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“ParaNorman” a kids’ movie with a message of tolerance

Norman’s family does not approve of his paranormal companions. Photo credit MCT Campus

At first glance, “ParaNorman” may seem like just another PG film attempting to add ghosts and ghouls to drive older audiences to the box office. Kids’ movies that involve creepy towns, eerie characters and dark plots have been done before, but none are quite like “ParaNorman.”

This stop-motion movie produced by the creators of Coraline sends a hidden message of acceptance, anti-bullying and sexuality.

Norman Babcock is an outsider in his community of Blithe Hollow. His best friend is the ghost of his dead grandmother. The townspeople he gets along with are floating souls of dead neighbors. Both family and community members do not understand Norman or believe he can see the deceased. Parents prohibit their children from playing with Norman, and, at school, bullies write profanities on his locker daily. Everyone, except for his overweight, redheaded friend Neil, who is also bullied at school, considers him a freak.

Norman’s father is particularly intolerant of his son’s ability to channel the dead and makes comments to Norman asking, “Can’t you be like other kids your age?” He often seems embarrassed by his son’s abilities. In a scene where Norman ruins the school play due to an incident in which he channels the dead, he says to his parents, “This is so unfair. I wish everyone could see what I see. I didn’t ask to be born this way.”

This quote conveys the hidden plot within the movie. Children and young adults are often ostracized and picked on by both their parents and peers at school for being who they are. People of different races, religions and sexual preferences are all targets for bullies. The creators of “ParaNorman” had this in mind, and they used goblins and ghouls to help children get a better understanding of how these people feel everyday. While Norman is tormented by the people around him, he remains accepting and understanding of others.

“ParaNorman” is also the first animated children’s film to have a gay character. In a comedic scene toward the end of the movie, Neil’s older and masculine-jock brother, Chad, casually reveals he has a boyfriend. The other characters barely react to the news and the film moves on.

This may be the part where children turn to their parent and ask, “How come that boy has a boyfriend?” or when parents throw their hands over their child’s ears in shock, but it is necessary for kids to hear this at a young age. The younger they are exposed to people who have a lifestyle different than their own, perhaps  they will be more accepting as they get older. The characters do not react to Chad’s news which shows kids that homosexuality is not as strange as they thought.

In the final scenes of the film, Norman performs an act of heroism and becomes accepted by the townspeople who doubted him the most. It is hard to name an animated movie that does not end this way. Though the conclusion is anticipated before even watching the trailer, it has a deeper meaning for “ParaNorman.” It helps children to understand the important lesson of acceptance. Whether someone is a different skin color, religion or sexuality (or can talk to ghosts), they deserve to be treated the same as everyone else.

The hidden messages of “ParaNorman” are not only meant for young people; this is a movie that people of all ages should take the time to see. The film’s messages may be controversial, but they are necessary in today’s social climate, especially if we want to foster acceptance among younger generations.

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