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Rise of the Bogeyman

Saturday, 15 December 2012

"The silicone chip inside her head / gets switched to overload"

On the evening of Friday, December 14, I sat in a movie theater with my three children. My toddler son nestled into the crook of my right arm and on my lap. My two daughters sat to the left of me, my arm behind the neck of one, my palm on the shoulder of the other. We were together.

And I wept. Quietly, in the hope they might not notice, I wept.

"And we can see no reasons / 'cuz there are no reasons"

The movie was about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy. They're known as "The Guardians," and they're forced to band together in order to combat the resurgence of the Bogeyman, who has found a new and powerful method of harnessing fear and destroying the beliefs of children.

I didn't expect to enjoy Rise of the Guardians, but I cannot imagine a movie more serendipitously suited to this moment in our lives. Almost completely free of irony -- call it the Anti-Shrek -- the film has been knocked by some critics for being formulaic and predictable, a clear reminder that film critics have watched many films yet have no frappin' clue what kids see when they watch movies.

"All the playing stopped in the playground now"

The animated film is adorable and entertaining and includes genuinely valuable character messages about hope and wonder, joy and faith, the kind of movie that will likely find a long life as a rental and regular Christmastime movie for cable TV.

At the conclusion of the film -- spoiler alert, I guess -- the Guardians, backs against the proverbial wall, are rescued by the children. Yes, those very same precious souls the Guardians are charged with protecting are the ones who, in the end, guard the heroes. Then, both the Guardians and children combine their strengths to face up to and ultimately topple the Bogeyman.

"And the bullhorn crackles / and the captain tackles / all the problems and the how's and why's"

At one point during the climas, Santa offers a monologue that, while a bit foggy, goes something like this: "The Guardians exist for the children. Without children, the world is lost. The children are everything."

The screen got blurry. Sandy Hook. My body began convulsing. Newton. After a dazed and emotionally-wrecked afternoon of fighting nausea and, in small segments until I couldn't handle it, attempting to imagine the depth and inescapable breadth of the sorrow of those parents and family members in a small town far away from me, more tears were necessary.

"He can see no reasons / 'Cuz there are no reasons / What reason do you need to die?"

Yesterday, today, tomorrow, I will continue drifting. Thinking of those parents, of the families of those teachers and the principal. Praying that the child witnesses might never fully grasp the weight or horror of that Friday morning.

In light of events at Sandy Hook School on the morning of December 14, the Guardians have their work cut out for them. The Bogeyman is real, and Sandy Hook had no magic bunnies or jolly bearded men in red who could show up to protect them.

Not even faith in God can protect us -- or our children -- from a bullet; it can only protect our hopes that a final heartbeat is only the beginning.

I do not believe God had some grand purpose in these events, that everything happens according to some plan, but I do believe in God, and I believe he has made many omelets out of broken eggs. And after the events at Sandy Hook, I believe He has His work cut out for him.

As for us? I just don't know. I don't know if we're capable of fixing what's broken in us. But if we do have a chance, if our species can be redeemed, then Santa's words hold the secret:

The children are everything.

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