Is it possible I’m the only person on earth to take her kids to the multiplex for the latest animated thing (in 3D, with music so loud you can’t make out the lyrics) and think of ancient Greece?
Apparently not, or not entirely, but let’s not digress.
Smallfoot. The idea didn’t thrill me but the kids wanted to see it so there I sat with my dorky goggles, waiting to have my senses assaulted. Did I mention it was loud?
Internet summary: “Migo is a friendly Yeti whose world gets turned upside down when he discovers something that he didn't know existed -- a human. He soon faces banishment from his snowy home when the rest of the villagers refuse to believe his fantastic tale. Hoping to prove them wrong, Migo embarks on an epic journey to find the mysterious creature that can put him back in good graces with his simple community.”
OK so Migo accidentally comes into contact with a human whose plane crashed nearby. The contact is brief because the human has a parachute on and it catches some wind, taking him away. (Let’s not discuss aerodynamics at this stage because it would ruin everything.) But the plane wreck is still there. Migo runs to his village to tell his friends what he saw, which of course they can’t believe, so he says come with me I’ll show you so they all run over to the spot where the plane no longer is because a superbly timed and incredibly surgical avalanche took it, and only it, away. (Let’s not discuss the science of avalanches because ditto.) Cue predictable disbelief from the masses and accusations that Migo is batshit crazy. He insists he’s telling the truth and gets banished for it. Then there’s a song and it’s really loud.
And right then and there, over the incredible din, I exclaim to my lovelies “It’s Plato’s cave! Can’t you see it?”
They could see it, of course. My tribe is familiar with the allegory because I may have mentioned it a few thousand times. Plus they know I’m a little obsessed with it. For good reasons, because it’s freaking everywhere.
Migo’s fellow yetis don’t believe anything exists outside their village, and they’re happy because of it. Knowledge scares them. Certainty reassures them. They need peace, quiet. Not curiosity and science. Questions are evil. They lead to thinking. And we can’t have that.
If you watch the trailer for the movie you’ll see that Migo manages somehow to make things right. But not without a great deal of trouble. It’s a lovely tale of persistence and courage (also decency and open-mindedness) overcoming fear and obtuse prejudice, unless that’s an unacceptable pleonasm.
I am delighted to see this kind of storyline in a movie like that, because I want all children - not just mine - to understand that closing your mind off to new scientific possibilities is not living. Also that believing in a god that gives you rules in stone that some self-appointed bigshot conveniently gets to interpret for you or that your universe tumbled out of a yak’s butt is, not to put too fine a point on it, incredibly stupid. Yes, there are good reasons to be cautious, and yes, there are also good reasons not to embrace mindless novelty just because it’s new, unless it’s peach maple pecan cashew-based ice cream. There are excellent lessons in our history (like, say, in Plato’s allegories), and the trick is to find a good balance between being open to new ideas and mindful of our best traditions.
Ideally with the volume turned down a bit.