Big Heroes, Little Heroes.

presented by j:

Kai fits into our family well because he loves to watch movies. we decided to take him on his first real movie outing to see the new Disney film, Big Hero 6, mostly because he was always transfixed when a commercial for it would come on. in fact, one day recently, he was upset, so i played the trailer for him on my phone to calm him down. after two back-to-back viewings, i took my phone away, which just made him all the more upset. dad fail.

so it’s here that i want to say, “Thank you, Walt Disney Company, for giving my son a movie with a Japanese American male at the center of it.” to most people, the ethnicity of a character in an animated film may not be that important, but in this case, i’m so grateful.

i think it can be very valuable for kids to have movies and shows with characters who, to some degree, look like them. this is not hard for a young white male. they can take their pick between Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne and Thor and Superman and Captain America.

and so i couldn’t help but cheer on Hiro Hamada, the hero (the pun of his name is not lost on me) of the film. after all, he had brown, almond-shaped eyes (like my son), a little gap in his front teeth (like my son), and wild, spiky black hair (like my son when he wakes up), though granted, Hiro has a lot more of it than Kai.

and, yes, i get the marketing reasons for Disney to make a Japanese hero. after all, Tokyo Disneyland is the most visited Disney park in the world (yes, even more visited than DisneyWorld), and what’s the all time #1 movie at the Japanese box office? Frozen, of course. in fact, Frozen was the #1 movie in Japan until another Disney movie came along earlier this year, Maleficent. so, sure, maybe there’s money to be made in having a Japanese hero, but i honestly don’t care. i like that my son has a character to identify with that actually looks like him.

it’s not lost on me the difficulties that a film like Big Hero 6 could pose in the future. the heart of the film is about grief and loss. Hiro is being raised by his aunt, and the movie does not exactly explain what happened to his parents, just that they are “gone.”

but on the flip side, i love the movie’s morals: learning to deal with loss, learning that letting go is often a choice one has to make in order to move on, learning that grief can turn one into a villain or a hero depending on how you deal with it. these are heavy things to learn.

and if nothing else, popping in a Big Hero 6 blu-ray in the future will open up the possibility for those conversations. at least, that’s my hope.

as crazy as it sounds, in some ways my son is my little hero. for a 14-month old, he can be extremely adaptable to new situations and he is incredibly resilient and patient (except when food is involved. patience ceases to exist at that point). and there’s nothing quite as energizing as one of his hugs. and he’s remarkably strong and flexible too.

but my hope is that my little hero doesn’t look up to a fictional hero or even me, for that matter. i hope that, through the grief and loss and adventures and stories, he will see the Lord as his true Big Hero who always comes in and saves not just the day, but his soul.

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