I've been so excited to see this movie and finally got a chance to squeeze in a date night at the cinema. But within the first few minutes of the movie, I became very uncomfortable. Now, before I get into the reason why I feel there is one very big issue with this movie, I will say that I loved the animation and outside of this very big issue, I quite enjoyed the movie. It's nostalgic, funny, and sweet. So what's the problem with this movie?
(Note: spoiler alert ahead)
I realize some people reading this will think I'm being too "sensitive" or overreacting, but I feel very strongly about the messages we send through storytelling, especially to children. And my big problem with this movie is Bowser's storyline.
In this movie, Bowser is obsessed with Princess Peach and wants to marry her. But if she refuses to marry him, then he will destroy the world. This way of thinking is textbook abusive and toxic. In fact, it reminds me of a lot of the way many (if not most) mass shooters think.
I guess it's good that Bowser is the "bad guy" but I don't know if that is enough to let children watching this know that this kind of behavior, entitlement, and thinking is absolutely not okay.
The movie even ends with Bowser singing his creepily obsessive song about Princess Peach in what I assume is meant to be a comical ending. But it's as funny as a rape joke. Toxic abusive behaviors are not funny.
After watching the movie, I went home and googled the original story behind Super Mario, because I realized while I played the games a lot when I was a kid, I never really understood or realized the story behind the adventures...if there even was a real story beyond Mario rescuing Peach from Bowser.
It doesn't seem like there was more to the story. So, on the one hand, one positive aspect of the movie is Princess Peach is a badass and doesn't need to be "rescued." In fact, in the movie, Mario's mission is to rescue his brother Luigi and seeks Princess Peach's help, ultimately teaming up with her.
So, maybe the writer needed to give Bowser a reason to conquer Mushroom Kingdom and Princess Peach. Still, if this was the best storyline, I wish they would've made it clearer that Bowser's behavior is not okay.
I worry that kids watching this movie are subtly being fed the narrative that some people may obsess over another person and if they don't get the object of their desire, then the solution is destruction. And this is not okay to teach kids. Even if it is not the intended message, it is a message being communicated to them.
Again, I realize some people may say I'm overreacting and this is "just" a movie. And it's "just" a kid's movie. But that's the problem. This is ultimately a kid's movie and everything we say matters. Every story we tell is an opportunity to shape culture and perspectives. This is the reason I am a writer.
What do you think? Have you watched the movie?