The Mulan Effect

I want to take a brief pause from the usual topics I discuss on this blog to talk a little about pedagogy. I recently ran across an article by Luke Epplin in The Atlantic: “You Can Do Anything: Must Every Kids’ Movie Reinforce the Cult of Self-Esteem?“:

These films have been infected with what might be called the magic-feather syndrome. As with the titular character in Walt Disney’s 1943 animated feature Dumbo, these movies revolve around anthropomorphized outcasts who must overcome the restrictions of their societies or even species to realize their impossible dreams. Almost uniformly, the protagonists’ primary liability, such as Dumbo’s giant ears, eventually turns into their greatest strength.

But first the characters must relinquish the crutch of the magic feather–or, more generally, surmount their biggest fears–and believe that their greatness comes from within.

This sounds like a fine theme for upbeat children’s movies, but a steady diet of these films leads, perhaps, to the assumption that life really works this way, and that furthermore all narratives should be structured this way. I have noticed this effect in my students.

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Haruhi and Disaster Movies

Wherein Suzumiya Haruhi trolls an entire generation of zombie movie fans:

That worldview is so out of date. Martians invading, or biological weapons getting out and destroying humanity, those are just the things weak, suicidal people with a hatred for the world and a desire for catastrophe dream up. It’s just a bunch of people who don’t have the courage to commit suicide, so they want all of humanity to die.

(涼宮ハルヒの驚愕(後)kindle loc. 649)

Wow Haruhi, tell us how you really feel…

Final Fantasy VII as Metafiction

I already wrote a post about Final Fantasy VII, but there is another part of that narrative that demands treatment; its metafictional aspects.

One of the more interesting portions of the narrative is the revelation that the protagonist, Cloud, is not a member of an elite commando unit as he had claimed. It turns out that he is suffering from a form of self-delusion. In fact, he left his hometown hoping to join SOLDIER, but ended up failing to gain admittance. Too ashamed to return home, he becomes a common footsoldier, the weakest of various enemies inhabiting the world. Unable to reconcile his self-image with this reality, he creates a series of false memories. None of this, however, is apparent to the consumer at the outset.

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