Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christopher Robin? Where are you?

This morning as I dozed quietly on the futon and listened once more to the narrator's opening lines of "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", I had a thought. The narrator says something to the effect of "Now, Christopher Robin lived in the middle of the 100 Acre Woods where he could see his friends and help them with all their troubles". It cuts to a shot of Christpher Robin hammering Eyore's tail back on under the supervision of Owl and Kanga. A few moments later, Christopher Robin helps Pooh in his attempts to get honey. Then when Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's hole after eating too much honey, Christopher Robin comes to help pull him out. Christopher Robin helps rescue Piglet, he throws Pooh a hero party, and generally, thoughrough the movie, does all the things a responsible care giver would do for a small child that is growing in independence and responsiblility, but still gets in trouble now and then.

I realized that in the later, and far less classic, Pooh movie "Pooh's Grand (Great?) Adventure", Christopher Robin is not there to help Pooh. In fact, at the beginning of them movie he says "I am going away. You must do things for yourself now, but remember: You're smarter than you think you are, stronger than you imagine . . . " etc, etc. Basically he layers on the self - esteem, positive thinking stuff that will help Pooh and the gang get through their problems by themselves. This second movie is very dark, so dark that my son was afraid of it, and didn't want to watch it a second time. Essentially, Pooh and his friends beleive something dreadful has happened to Christopher Robin and they go looking for him. They travel through a bleak and barren rocky landscape, have many not so merry perils. They finally discover that Christopher Robin is at school, and their fear was all in their minds. But they were up to the challenge and helped themselves because they were smarter than they thought they were, etc, etc.

The thought that swirled through my pre-caffinated, pregnant brain was this: I think its okay that Christopher Robin rescues the animals in the Hundred Acre Woods. I think there is something really good about the fact that the animals have someone to turn to when they get out of their depth, and that there is always the reassurance that if they mess up, Christopher Robin will be there to help them. Small children should live in a world where they have a deus-ex-machina to remedy situations too complex for their small bodies and minds. It is a good thing and it helps them feel secure to know there are bigger people in the world who can help them when they are overwhelmed.

I find the whole premise of this second movie where the animals must rescue Christopher Robin really disturbing. For a small child (Pooh usually wears off around 8 at the latest, doesn't he?) the message this sends is that you may be alone, but you are strong enough to deal with it. You can handle your problems on your own, and they are overblown in any case. I suppose the idea behind the movie is to build a child's sense of independence and self-esteem. But doesn't our self-esteem grow first out of a healthy dependence on a reliable adult?

It is through our early experiences of trust and nurture that we learn that we are someone worthy of respect and trust. We gradually learn that although some things in the world are scary and dangerous, we can face them and conquer them because we are supported by a loving community that allows us to face hard things and take risks we might otherwise fear. As we develop in this supportive environment, we are then enabled to seek out our own community, first of friends and then of family, that will fulfill our needs for mutual encouragement, support and respect. Ideally, our community does not one day cut the apron strings and leave us alone and afraid to fulfill this mysterious task of "growing up" alone. Rather we ourselves are given leave to gradually seperate ourselves from the family support and find our independence.

Perhaps the second movie is a reflection on modern North American parenting styles. How many parents these days are so busy living their own lives to the fullest that they forget about the small, vulnerable people who rely on them? In how many families, especially in the '80s when this second movie was made, are children left to sort through the ravages of divorce and family break up, and sometimes to even help and comfort their parents? How many people bear children without really considering that they must give up a great deal of their own time and interests to properly raise and support a child, and then refuse to make the sacrifices necessary to invest in their child's life? How many children in our culture are left asking, "Christopher Robin? Where are you?"

No wonder I already had a headache by 9 this morning. I'll try to make my next post happier. Honest.

1 comment:

Beck said...

You're suppose to out grown Winnie the Pooh? Why didn't someone tell me sooner! :P
But yeah I understand. It's the same with pretty much all the new poohbear movies, Christopher Robing seems to have disappeared. Appearing in only a few movies out of the several out there. Maybe they make them for big kids like me?