Friday, September 6, 2013

Choose Your Monster

Back in the days of tight ponytails and early bedtimes, I used to tremble under my bed covers, truly believing that there were enormous, bona fide monsters in my closet, behind my dresser, or under my bed.  My ineffectual retaliatory tactics consisted of a cache of rolled up socks, a motley collection of hot-tempered Barbie and Ken dolls, and as a last resort, a neon green water pistol that I had permanently borrowed from the boy next door.  My exasperated dad, with his subtle rhythmic Swedish brogue had routinely coerced me to try counting sheep as a way to focus my attention onto something peaceful and non-threatening, and to my surprise, it did help…at least while he was there next to me.  But as soon as he left the room, my bounding, fluffy, cute sheep mutated into red-eyed, bloody-fanged, monster sheep that instead of hopping over my imaginary white fence, turned on me, snorting and flashing their glistening sharp horns as they headed straightway toward my bed.  I wanted desperately to leap off the bed and bolt to my parents’ room, but I couldn’t risk the attack from under the bed.  Defeated, I would bunch myself into a ball of fear, shaking into a fitful sleep that would hold me captive to my own monster-laden nightmares. 

What I didn’t know back then was that I had complete control over those invisible beasty creatures—that I could have at any moment banished them from their pseudo-existence.   

So this summer I went to see Pixar’s latest Monsters University and found it to be not as psychologically transforming as the original Monsters Inc., but overall better than I had expected.  Maybe it’s a genre thing, but somehow I missed the most important fact that this second film is a prequel to the original.  I erroneously thought it was about the next generation of the first dynamic monster duo: One-eyed Mike Wazowski and his burly blue furball of a friend, Sulley.  But no…this film takes us back to the early college days of the two barely scary monsters and reveals how they overcome their greatest fears of not being scary enough for the university as they ultimately band together to create their notorious Monsters Inc. enterprise.  This second film ends—somewhat awkwardly—where the first one begins.

Overall, the one redeeming factor that makes this a blogable film is not actually based upon anything connected to Wazowski or Sulley. Instead, it’s the diabolical Centipedess, Dean Abigail Hardscabble, who philosophically lectures to future graduates of her university that “Scariness is the true measure of a monster…” and that “…if you’re not scary, then what kind of a monster are you?”  But what this tightlipped, angry monster of a woman fails to mention is that the scare factor is only as scary as the victim allows it to be.  

As a grown up, I no longer cringe over the prospect of imaginary monsters, but I am grateful for what I have learned from them. They have taught me from that young, impressionable age that when the time would come for me to face my own fair share of human monsters—a mere handful of humans who have tried to wreak havoc upon my life for no good reason—that they have no power over me as long as my lack of fear prevails.  When I refuse to cower under their seemingly ominous presence, they ultimately become…pardon the expression but…sheepish.  It really is a matter of choice, and my choice is to stick my tongue out at these cowardly wolves and say, “Nanny-nanny boo-boo, you cannot scare me!”

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