I've noticed a trend in children's movies during the last few years. It seems that the big breakthrough that makes it possible for the hero/heroine to prevail is that they learn to "be themselves" and then maybe die for some greater good. That's it? Death is unpleasant but relatively easy. Whatever happened to putting forth some effort to be skillful knights, clever damsels, or even prettily-singing princesses and poor-but-honest shoeshine boys? Maybe I'm missing something as I observe these recent movies with half-minded attention from the kitchen, but they seem to be fixated on telling kids that they're awesome just for being themselves. Oh, and that heroes win by dying.
Now, I see nothing wrong with teaching children that they are of worth. They are. But awesomeness goes quite a bit beyond regular human worth. Most children truly haven't done anything to merit the label "awesome." Mozart, the four-year-old-concerto-composer, is notable for being an exception to this general rule.
It's really easy to be one's self (who else are we?) and rather boring on top of that, unless one thinks that one's self is just so cool. We can't all be that cool, or the word loses its meaning (i.e., excellent).
I love the movies where the children's heroes actually have to do something hard--besides just die in the face of doom that was impending anyway--to overcome the odds and give us a victory worth watching. For example, the Incredibles and Mulan showed great examples of effort, skill, and intelligence combined with sacrifice, and both movies can still bring me to tears. Flynn from Tangled is an acceptable hero because of how he turns away from his former selfish ways and cleverly figures out a way to save Rapunzel instead of himself. Anna from Frozen was a mediocre attempt at a heroine (she was already dying with no guarantee that Kristoff, whom she'd met even more recently than her weasel-fiance, could save her when she chose to run over to shield her sister), but judging from my Facebook feed, Elsa is the more popular character, and her character is an unfortunate victim, not a hero, so I'll probably not buy that film. Wreck-It Ralph was the primary inspiration for this blog post.