Fear Is Good, Unless It’s Bad: Life Lessons from The Croods
It seems like you can’t watch an animated feature-length film these days without having an overly didactic moral shoved down your throat. Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney–they all seem to be hell bent on fixing the world’s evils and making you hate yourself for being part of the problem instead of the solution (thank you, Wall-E).
Well, finally, an animated movie has emerged from the moralistic morass that not only made me laugh out loud but made me think–I mean really think–about my life. Gaining a life lesson from a cartoon is particularly impressive considering the character of the caveman father is voiced by Nicolas Cage, the King of Terribly Tacky Movies. You may have guessed by now that I’m talking about The Croods; it was released in 2013 , but I just recently watched it on Netflix.
Besides the prat falls, evolution jokes and, yes, even poignant moments, the overriding message of the movie is to not let fear keep you from living your life. And so I found myself quietly pondering my life as the closing credits scrolled up my TV.
Fear, as Nicolas Cage’s character, Grug, repeatedly tells us, is good. It keeps us alive. Fight or flight, right? But when was the last time you were chased down by a saber-toothed tiger? But there are modern dangers, you say: Muggers, drunk drivers, rapists and Jehovah’s Witnesses–maybe even all of these things wrapped up into one anti-Christlike figure. But these modern dangers aren’t as immediate as the ever-present ones depicted in The Croods.
So is fear useful anymore? Yes, if you live in Oakland, California. Don’t get me wrong, I have much love for Oak-Town: I used to live there. But its crime rate is nuts, and your safety depends in large part on your awareness of what’s happening around you. Getting in and out of your car, walking down the street, riding public transportation–fear keeps your spidey senses tingling and can mean the difference between arriving safely at your destination and becoming a crime victim.
But what does this all have to do with me and my revelation? Well, I live my life dictated by fear. It has limited where I’ve gone to college, what I’ve gotten my degree in, my career choices; it keeps me up at night playing out irrational death scenes and has reminded me of the very real importance of having a will created so that my son is taken care of in case he becomes orphaned when his parents take a tram thousands of feet up to the top of a mountain (yep, that’s happening next week).
While fear has kept me alive in some instances, it has also taken out the living part of “life,” and I don’t want to live that way anymore. Of course, I’m still an obsessive planner, and I certainly haven’t decided to forego common sense for a more adventurous life (see: Into the Wild). But I don’t want to be Grug. I want to be fearless Eep, voiced by the hilarious Emma Stone.
When I die (possibly on a free-falling tram next week), I don’t want to regret all of the things I didn’t do as I tumble down, down, down… I want my life flashbacks to be awesome! I want to have a sense of contentment and satisfaction that I never said no to an opportunity and always said yes to new things. And more importantly, I want to instill in my son a joie de vivre that he’ll take with him until he’s an old man.
So thanks to The Croods, I’ve learned that fear is good, unless it’s bad. Time to live.
Photo credit: Empire Online