A sucker for animation, Elise Bottle recently saw Home and it turns out that underneath the bright colours lies a big political agenda…one that leaves a lot to think about.
Okay, I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for cartoons.
Bet you’re all really surprised.
So of course, I just couldn’t pass up seeing Home, Dreamworks latest animated hit, and what can I say? It’s funny, heart-warming, exciting, it’s got solid writing and characterisation, and it’s a damn good movie. Also, there’s something a little extra going on underneath the surface of this brightly-coloured romp that, in my opinion, really makes it worth watching.
The movie, based on Adam Rex’s novel The True Meaning of Smekday, tells the story of Earth’s invasion by an alien race called the Boov. The Boov quickly declare themselves to be superior to the resident humans, forcibly relocating the entire population to Australia (Arizona in the original book), and claim the rest of the planet for themselves.
So, anyone out there getting the uncanny feeling that they’re heard this story somewhere before?
Human History 101: White Colonialism – Where Europeans arrive in a new land, decide it’s theirs and tell the locals to shove off. It’s a sad story that’s been repeated in just about every corner of the world, and to this day the various Aboriginal communities who were forced from their homes suffer the consequences, often living in poverty and separated from their identity and culture while the descendants of those Europeans continue to reap the benefits.
The parallels between Home and human history don’t end here. As part of their assertions of their supremacy over the human race, the Boov are instantly dismissive of any aspect of human culture that doesn’t fit with their worldview. In one scene, the heroes of the film are making a getaway in Paris when one of them makes a quick detour to save Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night from being eaten as a snack. What is an irreplaceable work of art to us is seen by the Boov as so unremarkable that its loss is of little consequence. Generations of racial minorities have been forced to endure the exact same idea about their own culture.
To add insult to injury, the Boov expect humanity to be grateful for all of this and are genuinely confused when humanity expresses frustration and anger in response. I can’t remember the source, but I recall a clip I saw online about a man telling a story about a slave who was freed after the American Civil War. The story ended with the slave doing something incredible – forgiving the man who had enslaved him. A man in the audience listing to the story then remarks, “For giving him food and shelter?”
What a butthole.
It’s an especially telling detail that the lead human role, Tip, is African-American, a minority with a long history of being forced to bear the brunt of racial prejudices. This detail originates from the original book – you can go to the Smekday website and see Alex’s drawings of Tip. While the Tip in the movie differs from her design in the original novel, there’s no denying their African ancestry. Considering that most white male writers would struggle to a cast black female as one of the main leads, it’s hard to think that Alex’s choice was not deliberate.
Even the film’s climax and resolution is all about cultural prejudices. I won’t spoil it for you, but the final confrontation with the film’s main antagonist is one of the best cinematic twists I’ve seen in a long time.
Okay, so in all seriousness I can’t really say for certain that Alex Rex had some big political agenda in mind when he wrote The True Meaning of Smekday and maybe I just read too much into things. Even so, intended or not, I love it when a film gives me something more to think about.
Go and see Home.
And maybe you’ll have more to think about, too.