Monday, July 16, 2012

#42: Reaching Ohana

Lilo & Stitch, 2002
watched July 8, 2012

Despite the intergalactic setting, Lilo & Stitch is actually the first animated film set in modern day whose main characters are human. (Previous modern day films in our series feature mostly anthropomorphic animals--101 Dalmatians, both Rescuers films, and Oliver & Company).

The humanness of Lilo & Stitch made it one of the first films in this blog project that I related to. I'm pretty sure I'll never ride on a magic carpet, or be raised by wild apes in the jungles of Africa. I'll never become a princess, or get taken away to an enchanted castle. But I do have a sister, and an imperfect family. I've experienced both joy and pain, love and loathing. 

The loss of Lilo and Nani's parents puts them in an unwanted situation: Nani is suddenly forced to be not just sister but also mother and father, grappling with young romance, trying to hold a steady job, and dealing with an intimidating social worker. Lonely and misunderstood, Lilo needs not only guidance but someone to love and accept her. Though they need each other desperately, both the older and younger sister act out in frustration with their circumstances.

But as Stitch enters their world, his destructive, chaotic presence shows that this native Hawaiian family is "small, but still good." The strength of their bond, however messy and flawed somehow transforms Stitch. His instinct to destroy leaves him feeling empty and alone. He realizes that this family who has let him in has something that he does not. And that changes him.

We, too, belong to a broken Family. Sometimes we feel obligation and duty rather than love and commitment. We say things that are hurtful. We mess up each others' plans and dreams. We neglect each other. It kind of sucks.

But just like Lilo and Stitch, we belong to each other. I think we would rather stay and fight than be separated and miss each other terribly. That's the irony of family. Because even though we are a family that screws up, we're also a family where "nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten." There's nothing quite like us.

While Stitch does so much to hurt Lilo, she is ever forgiving and compassionate towards him. Ultimately, this is what changes Stitch. And this is what transforms anyone who comes into contact with our Family, no matter how much they have destroyed and terrorized us. When we have ohana, everyone is included, accepted and loved. It's something we all need, whether we're Lilo, Nani or Stitch.

It's an interesting set up we have, this flawed but beautiful Family. There are days when my faith in the Family falters, but my faith in the One who holds this Family together does not change. And that's ultimately what keeps me striving for ohana.

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