Next week I’ll get back to posting wedding photos, (all complaints about the length of my attention span can be directed to the blog’s title) but today I want to mention something I noticed about a movie.
I’ve found when working on something visual, it’s nice to have a movie in the background, preferably one I’ve seen a hundred times before but not so much that it drives me bonkers. The key here is that it needs to be a movie that I still really like, but know well enough that I won’t get sucked in. Kid’s movies are especially good for this, and one of the movies I use most often lately is Lilo & Stitch.
A not entirely surprising consequence of watching a movie over and over is that, even when you’re not particularly paying attention, you notice things that you never would have picked up on before. With Lilo & Stitch, on my 794th viewing or so, (ok probably not) I noticed that Mr. Bubbles is actually a really horrible social worker.
Mr. Bubbles (your knuckles say Cobra) doesn’t seem to have a very sensible approach to child welfare. His concerns make sense, but they don’t seem to be scaled correctly. For example, while it is perfectly reasonable to be worried about the fact that Nani lost her job, expecting her to find a new job in, I think it was a day? seems a bit ridiculous. That’s just setting her up for failure, and it’s clear that the system doesn’t want her to succeed, doesn’t want what is best for the child in question.
On the other hand, watching the movie, it’s not at all evident that staying with Nani is what’s best for Lilo. I mean, sure, it’s clear they love each other and, as Mr. Bubbles says, it’s obvious that Nani is trying to be a good guardian, but it’s also clear that she’s failing miserably. It’s not so much all the horrible things that happen, all the things that cause Mr. Bubbles to conclude that Nani can’t take care of Lilo, it’s more that these things occur because, you know, Lilo’s dog is actually an alien, and no one is watching Lilo enough to notice this.
I get that Hawaii is, at least in Disney-vision, supposed to be a safe enough place to give a kid some freedom, but at a guess, Lilo is meant to be somewhere between 4 and 6. Being told to wait for Nani after dance practice doesn’t seem out of the question, but being given the run of the island with her new dog does.
The “dog” is another issue that suggests Nani isn’t prepared to care for a child. This is an unknown animal which even the woman at the shelter is frightened of. It repeatedly shows signs of aggression, is larger than the child, but is left unsupervised with the child for hours. In a way, Lilo and Nani are fortunate that Stitch is an intelligent alien, even a fugitive, because Stitch is rational enough to realize that his safety is reliant on Lilo’s presence, and therefor health. Had Stitch actually been a dog displaying those behaviors, it’s likely the story would have ended in disaster.
In contrast, the things that make Mr. Bubbles conclude that Nani is incapable of caring for a child don’t seem quite fair. As I mentioned the job thing is a bit extreme, and the breaking point didn’t seem to make much sense at all.
Lilo, Nani and Stitch are knocked off their surf board by aliens. Lilo is dragged underwater by Stitch, but quickly pulled up by Nani, brought to shore, and checked for injury. She’s fine. Then Stitch is brought to shore, half drowned, and on recovery he freaks out and snaps at everyone standing near him (including Lilo). Mr Bubbles appears from out of the tree line (what’s he DOING there, anyway?) and says that it’s obviously not working out, but I’m having trouble working out exactly which part of this scene brought him to that conclusion. Was it that Lilo was pulled underwater, something beyond Nani’s control? That she was on a surfboard? That the frightened dog snapped at her? Any of those things could have happened in a perfectly healthy normal family.
The house burning down does seem like a better reason to decide Lilo is unsafe, but then at this point, Mr. Bubbles really ought to have figured out that there was something going on beyond an irresponsible guardian. Since he “saved the planet once” he’s obviously had experience with aliens. Enough experience maybe, to recognize the signs of a plasma cannon, or at the very least, to know the difference between a dog and a test-tube created alien monster? Just saying.
At the end of the movie, David is at least nominally part of the family, the two aliens hunting Stitch become honorary godparents, and the family receives galactic protection. I think even Mr. Bubbles pitches in a little bit, so Nani has the help she needs and Lilo is finally in a safe, healthy (if odd) living situation. I think it’s pretty clear though, that as things stood in the movie BEFORE Stitch arrived, Nani was probably unable to care for her younger sister, all best intentions aside. It just doesn’t seem like Mr. Bubbles finds the right reasons why this is so. Personally I think he should have stuck with the CIA.
Then again, if his instincts regarding child welfare are any indication, maybe there’s a good reason he retired.