‘Coraline’ and the distant parent
Watching “Coraline” on DVD this past weekend, I cringed and even paused the movie to turn to my husband and say: “I hope that’s not how the Pumpkin sees me.” If you’ve watched the movie, you are familiar with the scene in the beginning when Coraline fails to wrest her mother’s attention from her computer screen. (Warning: If you haven’t seen <a href=”http://coraline.com/” target=”_blank”>”Coraline,”</a> stop reading now and go rent it. It was wonderful.)
I was speaking mostly in jest, of course. I’ve never shooed away the Pumpkin so harshly, but I have to admit that there are times when she knows that I’m working on the computer and can’t play with her. Given the amount of indulgence and love my daughter gets in general, I’m not worried about her. But Coraline does make you think about children who aren’t so cosseted and whose parents really do tell them they are too busy to make time for them much of the time.
The evil witch who preys on Coraline’s vulnerability isn’t just a fairy tale creation. There are those who prey on young children by offering them the love and companionship they are missing at home. Just as the “other mother” offers Coraline the homecooked meals and cozy surrounding she craves in hopes of stealing the child away, pedophiles and other criminals can weasel their way into youngsters’ hearts by exploiting their need for love. Children are vulnerable when their parents are absent or uninvolved. Even if they don’t encounter a witch who wants to steal their souls and replace their eyes with buttons, they will encounter peers with dubious morals who might offer the approval they aren’t getting at home.
While cast as a fairy tale (that would earn an R rating if it were a live-action picture)‚ “Coraline” teaches its younger audience about the dangers of believing in something that’s too good to be true. And it provides a reminder to the parents watching that if you aren’t there for your child, someone else (someone scary) might be.