My youngest son and I decided to celebrate Father’s Day 2010 by attending “Toy Story 3.” Twenty years old by then, he had grown up with Woody and Buzz Lightyear, and we spent many hours playing Toy Story and watching the movies to the point of memorization. When he was younger, we watched the movie for the pure enjoyment of the fantasy of the talking toys and the comedy of their interactions. As he aged (and I guess I did also) we watched it for the fantasy and the comedy. And we could add in our wonder over the creativity of the Toy story creators and also the message of the movie. What do I mean by the message? Let me explain.
An op-ed piece in the New York Times by David Hajdu published at the time of its release (“The Toys Are Us”, June 20, 2010) discussed the allegory that Toy Story represents. The toys can be viewed in several ways – the toys that are relegated to the toy box after years of play perhaps represent the “graying of the American population,” and they can represent the “idealized conception of our moms and dads as selfless, wholly subservient providers of unconditional love.”
First, our aging population should never lose our devotion and love. They might lose some of their physical abilities, but they are still capable of guiding us in so many ways – by being our mentors, our mediators, our monitors, our mobilizers, and our motivators. Love for others, especially our aging citizens, should be undying just like the “love” for our favorite toys. I’m not equating toys to people but noting that the movie serves to remind us that change will occur. Just as we outgrow our toys, we will need to adapt to the changes in our relationships as the years pass by.
Second, Mr. Hajdu notes that Woody and Buzz seem to represent the idealized view of moms and dads. All of us who are parents and have aging parents know that parents have multiple issues that they must face as they get older. They continue to be parents with undying love for their children, but they have to adapt to the changes that aging throws at them. Their focus naturally adjusts to their situation, and we must recognize those adjustments and make appropriate accommodations for them.
I will not reveal the ending of the movie other than to note that beautiful “change” occurs. Time passes on, and the toys will continue to serve a purpose. If we use the fable of Toy Story 3 as an example, the “children” found a way to renew their love for their aging elders and parents. I was enthralled!
One more thought about the movie – the original song written and performed by Randy Newman is entitled “You’ve got a Friend in Me.” What a beautiful message that through good times and bad times we can always support each other. We can truly exhibit love for others. As an excerpt from the song says,
“You’ve got troubles; well I’ve got them too.
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.
We stick together and we see it through.
You’ve got a friend in me.”
Love for others might seem like a process that is intuitively obvious but always needs to be rejuvenated. Change occurs, and we must change to make sure we can adapt – caring for our increasing aging population and parents, letting them use their experience to help us, and then caring for each other. “You’ve got a friend in me” only works if we accept the responsibility that goes with it.