Say hello to the bad guy

The movie Up, if you’ve never seen it, is a heartbreaking-turned-heartwarming story centered around the relationship between a young, quirky boy and an elderly, bitter but really sweet man. It features balloons and a flying house, funny animals, and the type of general silliness you typically find in animated kids films.

There is a scene in the movie when, angry and frustrated by the possibility of his home being destroyed by corporate interests, the old man hits a construction worker on the head and the construction worker begins to bleed. It is our oldest daughter’s favorite part.

Yes, in a movie filled with hijinks and, again, a flying house, the only scene that truly resonated with our daughter is the one scene that featured violence. This was disconcerting.

With each movie since, we’ve witnessed an increasing fascination with and, yikes, affection for, the bad guy. When we watched Bolt, she was enamored with “the man with the green eye.” During 101 Dalmatians she asked a thousand questions about Cruella de Ville’s background. Rudolph? Pfft. Since she was 2 it’s been called “The Abonimal Snowman Show.” And if the movie doesn’t feature a bad guy per se, our daughter identifies with the most tragic part of the movie. We watched the 1960s film Pollyanna not long ago, and her favorite part was when Pollyanna FALLS OUT OF A TREE AND ALMOST DIES.

We’ve been telling our parents about these things and they’ve laughingly attempted to quell our concerns with general statements about kids being kids. Even the team of various therapists we have at our disposal, though slightly perturbed by it all, agree that a childlike morbid curiosity is not all that uncommon. My wife and I, however, remain on guard against curiosity becoming obsession.

And so it was that we took our girls to see “Peter Pan” at Arizona Broadway Theatre a few weeks ago. Since ABT is dinner theater, our youngest had her head in a bowl of pasta and was not acutely aware a show was even happening. Our oldest watched with varying degrees of interest until the introduction of one particular character.

Science may dispute that eyes can physically light up, but our daughter’s eyes LIT UP at the sight of Captain Hook. I’m talking fixated. She was—I know Peter Pan’s arrogant naïveté can be a bit much, but c’mon—rooting for him.

After the show there was only one character she wanted to meet, and as chance would have it, Captain Hook was one of only two characters—his crocodile nemesis being the other—available for introductions and pictures.

Unsurprisingly, no child in the lobby wanted anything to do with the cap’n. Except one, that is. Our daughter blew through the sea of awestruck, standing-at-a-safe-distance children and stood before the captain, her captain, looking up as if a heavenly light were shining down on him. Even Captain Hook himself was taken aback, and, with a look that implied this had never happened before, stumbled as he said, “Hi! You, uh … you look like you want ... a hug?”

You didn’t have to tell her twice, and our daughter rushed to embrace her captain while the other children shielded their eyes in horror (and that included our youngest, who clutched tightly to my leg hoping her sister wouldn’t be forced to walk the plank). There might as well have been birds singing as they spun around in their joyous embrace while the Carpenter’s “Close To You” played on the speakers. She then held on to his hook hand while we snapped a few pictures.

My wife told her mom what happened shortly thereafter and my mother-in-law, after her brief chuckle was cut short when reality registered, said, “Oh no there’s something wrong with that. You gotta do something about that.”

At least we have the happy-go-luckiness of our youngest, who, when asked by my mother-in-law how she liked the show and if she preferred Peter Pan or Captain Hook, assured her the pasta was good.


Note: This column appears in the 9/11 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/12 issue of the Peoria Times.