A reflection on Monsters Inc.


Most of you, most of the world has watched Monsters Inc. That movie came out in 2001. I believe I was 9 years old then. I was afraid of the dark, I had a hard time sleeping in a room alone, I sometimes left the light on. In some ways, that movie helped calm the fear of ‘creatures of the night’. It helped me deal with intangible things that frightened me.

Last year, Monsters University came out. It was set at the time when Sully and Mike went to university, didn’t get along, went for the same course, fought, became friends, and got kicked out. But at the same time, this movie helped me deal with another intangible fear.

That’s what I love about Pixar: they’re able to maintain their original audience.Take Toy Story for example; when the first movie came out, I was a kid. I played with toys, I talked to my toys, I dressed them up, I dressed them down. I was Andy. When Toy Story 3 came out, I was taking my A-levels, technically going to college, just like Andy. Like him, I set my toys aside a long time ago, I left parts of my childhood behind. I had to grow up. There is a reason a bunch of 20-something-year-olds were crying harder than any of the kids in the cinema during that movie.

With Monsters University, Pixar tackled the main fear my generation had (and are still having) at that point in our lives: the fear of failure. Like Sully and Mike, we are in university, we are in college. We are pursuing the education that will help us enter the career paths we’ve chosen.

James P. Sullivan represented those of us who had ‘a legacy’ to uphold, who had the talents but lacked the drive, or were crushed by external expectations. Mike Wazowski represented those of us who were dreamers, who had idealistic expectations of ourselves.

Both of them tried. Both of them worked. Both of them were expelled.

But that wasn’t the end of the movie, was it? We were shown how Sully and Mike worked their way to the top. It was an unconventional route of sorts, but they started in the mail room and ended up on the scare floor. And we all know what happens after that.

I really like the ending to Monsters University. I like that they didn’t succeed in school. I like that they had to make their own way.

Life isn’t always so clear cut. Sometimes, we face terrible challenges, we face obstacles we don’t think we can get through. Life is not a straight path. We go through muddy fields, go spelunking though we’re terrified of darkness, we have to brace ourselves for the harsh weather. Sometimes, the paths we take are the ones we least expect. Sometimes, we realise the map we’ve been given doesn’t lead to where we truly want to go. Sometimes, taking a pit stop, clearing our minds.. that’s what helps us recalibrate ourselves.

I think I’ve mentioned a friend of mine before, the friend who left school, who went through a lot of personal struggles with self confidence, with the pressure her family was putting on her and ended up taking a few months off. It wasn’t easy for her, in fact, it was hell.

But she made it out of that miserable situation. She found her ‘unconventional path’, she is pursuing what she wants while finding a way to please her family. If you asked me ten years ago if she’d be where she is right now, I’d have been really, really, really shocked. Now, I’m so proud of my best friend, because she found a way. And she’s working at it, harder than I have ever since her work before.

The dates for my final exams were released a day ago, probably the impetus for this long post. I think we all need reminding that failure isn’t final.We need to remember that there is always something to learn from the mistakes we make.

And most of all, we need to remember to never give up. Sometimes, the monsters aren’t so bad.


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