ParaNorman (Universal Studios) – 2012 – PG
Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Tucker Albrizzi, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, John Goodman
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Summary & Lessons:
(Warning: This movie may be frightening to small children)
Norman Babcock is a special kid. He can see and talk to ghosts. He not only has conversations with his departed grandmother as they watch TV in the living room, but also those who left life long before his birth. Most people do not believe him, though, and he is ridiculed by his own father as well as the school bully, Alvin. There are a few who believe him. One is Neil, who wants very much to be his friend. The other is the “crazy” Mr. Prendergast, who happens to be his uncle. When Norman begins to have visions involving the witch’s curse on his New England hometown of Blithe Hollow, Mr. Prendergast interprets it as a sign that Norman is to take over his responsibility of protecting the town. Not wanting any more eccentricities in his life, Norman does his best to ignore his uncle’s pleas, until illness takes the man, and his ghost begs him to take the responsibility so that he can move on to the afterlife. He makes it sound simple enough – all he has to do is read from a special book at the witch’s grave on each anniversary of her death. Norman reluctantly agrees. The task proves to be a lot more complicated. In spite of attempting to complete the ritual alone, everyone in the town ends up struggling against the witch’s storm while fighting off zombies. Once Norman discovers that the “witch” was a girl with his same abilities from the 1700’s, he realizes that he is the only one who has what it takes to stop her from destroying the town.
Since this story is centered around a town legend of a local, Pilgrim witch trial, it paves the way as an introduction to the historical Salem witch trials. These trials occurred due to the fears that people often have regarding others who are different from themselves. People fear what they do not understand. It is also common to attempt to destroy what is feared – to eliminate threats of what is perceived to be harmful. This story clearly illustrates how discrimination and prejudice are born, and the cruel, bullying behaviors that result from it.
Interestingly, though, there is a gay character who is not discriminated against. Mitch is so successful at fitting in with other “normal” people, Norman’s sister, Courtney, who has been flirting with him since they met, doesn’t know he is gay until the end of the film. This shows that many of the people who are discriminated against are really not much different from the rest of society.
Even within loving families, fears grow from lack of understanding, although it can be a different kind of fear. Just as Norman’s mother describes his father’s rants, the fear can be directed towards the family member’s well-being, rather than a fear of the family member, themselves. However, if we truly try to see the world from the viewpoint of another, we can often find that a person’s differences are what makes them a special gift to the world, and when we join forces, all of our unique gifts can be joined together to create something wonderful.
(If you have additional ideas on how this film can be used for educational purposes, please let us know in the comments.)
(Quotes Courtesy of IMDb: ParaNorman – IMDb)
Norman: I like to be alone.
Neil: So do I! Let’s do it together!
Neil: Can you see my dog, Bub? He was hit by an animal rescue van. Tragic and ironic.
Grandma: There’s nothing wrong with being scared Norman, so long as you don’t let it change who you are.
Norman’s Mom: Sometimes people can say things that seem mean, but it’s just because they’re afraid.
Norman: He’s my father, he shouldn’t be afraid of me.
Norman’s Mom: He’s not afraid OF you, he’s afraid FOR you.
Neil: Can you see ghosts like, all the time?
Norman’s Mom: Norman, I know you and grandma were very close, but we all have to move on. Grandma’s in a better place
Norman: No, she’s not, she’s in the living room.
Norman’s Dad: Your grandmother was old and sick, and she died. That’s all there is to it.
Neil: So, what do we do now?
Norman: Uhh… I… I – I really don’t know.
Courtney: Yes, you do, Norman. You’ve gotta get to that witch’s grave.
Courtney: But nothing, you listen to me, buster. We didn’t turn away when Daleridge High was slaughtering our volleyball team, did we?
Norman: Yeah, we did.
Courtney: No, we didn’t. I have cheered the un-cheerable, Norman. And I’m not letting you give up now.
Courtney: [to the angry mob] Everyone STOP trying to kill my little brother. You’re adults! Stop it!
Aggie: I burnt the book into dust. Now I don’t have to listen to that stupid story anymore! Leave me alone.
Norman: No. No, I’m not leaving. Just listen to me! Uhh… Once upon a time, long ago, there was a little girl.
Norman: A – a little girl who was different… who was different from the other people in her village.
Aggie: I’m not listening! La la la la la…
Norman: She could see and – and do things that no one could understand! And that made them scared of her!
Aggie: I don’t like this story!
Norman: She turned away from everyone and became sad and lonely, and had no one to turn to!
Aggie: STOP IT.
Norman: The more she turned away from people, the more scared they were of her. And they did something terrible! They became so scared that they took her away and they killed her!
Norman: And even – and even though she was dead, something in her came back!
Norman: And this part of her, wouldn’t go away even after three hundred years!
Aggie: SHUT UP.
Norman: And the longer it stayed, the less there was of the little girl.
Aggie: I’ll make you suffer!
Aggie: Because… Because…
Norman: Because you want everyone to hurt just as much as you are. So, whenever you wake up, you play this mean game, but you don’t play fair!
Aggie: They hurt me!
Norman: So, you hurt them back?
Aggie: I wanted everyone to see how rotten they were!
Norman: You’re just like them, Agatha!
Aggie: No, I’m not!