She’s been locked in her room for 10 years and has had to hide her powers from the world because they are dangerous and she can’t control them.
    I hate this movie with a passion because it is clear as day that they had to change the antagonist into a misunderstood protagonist with deep emotional problems so that Disney can have a hit song.

    • #39
  10. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Ok, let me bring to you the wisdom of Adam Sandler. I’m not sure why you’re so contemptuous of the guy’s writing. He’s not whoever is a good writer to you. He gets what people think & how they think about their lives. Americans have no more care than knowledge about Transylvania, but that’s not the point. Vampires stand for aristocracy. Family, immortality, & splendor wrapped into one terrifying thing. If you like, they are statues in motion. They have about them the sublime. The movie about treating monsters like men is about the high class & the low class, about the few & the many. It is a gentle remonstrance to the renewed American obsession with these things–have you seen your fellow countrymen, to say nothing of the rest of the world through untold billions at vampire stories & all these assorted things? That has to do with the fact that your young do not understand anything serious about their erotic longings. I’m not sure I’d say Francis Ford Coppola was much wiser, but at least it was obvious what Dracula was about in his movie. So it should be now. Maybe you have to think movies are serious to take Sandler seriously. But he is not mindless. He gets what’s wrong with your society much better than most people. Maybe even you could learn a few things. Making friends with monsters is a comic attempt to gentle the celebrity worship of American youth-

    • #40
  11. The Beard of Avon Inactive
    The Beard of Avon
    @TheBeardofAvon

    Speaking of the Disnification of stories, and since it’s the right time of year for it–

    If you haven’t read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in a while, I can almost guarantee it’s not the story you remember.

    • #41
  12. Sheila S. Inactive
    Sheila S.
    @SheilaS

    The Beard of Avon:Speaking of the Disnification of stories, and since it’s the right time of year for it–

    If you haven’t read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in a while, I can almost guarantee it’s not the story you remember.

    Yes, for Disney one must always have the original of their stories available to remind our young ones that while Disney likes to make happy, pretty stories with broad appeal, it’s important to remember that they are very loose interpretations of the originals.

    My eldest daughter loves Disney movies, and even as a married woman whose day job is an engineer, after a bad day she curls up on the couch with some form of cheesey snack to watch Tangled. (Veggie Tales is also a bad day favorite…) But she is also the first one to pipe up with the “real” story behind the movies.

    • #42
  13. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    I have somewhat more mixed feelings.  Life presents us with all kinds of conflicts that range from misunderstanding to confrontation with evil.  Part of any moral education is to be able to recognize them and know how to deal with them.

    Although I would agree that culturally, we spend too much time at the sundae bar and not enough with the entrees.

    • #43
  14. Solon JF Inactive
    Solon JF
    @Solon

    Pleated Pants Forever:Don’t worry about me; I pulled the old sneak in the water bottle full of wine trick again.

    I like you Pleated Pants Forever.

    Many of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are pretty harsh.  Disney and the film industry changes them and makes them more palatable.  They don’t realize that it’s better for kids to hear harsh truths.  The beauty is in transforming the painful facts of life, not imagining that everyone and everything is ‘nice’.

    • #44
  15. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Look, folks. The definitive take on Sandler is to be found here.

    • #45
  16. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Cat III: Hayao Miyazaki is revered for writing films without a clear villain or one who is sympathetic. I like it that way. People and conflicts are complex.

    It’s fine to have a movie without a clear villain. But what Disney has recently done with monsters is suggest that there is no evil, just misunderstanding and wrong judgement. I don’t know if that’s a good message to people. Additionally, in Miyazaki movies, the problems are very real and very difficult to solve. In the recent Disney fair they wrap everything up and put a bow on it.

    • #46
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Look, folks. The definitive take on Sandler is to be found here.

    That’s nothing. This is my favorite conspiracy theory about Sandler.

    • #47
  18. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Personally I like this take on Sandler.

    • #48
  19. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Titus Techera:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Look, folks. The definitive take on Sandler is to be found here.

    That’s nothing. This is my favorite conspiracy theory about Sandler.

    You listen to a 25 minute podcast remarkably quickly. ;)

    • #49
  20. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Titus Techera:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Look, folks. The definitive take on Sandler is to be found here.

    That’s nothing. This is my favorite conspiracy theory about Sandler.

    You listen to a 25 minute podcast remarkably quickly. ;)

    I didn’t listen to the podcast. I read through the headlines. It has the charm of a conspiracy theories for celebrities about it. Do you recommend the podcast?

    • #50
  21. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Titus Techera: I didn’t listen to the podcast. I read through the headlines. It has the charm of a conspiracy theories for celebrities about it. Do you recommend the podcast?

    Heartily, with the disclosure that I’m a personal friend of the creator.

    Doorway is a brilliant riff on conspiracy theories. Fred covered it a few months back in TDS and I know Majestyk is a big fan as well.

    • #51
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