Through The Queue

Through the Queue: ParaNorman

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Let’s face it: Netflix has a Queue capacity of 500 titles for a reason. We browse, we see something interesting, we add it, then it’s promptly forgotten, until eventually the wealth of titles sitting there that we know we’re supposed to be interested in is just too overwhelming. If only there were someone willing to watch all those movies for us, both old and new, and let us know which ones were really worth our time. If only there were someone willing to go… Through the Queue.

This week’s choice: ParaNorman

ParaNorman_posterWas there ever a time in your life where others considered you a little strange? Was there ever a point where you just felt a bit misunderstood, or perhaps were judged a little too quickly? Have you ever had the frustrating experience of trying to explain yourself to another person, who absolutely insisted that they already knew all the answers? This is the life of Norman, a young boy who has the ability to speak to ghosts.

Norman is ostracized by his peers, and considered a little creepy even by his own family, who struggle to accept him but at the same time demand that he repress this aspect of his character that they find so unnerving. As the story unfolds, Norman is compelled by an estranged uncle to pursue his gift – in fact, if Norman doesn’t speak to the dead, then the town could see disastrous consequences. Supported by another pariah friend (the chubby kid) who accepts Norman for who he is, and believes wholeheartedly in what he says, Norman is thus driven towards a big responsibility.

Years ago the elders of the town persecuted a young girl, with a similar ability, and ever since then the town has suffered from her curse. While few believe in it, people such as Norman’s uncle have kept the curse annually at bay. But as the plot thickens it’s clear that this tale isn’t simply about a boy stopping undead from rising from their graves. What ParaNorman has to say about judging others is brought to bear in clever ways – at one particular point in the movie, where children board up a building to escape from zombies, an arm comes through a door and grabs one of them for a quick scare. But on the other end of that arm is no undead monster: it’s one of the village mob, in pursuit of Norman for the false belief that his speaking to the dead is what’s causing the calamity.

As far as the specifics of the conclusion go, we won’t spoil anything, but ultimately the question is posed as to what it means to be a bully, versus what it means to hold judgment in reservation. Ultimately, examining the cause of every point of strife in the movie leads to the realization that an abuse of power, or forcing others toward anything simply because it is what we personally believe, is the real source of immorality.

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Naturally, that message can be a little heavy, particularly for a younger audience, but that’s more or less the way of things – going back and watching movies we saw as children can lead to some surprising discoveries of things we just never picked up on before (heck, we even miss things as adults). Perhaps the most interesting part of this movie, and how apt its social commentary is, spawns from an otherwise innocuous comment made by one male character towards the end of the film who says, in a moment of ironic humor, that he has a boyfriend.

You’d think that in this day and age we’d have learned not to judge others so offhandedly, but some negative comments found in discussions of this movie across the internet shows us otherwise: Netflix has more than one single-star review based entirely on the existence of this gay character. To see that sort of dialogue arise from someone who has just watched the entire movie makes you want to shake your head – your children aren’t in any danger. They don’t understand every nuance, innuendo, or pick up on every single detail of a given film. Heck, we even miss things as adults. ParaNorman is about the wrongs of judging others. If you didn’t get that by watching it the first time, I’m not going to judge you for your beliefs. I’m just going to encourage you to put down the torch and pitchfork, and watch the movie again. Because if you didn’t walk away from the experience reflecting on the perils of being judgmental (or if you haven’t watched the movie at all yet) then I’m certain that you’re missing something.

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