Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Babe (1995)

     If I ever saw “Babe” when I was a kid, I have no memory of it. But the other day, at age nineteen, I got a chance to see it all the way through, and I will admit, it’s probably one of the best “family films” ever. Aside from the special effects that make the animals talk (which I guess must have been groundbreaking in 1995), the story has a great balance of light-hearted and darker elements to it, and I honestly think it’s a pretty daring movie, considering it’s aimed at kids or young families. And, of course, I found something in “Babe” that I wanted to share with you today.

     “Babe” starts out in… well, I’m not even really sure what time period, or where exactly, but somewhere in Britain (I guess), and we see a litter of pigs in a slaughterhouse as their mother is taken away. One pig in particular (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) is saddened by this, but one day a couple men come and take him away to be put in a contest at a local fair. He is eventually won by a farmer named Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell), who takes him to be on his farm with his other animals, ranging from dogs and a cat to horses, cows, and ducks. Two of those dogs are parents to a litter of puppies, the male being named Rex (Hugo Weaving) and the female being Fly (Miriam Margoyles), and Fly eventually befriends the pig and finds out he (and all his brothers) were named Babe.

     Farmer Hoggett, however, can’t talk to animals and figure this out for himself, so he names the pig… well, “Pig”. And for some time after Babe joins the Hoggett farm, he and the other animals get into all sorts of mischief. He tries to help a duck on the farm, Ferdinand (Danny Mann), get into the house one day and consequently makes a mess in the Hoggetts’ bedroom. Later, at Christmastime, Babe, who has befriended one of the older sheep named Maa (Miriam Flynn), sees some of Hoggett’s sheep being rustled and alerts him before too many are stolen. And then, one day, Hoggett notices something strange in the backyard: Babe has organized his hens according to what color they are.

     So Hoggett decides to try something new: he lets Babe herd his sheep instead of Rex, who is getting older and cannot hear as well anymore. But nevertheless, Rex gets jealous, and he eventually attacks Fly and Hoggett because of it. He is chained up for a time while Babe becomes the new sheepherder—but one day, some angry dogs start attacking the flock, and Maa is eventually killed. Babe drives them away, but Hoggett comes in to assume that Babe is responsible for Maa’s death. Fly eventually finds out the truth from the other sheep, and she runs to Hoggett just in time before Hoggett can shoot Babe. (By the way: this movie was rated G?! It’s so dark! But whatever.)

     Long story short, Hoggett eventually signs Babe up for the local sheepdog trials, whose rules do not say a pig cannot be entered. However, even though Babe is getting more and more privileges as he grows closer to Hoggett, the house cat named Duchess (Russi Taylor) talks to Babe about his real purpose on the Hoggetts’ farm.

DUCHESS: You know, I probably shouldn't say this, but I'm not sure if you realize how much the other animals are laughing at you for this sheep dog business.

BABE: Why would they do that?

DUCHESS: Well, they say that you've forgotten that you're a pig. Isn't that silly?

BABE: What do you mean?

DUCHESS: You know, why pigs are here. The fact is that pigs don't have a purpose, just like ducks don't have a purpose. …Why do the Bosses keep ducks? To eat them. So why do the Bosses keep a pig? The fact is that animals don't seem to have a purpose really do have a purpose. The Bosses have to eat. It's probably the most noble purpose of all, when you come to think about it.

     And Babe, distraught by this harsh truth, decides to leave the farm. He is found eventually, and Hoggett not only brings him back to health, but he is also able to make Babe trust him once again. And with all the animals cheering him on (including Rex), Babe is able to go into the sheepdog trials, despite everyone laughing at him and Hoggett, and win no problem.

    I guess this is now a children’s-movie cliché, for the main character (even the common talking animal) to start somewhere low and go against all odds to do something really unique. But whatever, I will accept that cliché for this movie. And whatever the movie I see it in, I can definitely identify with the character that struggles to find his purpose in life. For Babe, he thinks that either he will be a sheepdog, or he will be Christmas dinner. (…Probably both.) But either one is hard to determine, because there’s no such thing as a sheep-pig, and he doesn’t think Hoggett would really slaughter him.

     Nevertheless, he searches for purpose. And don’t we all? What is our purpose in life? As a Christian, all I need to know when you come right down to it is that my purpose should be to serve God in whatever He has enabled me to do. For me, that could be filmmaking, music, ministry, writing, whatever. For you, it could be anything from sports to business to teaching to government. Ephesians 2:10, a verse I think of often and probably have used on this site before, reads that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

     That work “handiwork” has been translated into different words in different Bible translations, from “workmanship” to “craftsmanship” to even “masterpiece”. In Christ, we are a masterpiece! Isn’t that awesome? It encourages me to know that I can find my purpose when I serve the Lord, and I pray that as you go about the rest of your week, you would discover ways that God can use you for His purposes.

1 comment:

  1. I think there are some astounding Christian Themes in "Babe" that the makers didn't even intend. God's truth manages to get through in all sorts of unlikely places.
    When farmer Hoggett goes to such extraordinary lengths to revive the sick pig (you remember the indignity of Hoggett's dancing and stamping and singing in front of the sick pig?) the farmer is being a kind of Jesus. The little pig of course is everyman in this metaphor. The farmer will do ANYTHING to save the little fellow.... even become a fool in front of all the other animals.

    This is of course what God did for us. The creator of galaxies and time and our whole world took upon himself the indignity of mere human flesh and walked among us, taught us, and ultimately allowed us to murder him. But this was not the end... Jesus actually transcended and destroyed the power of death and provided for us a way home to Him. A ridiculously lavish and generous gift to us. Little fragments of broken life like us are raised up to the level of brother with Jesus.

    Well!... in Babe we see the same thing. The sheep dogs are in a privileged relationship with Hoggett. They are co workers and they even share his lunch at one stage. When the pig is sick and dying the farmer dances and sings for him and his final straining leap into the air is like Jesus on the cross. He will do anything to save that pig.... and after he has saved him, he offers to him the awesome and undeserved privilege of working with him like a sheep dog.... like the kind of little brother that the sheep dogs are to the farmer. Not only does he save the pig, but he elevates the pig to a position beside him.... now Babe is a friend and co worker with Hoggett and not just an animal on the farm.

    We' re allowed to become friends and co workers with our God too....
    The indignity Hoggett suffered when he danced and sang before the animals is a metaphor for the indignity Jesus suffered for us.

    He would do ANYTHING to save us too...