Last weekend, for the first time since it was in the cinema I watched the Tom Hanks movie “Big”. I can honestly say that I barely remembered anything from it, but everyone seems to have warm, happy childhood memories of watching a little kid, meeting what must bea god/genie powered wish machine, wish himself into being a young Tom Hanks, so I thought why not. After all it was there, on the telly, so, not as if I have anything to lose.
Well except for some of my little remaining faith in humanity. You see I think what everyone has mistaken for a fun, frolic filled family movie, is in fact intended to be a window into the birth of a serial sex offender, a serial killer, or perhaps even a despotic world leader such as has never been seen, not even in humanities rather sordid history. Or at least that’s how I would have written it.
But why Amanda? Why would you think such a thing of a sweet early Tom Hanks vessel?
Well dear reader, I think it because…
1: Too much power, and freedom far too young.
Do you remember when your parents let you move out of home when you turned 12?
How you went off, and got yourself a high-powered job?
How about the way you ate whatever you wanted, when you wanted, and stayed up as late as you wanted?
No? Really, to all three?
Me neither. That’s because no sensible, or competent parent would allow their children to live that way. As children we’re surrounded by boundaries, rules, and parental guidance for a reason. The reason being that children are not generally good judges of what’s best for themselves. Though sometimes they do grow up to be people who are in fact good at making decisions for themselves.
But in Big the main character, Josh, receives all the freedom of being an adult overnight, literally overnight. Sure to begin with those freedoms include the freedom to starve to death while huddled for warmth in a ditch, somewhat like the Little Matchstick Girl, as portrayed by Tom Hanks. But he manages to land on his feet, not once but twice.
The first time he somehow finds a job as a clerk in a major company. The second time when he flukes his way into a job as a junior executive for the same company.
Yup so lil Josh learns early on that life just works out in his favor. Need a job? The world provides even though you have the social security number of a 12 year-old. Want a better job? Dance on a giant keyboard with the company owner, and you’ll end up with a higher rank and more power.
2: Lying little git.
Through out the entire movie Josh shows an amazing comfort with lying in the most casual way. He lies constantly. He lies to his parents about his whereabouts, and condition. He lies to his landlords, co-workers, bosses. And he lies to his first girlfriend, but we’ll get to her later.
So what? Many of you must be thinking. Amanda, look at the situation he was in, of course he had to lie.
And of course you’re right. His survival to a degree depends on his ability to lie, otherwise instead of watching a family comedy named “Big” we’d be watching a tragedy named “The Gape: A Magical Story of a 12 year-old rent-boy, With Unfortunate Hair.”
But what does he learn about lying over the course of the entire movie. Why only that lying never has negative consequences. Seriously, the only negative consequences that happen due to his lies are to other people. His parents live shattered lives believing he’s a kidnapping victim. And what about any men, who whose lives are torn apart when the police show up to interrogate them, on suspicion of that kidnapping. And of course he winds up breaking his 30 year-old girlfriend’s heart.
But every lie leads to a pot of gold for Josh himself.
3: Selfish little b*****d.
The movie ends with Tom Hanks wishing himself back into his 12 year-old body. And walking away from his heart-broken statutory rapist girlfriend (we’ll get to that), heading home to his parents and their shattered lives, with a song in his heart, and on his lips. Happy ending!
Selfish little bastard is what I say.
Let us, for a moment, consider the Zoltar Speaks machine. This object grants wishes.The sort of wishes that require at the very least a temporary local rewriting of all temporal and physical laws. It can make a young boy into a grown man literally overnight, and a grown man into a young boy in very baggy clothes. And all without even being plugged in.
I remember even as a ten year-old watching this movie, and thinking that the machine had to bea trap, a cage for a god, or a genie, a demon, or some other supernatural, and above all else insanely powerful being. Yes being, after all it shows itself to be able to correctly interpret a spoken wish. Then it somehow moves billions of atoms from one place to another, thus making a functional, living Tom Hanks. And as we see in the finale of the movie, it can reverse this in an instant. And all without coating every nearby surface in a thin layer of main character.
So let’s just say that young Josh has access to his own personal enslaved god. And he makes precisely two wishes?!
What the hell? What about your heartbroken parents Josh? Don’t they deserve for all this to have led to something good for them? Like winning the lottery? Or finding Ollie North’s gold under their floorboards?
Or let’s not think small here. What about world hunger? What about street children Josh? You could have been one you selfish little prick.
Hey let’s think even bigger, you have access to a limitless source of power Josh. How about this wish…Zoltar I wish for the world to be a truly safe place for everyone…Just imagine the dystopian sequel that wish could have spawned.
The point is that throughout the entire movie Josh again, and again strikes me as am exceedingly selfish brat. Not in the “I want everything”, way. But in an unthinking disregard for other people, and for the potential of what he has right at his fingertips at the close of the movie. And by that point he doesn’t even have the excuse of immaturity to fall back on, he’s spent the previous months living as an adult. Which leads us finally to…
4: Premature sexual awakening.
And I do not mean a twelve-year-old, semi-innocently fumbling with his first girlfriend in his treehouse here. I’m talking about full-on, outright statutory rape.
Hang on! What?! I hear you cry.
Well the main character is of course 12-years-old, though admittedly a 12 year-old in a 30 year-old man’s body. However his girlfriend is a 30-odd year old Elizabeth Perkins.
So what do we call it when an adult has sex with a minor?
And make no mistake he is a minor. Check up Josh Baskins birth certificate, and it would tell you he was 12.
So now you’re wondering how all this leads to his being a dangerous predator?
- This boy has his first consensual sexual experience with an experienced older woman at far too early an age. (Though it’s highly questionable that he could have given anything like informed consent with the average 1980’s 12-year-olds life experience.)
- He has experienced power, prestige, respect, and legitimate adult authorities and freedoms, with the mind, and outlook of a young child. This has then been stripped away.
- He has, by the end of the movie become and accomplished, habitual liar. Not such a long leap to go from there to self-delusions.
- He’s a selfish little so and so, as shown by his not asking the Zoltar god/genie to help anyone in his life with their problems.
- He walks away from the life he’s built as an adult, leaving his company, adult friends, landlord, etc to pick up the pieces of his mess with absolutely no signs of guilt, the movie even ends with him having a jolly sing-along with his best friend.
In short I watched this movie, and saw a VERY young adolescent get his every fantasy made real. He has sex, has his dream job, freedom, money, and power. True, he gives it all up in the end. But I can’t help but wonder how his still not fully formed personality would cope with everything he’s been through. And I see three main possibilities.
A: He convinces himself it never happened, or otherwise finds a way to normalise it all, and lives a normal happy life.
B: He lives an increasingly bitter life, as his natural adulthood fails to live up to what he remembers from his first one. Leaving him an embittered, sad, shell of a man who never amounts to anything.
C: His experience of too much, too young, and his encounter with a trapped god/genie with the power that represents twists his mind over time. Leading him to a life of evil, crime, and horrific acts.
To see this movie as the genesis of a monster, all you have to do is try to look at the lessons he learned, the adult things he experienced through the eyes of Josh as a twenty-something.
As for what he might become, think of it this way, he’s only one small step from absolute global power. Find the Zoltar machine again. Make all the wishes he wants. Or even one carefully thought out, and worded wish. Boom! The sort of power even Hitler never dreamt of. And as we all know from our history lessons, power does in fact corrupt the wielder. Now imagine that power in the hands of an emotional cripple…
(Admittedly he might use that power for good, but then this wouldn’t be nearly so much fun to imagine.)