I recently watched The Fantastic Mr. Fox with the kids and was impressed with a theme running through the movie of being a wild animal. Since I'm currently reading Wild at Heart, the point of the movie suddenly jumped out at me.
Mr. Fox was a happy Bachelor stealing chickens for a living. But upon being trapped with a wife and child (literally) he promises to give up his wild profession to become a newspaper man.
12 fox years later (2 human years) he is having a mid-life crisis and recklessly moves into a tree near some of the most dangerous farms in the valley. He forges a master 3-phase plan to reclaim his masculinity or wild side without his wife and child knowing. All goes well until the farmers track him down, shoot off his tail and force his family underground. At this point his wife asks him why he broke his promise to never steal chickens again (or be a real man) and he can only respond with, "because I'm a wild animal." She then points out you are also a husband and a father, and he has no further answer only to accept his actions will ultimately kill the family.
Up to this point, it would appear Mr. Fox's masculinity or wild nature have doomed him to failure. It doesn't seem right or fair since that is what nature designed him for. However, thus far he has only used his wild nature for selfish purposes.
Just as Mr. Fox is about to accept defeat and be killed by the farmers for the good of the other animals (a truly selfless act), he hears his son being attacked by Rat and uses his wild instincts for a good cause fighting to save his son. He then realizes its time for all the animals to shed their civilized nature (English names) and embrace their wild nature (Latin names and abilities) to beat the farmers. Mr. Fox co. then go onto rescue cousin Kristofferson, defeat the farmers and escape what seemed to be a hopeless situation.
Several times during the film, Kylie (the Opossum) mentions Wolves and Mr. Fox always stops in a dead panic saying he has a phobia of wolves. After their ultimate escape they encounter a wild wolf on the way back home. Mr. Fox tries to communicate with the wolf in English, Latin and French to no avail. All the wolf seems to understand is Mr. Fox raising his fist in a "fight the power" salute which he returns. Mr. Fox remarks with a tear in his eye, "what a beautiful creature" and they drive away. Here is the scene:
The wolf represents the wild side of Mr. Fox, out in the mountains that he was always afraid of because he never knew how to control it... until then. He realized using his wild instincts to fight for his family, rescue the captive, and liberate his people was good. The wolf does not speak any language because it represents pure instincts that need no language to function. Mr. Fox's encounter with the wolf affirms that down at his core, his wild heart is good and nothing to be ashamed of when used in the service of others.
Interestingly enough, cousin Kristofferson is an example in the film of a boy/man who has mastered his wild instincts and uses them for good or happy expression like jumping off the tree and making a perfect dive into the small pool.
All this stuff is great, but will young men pick up on it when watching the film? Obviously not on an analytic level, but their wild hearts will see a father who did wild things the wrong way and then embraced his wild side to help others. It models rejecting an incorrect use of masculine instincts and embracing them when called for. Great lessons for a young man to learn and a great excuse to re-watch this movie with your kids. Here is a good montage of being different which is another good lesson kids can get out of this movie.
Of course, I'll put down some thoughts on Wild at Heart when I'm done with the book.