Analysis of "Babe" film
This is an old paper that I enjoyed re-reading because it is about change. In this story, "Babe" the pig begins to act like a dog. Many lessons for children (and adults) can be learned through such stories. Think about what movies and stories your children are exposed to and the messages they send. Children are impressionable and learn from what's around them.
February 26, 1998
An Analysis of “Babe”
Babe was raised with the fairy tale that pigs, when adults, go to Pig Paradise. He grew up sheltered and innocent of the harshness of the real world. He was the “runt” of the family, so was presented as really weak and vulnerable. Ironically, he was chosen as the prize at the fair.
Surprisingly, this “runt” is able to speak up for himself to Fly, who says that pigs are stupid. Babe has accepted that he and all his siblings were called “pig”, representing no individual identity. He misses his mother, showing he has a heart and has feelings. This evokes sympathy for him. He is adopted and cared for by Fly, a different animal species than he is. This evokes warmth and attending to another’s needs. Babe finds a new family with Fly and her pups, and learns new ways and new perspectives on life.
Ferdinad, the duck, wants to be a rooster, and this is a message of the desire to be something other than one is, and to not be locked into a certain identity or role. He can be seen as a sibling figure, or at least a friend to Babe.
Rex, the father figure, believes that he must dominate and be aggressive and threatening to get other’s to do what he wants. He is a controller and full of anger at not being the champion at the sheep dog competition. He tried to force the sheep to higher ground, who did not obey him and drowned. It was a hard lesson that his threatening behavior did not work, because he almost lost his life and he lost his chance at the championship, and he also lost most of his hearing, which is very much an important sense to a dog.
Rex still continues to dominate his family and others, and didn’t seem to learn any new ways to deal with others after his experience, which was seen as a great failure to him.
Rex also is in charge of telling the other animals the rules. He does not understand or accept the duck’s desire to be a rooster, and he orders Babe to not speak to the duck. One message given, when a cleaver and meat hooks are shown, is that animals trying to be anything other than they are, are killed. Creativity, individuality, experimentation, or taking on new roles is to be quashed or killed. In rigid families, everyone has their role, which they are to remain in, and natural connections made between beings are controlled and forbidden. This keeps those in power on top, and everyone feeling “safe” in their assigned role. It is hard and scary to change, and people in families are often reluctant to change, and are threatened when anyone in the family changes because this forces each other family member to change.
Ma, the Eu, accepts Babe, and represents a cynical, grandmother figure who is set in her thinking and views on life and on her view of other kinds of animals. She thinks well of Babe, and Babe forms an attachment and respect to her.
The housecat is the spoiled, privileged animal who has to do nothing but egocentrically look “beautiful”. The cat gets to stay indoors, and there is a definite division between the cat and Babe, who is not allowed in the house. Babe tries to talk to the cat, who keeps rebuffing Babe, but Babe is so innocent and well-thinking of everyone, that Babe cannot see or understand the cat’s ways of putting Babe down. But Babe tries.
Fly is shown as the mother figure who is sad when her pups are taken, and the separation is a universal feeling among different animals, as when Babe missed his mother. Babe understands this feeling in Fly, and adopts her as his mother. This makes her happy and Babe fills a need and a void for her in a gentle and loving way. He risked and reached out to her and was rewarded by her love.
Sadness is again looked at when all the animals are sad that “Rossana” was eaten. This is during Christmas time which is a hard time because usually it’s a time for family gatherings where often family members are unhappy. Ferdinad the duck does not accept the idea that the animals must accept the way life is and that accepting the status quo is the way to live, and to be happy with that. Ferdinad leaves, breaking the rules of the farm and leaving his friend, Babe.
Babe feels fear because Ma is under threat. He knows things are wrong.
Babe has begun to take on the behaviors of his dog family. People laugh at Babe because he acts like a dog, something other than his identified role as a pig. He is changing the rules of behavior.
Arthur begins watching and wondering about Babe. He opens up to the idea of Babe behaving like a dog. He becomes aware that Babe has special abilities to communicate with different animals than just pigs. Arthur observes and learns, and, being the supreme ruler over the other animals, like a King figure, he tries to see how he can use Babe’s talents to his benefit. Arthur winds up respecting Babe, and esteeming him in the end of the story. Arthur treats Babe like he is a dog, and Arthur has allowed this transition in roles and identities. Babe is allowed by Arthur to learn new skills and ways of being.
When Babe tries to dominate the sheep and show them who’s boss, as instructed by Fly, Babe is laughed at. He doesn’t have the heart to be cold, aggressive and bend other’s to his will. He is told this truth by Ma, the grandmother figure. Babe doesn’t try to force the sheep to do what he wants. He finds that since he cared about the sheep and communicated with them as equals and with respect, they thought he had a heart of gold and they listened to him. They did not respect the viciousness of the dogs, and feared them.
