I watched the film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, over the weekend. I’ve always been a fan of Wes Anderson (the director). He’s had a penchant for quirky characters without feeling contrived and his stories are as hilarious as they are human. His most recent foray into stop motion animation is no exception. There are many themes that come up, but a few are still playing in my head.
In this film there is a striking celebration of humanity. Much like WALL-E or District 9, The Fantastic Mr. Fox uses some very non-human characters (foxes, badgers, rabbits, etc.) to teach us what humanity ought to be. More than a few times the characters tell themselves, and each other, that they are “wild animals.”
One of the conflicts in the film concerns Mr. Fox himself. He left the “wild animal life” and has become a writer, but still yearns to be undomesticated—stealing ducks, turkeys and apple cider. Mr. Fox puts himself and his family in danger because of this rekindled animal nature. The conflict heads to a point and leads to a confrontational conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Fox. He tells his wife he is a wild animal and can’t help what he does. She responds with, “But you’re also a husband and a father.”
You see, we are all wild animals. When we use our wildness for our own selfish individual gain, we get into problems like our Mr. Fox. Even if we are successful in our particular area of wildness, there’s still something not quite right, something is missing or lost. But the answer to this dilemma is not to dismiss or repress our wild natures (which is a big temptation), but to properly apply them: to be a wild animal and a husband and a father.
Eventually, Mr. Fox embraces this wildness, not for individualistic ends, but for his family and his community. When he uses this desire for others as well as himself, things start changing around. This becomes most clear when Fox encounters the wolf towards the end of the film. The wolf is a symbol of true wildness, of its essence. This meeting conveys that Fox has finally become the truly wild animal he thought he always was. He’s no longer afraid of the wolf, but is in a state of awe and wonder.
Similarly, God has called us to be wild animals. Not individualistic, but communal wild animals.
Our wildness, properly applied, is a powerful thing. The film teaches us that this desire brings together families, overcomes obstacles and when a community of wild animals come together, they can save the day.
Sadly, probably a majority of Christians don’t even know what their wild animal might look like. We are mundane people with mundane lives and mundane dreams. The Fantastic Mr. Fox tells us to not be OK with that.
In many ways, we have forgotten how to dream. We’ve forgotten the thrill of the hunt. Maybe we’ve tried to recreate the thrill on our own selfish terms, or maybe don’t think it could be a part of our present lives, or maybe we’ve never experienced it in the first place. Part of the reason we need people and stories and art in our lives is to stir up those long-lost memories inside of us. This is what it means to be truly human. God has created humanity to be a grand, beautiful thing: to know Him and be a part of His plan of redemption. We don’t often think we are part of this plot and effectively write ourselves out of the story, settling for something less than human. The Fantastic Mr. Fox tells us to not be OK with that.