Monday, March 24, 2008

A Subtle Shift In Perspective-- Is Horton Anti-Homeschooling?

I received this email from a list I am on this morning. After reading it, I felt angry about the movie and was ready to get on my blog and tell you all not to see it! Here is what I read about Horton Hears A Who:

I would like to spare you all the onslaught and ask you not to spend your dollars supporting the new Fox movie "Horton Hears A Who." I've never experienced such a blaring underlying message DIRECTLY against homeschoolers from start to finish as in this movie!!
The antagonist, Kangaroo, is very early on identified as a homeschool mom who "pouch schools so they don't wrongly influence her joey". She is portrayed throughout the entire movie as a gossiping, intolerant, fear-inducing rabble-rouser who is stirring up trouble in the jungle & persecuting, to the point of hiring a hit-man, "poor Horton", who is portrayed as the tolerant, fun-loving, faithful, believing in all things, TEACHER of the rest of the jungle children. (Horton is the public school.)

This Kangaroo is found throughout the movie spouting off many of the things we as homeschoolers stand for but twisted in a very negative light. By the end of the movie, she has persecuted Horton into a Ancient Roman days-like scene where she has incited a mob, and they are forcefully w/sticks and ropes forcing Horton into a cage and are going to boil the "Whos in a vat of boiling oil if Horton doesn't recant his belief in the Whos' existence". It all ends when the Kangaroo loses the heart of her joey, and he rebels against her saving the Whos. In the very end, they are all happy and singing together when the Kangaroo gives up her beliefs and joins the group.

Please do not spend your money supporting this movie where the producers have taken everything we stand for and painted us as the bad guy persecuting them!!

And then I read this response, which identifies the same exact elements in the movie as the above, but from a different, more positive perspective:

I just wanted to add some light to the discussion since we did see the movie this weekend before hearing about any controversy. I thought, overall, it was a really good movie that had what I thought could be some very Christian themes. The story was pretty true to the book, which is one of my favorites. Horton is the only one who can hear (because of his big ears) the miniscule people on the speck of dust he encounters, and he makes it his mission to protect them. No sooner does Horton begin believing in something he can't see, then the evil opposition has organized behind the villain Kangaroo to snuff out his silly speck and hence his belief. It certainly speaks to the kind of dilemma most of us as believers find ourselves in and (on a cartoon level) the kind of mindless hate and persecution that can occur because of it. Without giving away the story, Horton shows what faithfulness, friendship, and persistence, looks like. Other characters in Whoville (the speck town) exhibit similar good qualities.

As far as the homeschooling issue, I think the initial implication felt like a "jab" at homeschooling, but honestly, it was referred to as "pouch-schooling" not homeschooling. The joey kangaroo never left the pouch and was shoved back inside any time he exhibited anything like curiosity or initiative. This is the exact opposite of what most homeschoolers look like; it is either a blatantly ignorant portrayal of all of us, or a characterization of what the mainstream fears is a small twisted segment of our group. I definitely did not equate what Horton was doing with the children as a promotion of "public school"! I didn't even think of this until I read that excerpt in the review. His character took the children out in the world to learn about real life and encourage their interests. In my mind Horton was the homeschooler and the Kangaroo was the one forced to stay inside all day (sounds like ps!) In my opinion, this part of the movie is a good segue to discuss the fear and misinformation surrounding homeschooling with our kids and those around us who may not get it. It was hard to be offended at the implication when it looked nothing like our family. My kids didn't even mention it, but after hearing this controversy, I may discuss it with them.

I think we can all learn from this second perspective. Society expects Christians to get up in arms and announce boycotts and write angry letters. What if we showed them our love instead? What if we looked past that initial urge to get angry and fight back and found instead a way to be encouraging?

Let's face it-- Horton Hears A Who was the number one movie for at least two weekends running. They aren't going to go broke if we don't see it. So, instead of getting angry and looking for ways to ruin them-- let's look for the good in it, as this second person wrote about. Let's see the spiritual overtones in this movie as this woman saw-- because glimpses of God's Truth are everywhere, if we learn to look for them.

I am not saying to keep silent when something is blatantly wrong. And I am not saying to accept lies as Truth. But I am saying that sometimes we can overreact-- and our actions can convince people that they don't want to buy what we're selling. I know too many people that have made their mind up about Christianity because of mindsets like the first letter. I am glad there are people who see life as the second person does-- looking for the good instead of the bad. Believing the best and not casting the first stone.
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Adventures In Babywearing said...

MaryBeth, thank you for posting this. I hadn't heard much about the movie yet and still want to see it. And I think this very topic can be applied to many, many things other than homeschooling... very relevant today!


TheNormalMiddle said...

We went to see it yesterday and I must have been munching on my popcorn too hard because I never heard the "line" in question.

In all, it was a very cute movie.

Oh well, I'm always a day late and a dollar short on controversy these days. :)

Beth said...

My whole family went to see it last week, and my kids giggled through it. I'm not a homeschooler, but "real-world" controversy never crossed my mind. I took it for what I hope the producers designed it for: entertainment.

All this hype reeks of a "gossip" of sorts to me. Don't they do this with every kid's movie these days? Remember Harry Potter, The Golden Compass? Who stirs up this stuff?

I prefer the positive perspective about Horton :-)

MaryLu said...

Very good perspective, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. My daughter went to see it with a homeschooling neighbor and her family, I'm interested to hear what my neighbor thought of it, she homeschools her 6 kids. Interesting.

mazmagi said...

It's too bad that this controversy arose because Dr. Seus would not like it if his "Horton hears a Who" was a subtle or any kind of put down of homeschoolers! Horton is one of my favorite Dr. Seus characters! I did "Horton Hatches an egg" for characterization in speech class in high school! I homeschooled and was a coop homeschooler advisor and teacher. It's better to overlook the negative and be positive as you showed! We should be aware of what's being said and not turn a blind eye but I'd have to agree that this should just be enjoyed as entertainment and not a critique on Homeschooling! Yeah for Horton, perhaps he represents a very perceptive, educated listener!

Amy B said...

We went see it on Wednesday night and frankly I didn't see it at all as a put down to homeschoolers. I did hear the line in question about "pouch schooling" but I think it was greatly taken out of context.

As Christians we need to pick our battles. Why are we arguing over a positive kid's movie when there are children in our neighborhood who would give anything for someone to reach out to them and take them to see a movie or even offer them a home baked cookie? It seems silly to me.

I completely agree with you, Marybeth. We need to show love instead of always being on the attack.

Great post!

Cindy-Still His Girl said...

I passed the link to this post on to a friend. :) Well written!

EEEEMommy said...

I saw the movie this weekend and I definitely wouldn't advocate a boycott, but I was still offended.

I wasn't aware of any of this before I saw it and while the initial pouch-schooling line was amusing, the ensuing characterization was enough to make me regret the fact that I'd spent so much money to sit and watch a movie that mocks what I do for a living and perpetrates an unfair and unjust stereotype.

I wish someone had warned me because I would have waited until it was on DVD to watch it. Overall, I think it was a shame because there were so many positive elements to it, but being a homeschool mom myself, the ugly protrayal by the kangeroo detracted from the rest of the movie and has irritated me since.

I didn't walk into the theatre hoping to find fault and searching for the negative elements, but when they're blatantly thrown in your face at such a high ticket price, they're kinda hard to overlook. Perhaps the other commenters who didn't have this same reaction haven't been bombarded by critique and questions about socialization for years. I've been dilligent in showing love and putting forth a positive portayal of a homeschool mom/family, and movies like this one further the negative stereotypes and undermine my efforts.