A Serious Post About Paranorman
Can I just say, first off, that 3D is unnecessary? All these cartoon movies can just be 3D without too much trouble (I think?) so they all have a 3D option, and the only reason we went to the 3D version is because the timing worked out better. But there were no, like, OMG THE THING IS COMING RIGHT AT ME moments. So what’s the point? And the glasses are uncomfortable. And I was wearing my glasses for seeing, which are large and statement-making, so I had to hold the 3D glasses in front of my regular glasses and it was very awkward! And eventually I just gave up and put the 3D glasses in the cup holder and it didn’t even make that much of a difference.
But otherwise the movie was pretty good! And there were a couple things in particular that I liked about it. The first was a joke at the end of the movie where you find out that one of the characters is gay. It was sort of a throwaway moment that elicited a bit of a chuckle from the mostly elementary-school-age audience, and I sort of loved that a kids movie could acknowledge the existence of homosexuality without it being A THING. Moments like that make me happy about the direction the country is going, that even with all the screaming bigots all over the place, being gay can be as commonplace as anything else.
The other thing I appreciated about the movie was that Norman (the main character, he sees ghosts) has a mom who looks like a mom! I think lots of cartoons default to presenting the female characters as either perfect smooth pretty things or gross comic fat things. But Norman’s mom is a nice mom, she’s very sweet, she is caring and mom-like in lots of ways, and she has a mom tummy and saggy cheeks and bags under her eyes. And she ends up looking comforting and kind and gentle! It reminds me of friends of mine who have had children and then come to love their soft fleshy arms. Because their kids can nuzzle into those nice mom arms and it makes them feel safe. And they don’t have to feel bad about not having the arms of a teenager, because fleshy arms can be what a woman’s body looks like, if that’s what it looks like. And it doesn’t make you a bad or gross person.
It sometimes seems silly to delve this deeply into a movie about zombies and witches, but this is where it all starts. Animated movies for children become a part of the culture on an elemental level because that’s the age when these kids are making decisions about what they believe is right and what is acceptable, and that will be with them forever. And that’s why I got upset when I saw The Muppets and the bad guy Muppets were darker-skinned (darker-felted?), urban versions of the regular Muppets. That sort of lazy racial coding is dangerous when it’s presented to children who haven’t developed their own opinions yet. And I want to applaud the people who made Paranorman for being conscious of the effect a children’s movie has on the culture at large and striving to work to make things even ever so slightly better. Of course, there were no characters of color at all in Paranorman, so it wasn’t some perfect thing, but whatever. We’re getting there.