Friday, September 23, 2016

Hero Spotlight: Chihiro and Coraline

Today lets look at two of my favorite child characters. Both of these girls abscond to other worlds for fantastical adventures. But both of their adventures have a dark twist to them and they must fight to conquer their fears in order to get out alive (a pretty apt metaphor for entering adulthood, when you think about it).

In Spirited Away, a young girl named Chihiro finds herself in the spirit world with her parents turned into pigs. In order to avoid becoming food for the spirits herself, she must get a job at the bath house, working for the witch Yubaba. Before being placed in this situation, Chihiro is a normal ten year old, pretty selfish and lazy but also wholly relatable. And over the course of the movie we get to see her growing stronger and putting her wits to overcome many different challenges.

Chihiro must work for the first time in her life, solve tough issues and even travel on her own through the spirit world to help a friend in need. We see her grow from a kid who doesn’t know how to fend for herself to a confident young woman, who can take responsibility and fight for her loved ones. Of course she must go back to the real world, but she takes everything she has learned with her. I adore this movie so much. Its one of my favorites and Chihiro is one of the best examples of a child character out there.

On another end, we have Coraline, whose story is less obviously about growing up and a few shades darker than the previous story. Most people know this tale. Its about a dissatisfied child named Coraline crawling through a door into another house where all of her dreams come true. However her Other Mother might not be so benevolent as she seems.

In fact she is pretty terrifying

Coraline is a very realistic child, smart and adventurous, but also selfish and attention seeking. She likes the focus of life to be on her and in her dream world, she gets just that. However, she must fight to keep her soul from the Other Mother’s clutches (You know. For kids!) as well as save the souls of other children who have been trapped before. Growing up, for Coraline, is accepting that life can’t be exactly as she wants it and taking responsibility for her mistakes. In the end, she must save her parents and others from the Other Mother and ignore the temptation of a so called ‘perfect life’. Life isn't perfect, and everyone must accept that some point. In many ways, Coraline learns the shades of grey of adulthood in this, also learning to treasure her real parents, ordinary life, and the change of moving to a new town, even if there are still challenges.

Children vs. growing up can be as vague and symbolic as Coraline or specific as Peter Pan. But they all capture the need of a child to eventually step into their own shoes and take control of their life for the first time. I love both of these stories for that reason.

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