Back in the heyday of the 2000s, when you thought of groundbreaking animated films, the company of Disney’s Pixars was sure to come to mind. Films like “A Bug’s Life”, the “Toy Story” films and “Monsters Inc.” were not only wildly entertaining, visually impressive films for kids but were also smartly-written, surprisingly poignant pieces for cinema that adults could enjoy. We never thought we could learn so much about the evils of capitalism from two goofball monsters and one adorable little girl. Even the films that didn’t quite meet the high narrative bar the company had set were still a lot of fun. Pixar’s “The Incredibles” was doing observational comedy and self-deprecating humour about the superhero film genre way before Ryan Reynold’s “Deadpool” came on the scene.
However, the company’s stellar track record seems to have peaked with 2008’s “WALL-E”. Nothing has since managed to reach its visual and narrative heights. And now, in 2023, we get…”Elemental”. What seems to be another middling affair couched comfortably within Pixar’s new status quo of safe storytelling. What if we told you though, that “Elemental” could be potentially dangerous to young people? We think Pixar’s gone too far this time and we’re here to tell you why!
Heating Up For Ember
Let’s be honest, none of us was exactly the smartest during our adolescence and if we’ve learned anything from online trends, it’s that kids are highly impressionable when it comes to pulling stupid stunts. Don’t believe us, well what about that time in 2018 when a sizeable number of teenagers around the world began taking videos of themselves doing the “Tide Pod Challenge”? An absurd act that involves kids ingesting whole capsules of detergent on the basis of them looking like candy. Then, there was the “Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge” which saw kids deliberately bruising their lips so that they looked fuller like the titular Kardashian. An act that has left some of its victims looking scarred and disfigured.
Oh, and how can we forget the infamous, and insanely idiotic “Fire Challenge”? An online dare that basically had teens and kids pouring flammable liquid over their bodies before lighting themselves on fire and quickly putting it out! Again, what in the holy heck! Feel free to call us alarmists if you want but we think the idea of making a rather attractive-looking anthropomorphic fire lady (don’t lie you’ve thought so too) is a dangerous proposition. We already have furries and bronies running around, with whole pages on Rule 34 dedicated to people cranking off to pictures of cartoon animals. You don’t think they’ll be a new horny fanbase attracted to Pixar’s Ember Lumen from “Elemental”? Then you’re most naive my friend, for the internet is dark and full of terrors.
We’re predicting it here and now, the “Ember Kiss Challenge” is going to pop off in the aftermath of “Elemental”. That’s right, imagine a whole generation of kids turning on the gas stove, simping for literal fire and kissing it. Believe it or not, there’s a worse version of this possible challenge…drop a comment when you figure it out. If you’re a parent to young, impressionable children, you have a duty to explain to them very clearly after the film that they should NOT under any circumstance play, flirt or make quippy awkward dialogue with flames. Now, some of you are probably rolling your eyes right now or chuckling at this but if the internet has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is impossible. As long as there’s someone out there brave and dumb enough to do it.
The “Meet Cute” Trope Trouble
On a less ridiculous note, “Elemental” is also furthering a potentially toxic trend that has been perpetuated in fiction for years: the “Meet Cute” trope. In case, you’re not familiar with it, the trope is when two characters awkwardly bump into each other in a random, mundane scenario. In that encounter, they immediately form a connection, they exchange cutesy banter for a bit and then eventually they fall in love. It’s in a million romance films and has made its way into animated films as well. In fact in Disney’s “Frozen”, the film goes to great lengths to discredit the “Meet Cute” trope…only to have Anna fall for some other guy she’s barely known for an extended period of time.
In spite of what films and TV shows might have told you, the whole idea of finding the one isn’t a very healthy idea when it comes to romantic relationships. Whether you’re a girl or a guy, adopting the idea that just because your encounter with a particular person meets all the markers of the classic “Meet Cute” scenario means that person is your soulmate can be problematic. When dating, you may find yourself frustrated and unfulfilled with the mismatches between the expectations and reality of your partner, which could lead to bitterness or disillusionment. Or worse, this trope could blind you to all the red flags someone has because you’re so desperate to make it work.
When young people start dating, they’re mostly inexperienced and unaware of concepts like consent, relational power structures and intimacy within relationships. So to have “Elemental” suggests the idea that in spite of the fact that your partner could actually physically harm you but you can make it work through the power of love is a little concerning. We get that it’s supposed to be a fun animated film for kids but that’s precisely why we raise this point.
So, are we saying that parents should boycott “Elemental” and absolutely ban kids from going to cinemas to watch it? No, of course not. We simply believe that people should be aware of the media they consume and how it has the potential to shape their view of the world, for better or for worse. As long as everyone’s aware of the danger of lighting members of their body on fire and toxic relationships, then they go right ahead and catch it on release date.
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