Babe communicates this to Fly, that by treating the sheep nicely and with respect, they are responsive to him. Fly says she will be the one to approach Rex to explain this. She is the one who is closest to Rex. Her role is of Rex’s wife. But Rex violently attacks Fly who has challenged his authority. Rex doesn’t want equality. He wants to be top dog. He has his own idea of order and the way things should be. His violence gets him on a chain and muzzled.
Differences in viewpoints are apparent throughout the different animal groups which can be seen as different families. These differences cause misunderstandings and problems, because each family treats the other’s with
negativity, instead of respecting each other and learning about each families values and ways.
Arthur follows his nagging thoughts to change how he treats the sheep, trying to train them in his own way to do the obstacle course. He still does not communicate through his heart with them, but he tries to train them by walking them through the obstacle course, using behavioral type training. But the sheep do not seem to learn by being dragged around by him. But Arthur is trying something new and has changed his attitude about how to get what he wants done.
When Ma is attacked and mortally wounded, Babe is driven to rage, which he never experiences until a loved one is killed. He tried to comfort her before she died, being compassionate, loving and full of grief. He bays like a sheep “Maaa” using sheep language, taking on another characteristic of a different animal whom he loves. Babe is speaking the language of other animals, becoming like them. This is showing the universality of living animals who come from different families and who are different types of living beings. Different kinds of animals may look different on the outside but have the same feelings on the inside.
When Babe is accused of killing Ma, Fly, driven by her love for Babe, is driven to break down her barriers to the sheep and talk to them to try and help Babe. She’s already accepted Babe who she thought was stupid, so now she is able to again accept the sheep, who she stigmatized as also being stupid. But the love she feels helps her overcome this and reach out to the sheep.
Babe brings the different families together. Fly tried what she had learned from Babe, to ask the sheep for help in a respectful way instead of being condescending to them. The sheep respond by helping her.
Arthur was going to kill Babe without taking Babe’s past behavior into account. Arthur jumped to conclusions and assumptions on face value. Arthur realizes Babe didn’t attack Ma and is able to form a character composite for himself of what type of animal Babe really is.
Babe continues to put himself out to the other animals to become familiar with them and to learn about them.
All the animals witness the cat being thrown out into the rain, and Babe being allowed in the house. A change of rules. They witness that there are new rules and roles happening.
Babe loses his identity as a pig, and becomes something of value to others. He becomes known as “Babe”, a unique individual.
The cat lies to Babe in revenge, and is condescending to him. He hurts Babe. Babe has feelings and has depth, where the cat is superficial.
Babe learns that even Arthur the “boss” is not all good, because he eats animals. Babe realizes that Arthur is a potential threat to him. He becomes afraid and decides to break the rules and runs away. Rex finds him, out in the cold freezing. This possibly reflects the misery of going out on your own, instead of trying to change the system. Rex gets to be the champion because he finds Babe and served his master. Rex, maybe because he values Arthur who is the “boss” (and this kind of power structure is what Rex understands), instructs Babe to pull himself together, because “the boss needs you”.
Arthur dances energetically with the dream that he may win the competition with Babe, who has survived. Babe lifts Arthur’s spirits by being his hope.
Fly further tries to help Babe by appealing to Rex. Rex can live out his dream through Babe, if Babe wins the competition. Parents often try to live out their dreams through their children. Rex, the enemy of the sheep, appeals to the sheep to help Babe who is at the competition. The sheep negotiate with Rex and demand better treatment. Rex agrees to their terms. In return, the sheep give Rex the “password”, which is about being true to yourself and valuing yourself. Rex helps Babe and gives him the password.
Conventions are changed to allow a pit to compete in the traditional dog competition.
The audience laughs hysterically at Babe, an oddity, who acts like a dog. Babe has already been through this and now goes through the laughter again on a grander scale. But he is not deterred and goes ahead and competes anyway.
Babe again learns to speak the language of the sheep and wins their trust. Babe treats them kindly and asks them to walk through the course. The sheep do as he asks, and Babe wins the competition to the wild cheers of approval of the audience, who now see him as a champ, even though he’s a pig and not a dog. The audience’s perception has been changed because of the winning behavior displayed in Babe.
Arthur and Babe stand side by side, with Babe winning Arthur’s esteem. They both needed each other to win. Arthur then speaks kindheartedly to Babe.
There are many morals and lessons to this story. Some of them are:
Condescension toward other’s keeps them divided. Win cooperation through respect. Love, sorrow, sadness, fear are universal emotions. To risk is good. To reach out to other’s in a friendly way makes you friends. Winning is a group process, where win-win results happen instead of win-lose situations. You win others over when you come from the heart and communicate, instead of harshly threatening. Be true to yourself. You can be who you want to be. You can change yourself and thereby change your relationships with others. Others can change. You don’t have to follow rigid roles to be a winner. Learn the ways of others and what they value to speak their language and successfully communicate.