Monday, September 19, 2011

#4: The Underdog's Advocate

Dumbo, 1941
watched September 11, 2011

(c) Disney - Dumbo may be hands down the cutest main character of any Disney film. But it's early yet.
So many Disney films, and pretty much every other classic hero's tale, center on a character who starts off with a disadvantage. And there is perhaps no better example than that of Dumbo, whose enormous ears make him the laughingstock of the circus. To make things worse, his mother is locked up for sticking up for her beloved baby, separating Dumbo from the one who loved him most. He is lonely and lost. The "Baby Mine" scene is so heart-wrenching and moving, we forget we are watching silent, animated elephants.

And so it is easy to feel for Dumbo, the ultimate loner, outcast, underdog (underelephant?). Certainly everyone has encountered unwarranted ridicule and rejection at some point in their life. It's a lonely place when it seems like the world is against you.

I wonder though, how many of us relate to Timothy Mouse, who, delightfully, is the sidekick that Jiminy Cricket was not in Pinocchio. While others reject Dumbo, Timothy goes out of his way to befriend him, and then makes it his mission to help Dumbo succeed. Even while Dumbo's attitude is rather defeatist, Timothy is unwaveringly optimistic and persistent. (He's my current favorite Disney mouse - if you're paying any attention to my polls of the week. hehe...)

I love to focus on Dumbo and point out all the things I have in common with him, but how often do I put myself in Timothy's shoes and ask, who are the Dumbos in my life? Who can I embrace and love that the world has rejected? (It's interesting to me that these loyal sidekicks never seem to be at the center of these films. No, they are too humble and too devoted to their best friend/main character to call any attention to themselves. Think Samwise Gamgee.)

While most underdog stories communicate, "Believe in yourself and you can achieve your dreams," I find that the real message of Dumbo relies much more on the actions of his loyal friend Timothy. Without Timothy, Dumbo certainly would have never had the initiative or courage to fly. He achieves success in his circus career and a happy reunion with his mother because someone had the courage to first love and accept him as he was. The ultimate underdog had the ultimate advocate.

We too have the ultimate Advocate, and we also can be that advocate for others.

(More to come. Dumbo has a plethora of interesting scenes and characters, even though at 64 minutes, it is the shortest  of all 51 feature animated films!)

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