Who here hasn’t seen Big Hero Six?
Then you need to leave, because here there be spoilers.
For those of you who don’t listen (you know who you are), or for those of you who haven’t seen the film in a while, here’s the scoop. Big Hero Six is the story of a young genius (Hiro Hamada) who assembles his friends and his brother’s helper robot, Baymax, into a superhero team in order to stop a nanobot-wielding bad guy.
Oh yeah, and the bad guy (whose name is never given, but promotional materials call him “Yokai”) killed Hiro’s brother. Who is the last remaining member of Hiro’s immediate family.
This movie is funny and beautiful and full of great messages and all that fun stuff. It’s really a great movie. There’s a lot about it that speaks to me. The thing that speaks to me the most, however, is that Hiro has a chance to kill Yokai (through Baymax), and has to be physically stopped.
In most media when this happens, the hero decides on their own to spare the villain, realizing hidden strength. This is fantastic and beautiful…but not how it all works.
I’ve long struggled with questions of how deep my own darkness runs. How bad could I hurt R if I had the chance? Would I be able to take his life and feel bad about it? It’s true that the opportunity probably wouldn’t come, but getting into feeling like you can decide who lives and who dies is dangerous territory.
I relate directly to the pain and rage that Hiro feels. Though Yokai didn’t physically harm Hiro’s person, he took something away from Hiro that wasn’t his to take, and forced Hiro to grow up faster than he was meant to. Yokai killed Hiro’s brother, but in many ways killed Hiro’s youthful naivety. Hiro doesn’t know how to face his new life without his brother. His tragedy is amplified by the fact that he previously experienced trauma at a young age, but had Tadashi around to help him.
Like Hiro, I was forced to grow up early, and was left without a way to cope… or so I thought.
Hiro, like me, is confused in this scene and is lashing out with anger. Like me, Hiro is hurting the people around him as much as he’s hurting himself, and here’s the kicker: he doesn’t actually know if killing Yokai will help him. He only wants to do it to hurt Yokai as much as he’s hurting.
Of course, Big Hero Six is a Disney movie and not a Punisher film (though the next one of those will technically be a Disney movie…) so Hiro doesn’t violently take his revenge. Hiro finds peace in his therapeutic relationship with Baymax, and his relationships with his friends. Instead of forgiveness, Hiro finds understanding of Yokai when he sees that he’s motivated out of suffering and loss too.
Of course, no movie is going to truly show the whole recovery process, because that would be a really long movie, but Big Hero 6 shows that recovery and healing comes as much from the people around you as it does within yourself. I’ve given up on actively trying to forgive R. I’m not ready, and I still feel like he doesn’t deserve it and he never will. What I am working on is understanding him as another human being.
I started thinking about this idea when I read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, and I really developed it when I read Conversations with A Rattlesnake by Theo Fleury and Kim Barthel. In Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock becomes suicidal after he’s raped by his best friend, but also realises that his rapist was probably abused by someone he trusted. In Conversations, Theo Fleury discusses some of the less-monstrous aspects of his rapist, Graham James, with therapist Kim Barthel. I explained to my therapist that understanding is as much or more important than forgiveness. To forgive someone, you have to stop seeing them as an abstract construct made up of bad memories and pain. To stop this, you have to see them as human. Understanding R., to me, means that I see him as a human being, and that I see his trauma, and I see his flaws, but that I also see the good in him.
That is so hard
Like Hiro, it’s easier to see R. as a man in a mask who does bad things because he’s an intrinsically bad person. It’s hard to see R. as a little boy who was emotionally abandoned by his mother and raised in a broken home, who never learned how to treat people the right way. This, in no way shape or form, negates what he has done to me and to many other girls. What he has done is still wrong and always will be. But it helps me understand that he’s not evil, and that he is human, just like me.
It’s easier to understand a flawed human being, and maybe, some day, it will be easy to forgive this broken, pathetic human
I am Christian, but I appreciate the Taoist view on good and evil. In Tao there is no good and evil: there is balance and imbalance. Imbalance is like dirt on a window and can easily be fixed so light can shine through. I believe that understanding R. is like wiping the dirt off of a window, but not for him. I believe that understanding R. will allow me to find balance and to cope with the darkness inside of me.