Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Monster House

As I mentioned earlier this week, I watched Monster House last Friday. I've been trying to formulate what troubles me about this movie to put into a blog post.

First, let me say, this post may contain spoilers, so if you want to see the movie and want to be surprised, you may not wish to read the post.

For the most part, I enjoyed the movie. I especially enjoyed it the most in retrospect when I understood a bit about the technology they used in the making of the movie. But there was something in the characterization of the monster and her demise that was frustrating.

The movie draws you in well. It starts with a mean neighbor who seems to be most sinister. He attacks and steals the toys of any children that dare to enter his lawn. It isn't until after the man is sent to the hospital after collapsing in his rage, that it becomes clear that something is wrong with the house.

At first, I imagined that the house had possessed him, and I suppose that it did. But 3 kids in the neighborhood get drawn, literally, into the house to find its "heart" so they can destroy it. They discover that the house has a physiology that is comparable to a human (mouth, teeth, stomach, uvula, etc).

In their search, they discover the remains of their neighbors obese wife buried in the basement. Her resting place almost a shrine. It's all very eery.

They are belched out of the house and meet, almost immediately, the returning neighbor. They confront him about his house, and he tells the story of how the house became the "monster."

You see, his wife was a side-show freak: the Fat Lady. She apparently lived in a cage and was the focus of ridicule and abuse by those who paid to view her. We know nothing about her previous life, but this seems to have so scarred her that she cannot tolerate any taunting or the intrusion into "her house" by children. Her husband, in trying to help her understand that the children are harmless and protect them from her rage, tries all her can to soothe her. To no avail. She is so angered, she looses her balance and falls into the cement that is the foundation of the house, thus becoming in essence the house.

Her husband spends the rest of his life chasing children away and stealing their things to reinforce that they are not welcome. But, now, in his short absence she, the house, has worked herself into a fury that cannot be controlled. He has abandoned her...he is also working towards her destruction because he realizes that once he is gone, he will be unable to save the children.

In the end, the house is destroyed so as to keep it from further destruction.

There are 2 things that bother me about this...the first is that the wife, portrayed as obese, is not imagined to have had any love or kindness in her life. She is an object of ridicule and this is as depthful as the creator can make her in the film. Now, I've talked about the experiences I've had from being fat, but there must be much more in order to warp a person's personality in the way in which this did.

The second piece that bothers me is that if I were to diagnose the house, I would use Borderline Personality Disorder to classify her symptoms. BPD is often the result of trauma of some kind during the formative years of life and can be incredibly destabilizing of relationships that that person attempts their whole life.

Being around folks with BPD is difficult and many, many people cannot tolerate the rollercoaster that results. I struggle with this in relationship with several of my patients (my upset from yesterday was from experiencing a borderline rage). It is challenging to find compassion for someone who causes such pain to you.

Folks with BPD, though, can get help. They need help often the most because they are such high risks for suicide and other self-harm behaviors. They torture themselves as often as others.

As a professional and a family member who has had to contend with BPD behaviors, it is frustrating to see that only option that this film holds for the monster is her complete destruction. She is unredeemable, and indeed no attempt is ever really tried to redeem her.

I may be making much ado about an animated movie, but this is what we are teaching our children. We are teaching them that there are some people in this world, perhaps even them, who may be considered too damaged for others to reach.

So, while I liked the animation and some of the effects, I didn't enjoy the message of the film at the closing credits.


Hyde said...

I LOVE that you diagnosed the house. That is the cutest thing ever! It sounds entertaining, although I think it would piss me off a bit...


P'tit-Loup said...

I might have to watch it for the animation, but you are right, here is one more indirect way in which women who do not fit the object ideal of the media are discredited as valuable human beings. I'm also curious as to whether or not I would agree with your diagnosis of borderline. (I probably would, but I'd like to check it out)

Aravis said...

I haven't been too interested in watching it, to be honest. Now, though, I think I'll do so at some point, keeping in mind what you've written here. It should make the movie more interesting...