… Monsters, Inc.: Sully’s self-discovery.
Monsters, Inc. shows a monsters’ world where everything is pretty much the way it is in the human world – ordinary folk getting up and going to work, worrying about the energy crisis, trying to date pretty receptionists, and forgetting to file paperwork. Scaring children is just something they have to do, to harvest screams to fuel their city; they don’t do it out of malice. In fact, they believe that human children are toxic, and may actually be more afraid of them than the children are of the monsters.
But when Boo enters Monstropolis, Sully treats her as he would any child – he looks after her, he nurtures her, he honours her privacy, he tucks her in at night. When he thinks she’s been crushed by the trash compacter, he’s devastated. When she’s happy, he’s happy. And he keeps her safe.
As he struggles to return Boo to the human world, he finds himself railroaded into a training session, where he is obliged to “scare” the training dummy. Rushed, frustrated, and nervous, Sully turns with full scare-power and bellows at the training dummy, overloading the simulation technology and scaring the trainees as well. And there, in the corner, watching him in confused fear, is Boo – who runs away from a Sully she suddenly doesn’t recognize.
Sully watches the playback of his scare-moment – he watches his face on the film as he deliberately scares the dummy, and he sees what it does to Boo. In that instant, he sees what he is – what he shows to children every day – and that this persona he adopts at work is nothing like the person he would rather be. He decides to change, and he never scares another child again.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of the modern world – to become stressed by a host of things, to let ourselves get tired and grumpy, to take our frustrations out on the people around us, especially our children who have no way to mitigate the situation. Depending on how badly we deal with our stress, our children get to see a lesser us ranging from slightly absent to full-on directionless anger. They get to deal with the worst parts of the grown-up world, from the very people who are supposed to shield them from it. And we often tell ourselves we must do things this way because we are making a life for them – for the children who may not particularly think it’s a good life being made.
It’s easy to spend our lives pretending we’re doing it right, but at any moment we choose, we can play back that video-tape of our “work” face and see what we’re really giving the world. Sully could have made excuses to Boo, and told her to grow up and deal with it, and told himself that he was in the right, with a couple extra scares just to make the point about how “right” it is – but he chose to accept it, to apologize, and to change.
I hope, as I work to make a good life for my family, that I can look as honestly at myself as this cartoon character, and that I can be as brave and willing to change for the better as he is.