People who know me well know that the kid in me isn’t dead. The kid in me is alive and kicking, thank you very much. Which is why it does not come as a shock to most people (or maybe it does but I don’t care) when they find out that I (actually) enjoy animated movies. It’s a good thing I do otherwise I would have missed out on A Monster in Paris!
The “Monster” is a flea who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was buzzing around in a scientist’s botanical garden when the movie’s heroes Emile and Raoul set off a chemical reaction that causes it to blow up in size. It goes about doing the things it normally does as an insect but because of its monstrous appearance it scares the shit out of people who label it a monster. The flea though is a gentle creature who does nothing to hurt a soul and cannot understand why people are trying to kill it.
Flea-ing the situation
The movie touches on the irrational fear people display when it comes to the creepy crawlies. Notice the way people behave when they find a spider or cockroach? Even in their mini versions (thank god most of them are mini!) insects are considered to be monsters. You hear incidences where people develop phobias towards specific kinds of insects and it got me thinking why do we behave in this manner? Children and adults have chalk and cheese reactions when coming face to face with insects. My dad keeps telling me that when I was a baby, I would pick up cockroaches and play with them, let them run over my arms and feet and put them down again, all the while giggling and gurgling. So what changed? Adults are supposed to be braver than children aren’t they? While I don’t have a phobia towards any sort of insect why do I get creeped out by insects, as an adult? But the more puzzling question would be how are some of the people I know, NOT creeped out by them?
Putting that pest to rest?
Some of my friends have a strict no-no policy when it comes to harming any creature, insects included. While most of us become “swat” cats, hell bent on sending any insect that invades our space to its maker, nature lovers will gather these insects on paper or by hand and knock them out of the house. Without harming them. Our tendency to fear creepy crawlies is an evolutionary glitch. Our ancestors were plagued by insects and so are we. Don’t get me wrong when insects are poisonous or carriers of certain diseases, it is right to fear them and get rid of them. For the sake of survival. But what about the ones that don’t harm us at all? Most of us set to eradicate any creepy crawly because we are irked out by the way they look/ outward appearances. Take moths for e.g. Not harmful, but how many of us would rather have it out of the way just because it made the mistake of coming in our line of sight? Though we say we are not animalistic, we become as territorial as animals when we kill another creature for entering our “territory”. This proves that sometimes we are no better than animals.
The Butterfly effect
We are taught to fear these creatures by society very early on in age so that our reactions to them as adults are almost on an unconscious level. What society teaches each person leads to a butterfly or ripple effect. Step 1-Scream. Step 2-Get backup/ pest equipment. Step 3-Destroy. Our reactions are nothing more than a mindset- what you learn from your parents, friends, elders, books, movies etc. Media takes the fear of insects to new heights. The very recent movies I have watched (Godzilla 2014 and Maze Runner) have creatures in them (Muto & Grievers) resembling giant spiders. Most spiders (spiders are not really insects but regarded as insects so I’m using them to make a point), unless they are poisonous aren’t harmful. They are fuzzy, they scuttle at an eerie speed but they aren’t harmful. The Mummy gave us nightmares about scarab beetles for months, when in reality they are considered as symbols of good luck by Egyptians. Movies which have a haunted house bathroom scene will more or less involve black roaches coming out of the shower in swarms and giving the naked occupant a sense of something worse to come.
Don’t s-MOTH -er me!
The best way to eradicate your fear of something is to understand it. Same concept applies to insects. As human beings, we are taught to put labels on “creepy” and sadly insects come under them. These messages are propagated via A Monster in Paris
- People’s fear of most insects is irrational
It makes us view ourselves through the eyes of the flea Francœur and how ridiculous we behave when we see a creepy crawly. Although the reel-time flea Francœur is (way, way way) larger than a real-time flea, by using a life size version of an insect, the movie shows us we tend to blow small things out of proportion. Like our irrational fear of insects. Atleast the unharmful ones. It is perfectly natural to fear a poisonous insect.
- Not all creatures/ insects seek to harm
Okay fleas are considered generally more harmful to animals than human beings but what the movie tries to show you is that all insects should not be put under that category. That we shouldn’t be so quick to label every creepy crawly we see, a monster. You also get the feels for the insect Francœur when he belts out the soul stirring song “Monster in Paris”
- Fear of anything can be eradicated through understanding and love
The female protagonist Lucille is the first one who takes the time to understand Francœur and once she understands him she loses her fear of him and befriends him. Insect phobias can very much be conquered through our understanding of the insect we fear.
- Don’t judge by outward appearances
It is somehow part of our innate nature to label anyone/ anything we find scary/ ugly as a monster/ monstrous. Lucille overcomes her tendency to judge Francœur based on his appearance and starts appreciating him for his nature and for his talent- for who he is as a being not how he looks.
- Every insect/ creature has a voice
In an interesting turn of events, the flea Francœur is given a singing voice. Though he communicates mostly through insect sounds, his ability to speak in full sentences mostly takes place when he chooses to sing with Lucille, something he has a natural flair for. His musical tendencies seem to patronize the singing insects we know like cicadas, crickets, grasshoppers and locusts. His voice also harps on the fact that if the unharmful insects were given a voice to express themselves they would probably tell you that they mean you no harm and to live and let live. Also they are tired of being swatted like all the time!! A Monster in Paris draws parallels between insects and humans, one of them being-certain human beings and insects are musical by nature. It also portrays the humane side of creatures/insects and the monstrous side of humans.
- The roles we adopt are either killers or saviours
Lucille, Raoul, Emile and Maud (towards the end) attempt to save Francœur throughout the movie, while the evil police commissioner Victor Maynott first uses the flea monster to distract the public from his more evil schemes and later wants to kill the monster to show the public that he is doing something productive (which he isn’t). Lucille, Raoul, Emile & Maud represent animal lovers/ people with a gentler understanding of all living things, possessing more of a saviouristic attitude towards insects. Victor Maynott represents the common man/ us, who kill first and think later/ don’t think at all. While the movie theme covers insects, in a broader sense it could also extend to our behavioural tendencies towards all animals in general. The battle between animal lovers/ animal killers rages on to this day.
- Adoption of a more gentler do-not-kill attitude towards unharmful crawlies
Title says it all.
Let me be Franc(ouer)
A Monster in Paris has many references to The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux:
1. Francœur Vs. Erik (Phantom of the Opera)
Both films have “monsters” created by society, and have to bear the misfortune of their circumstances. The difference between the two of them is that Francœur retains his innocence and compassion, making other people who hunt him, the monster, while Erik becomes the monster people make him out to be. Also Francœur is a flea while Erik is human.
2. Location, Location, Location
Both stories are rooted in Paris and feature both “monsters” making an appearance (or performing) at a Parisian Opera.
3. Stage Attire & Masks
Francœur and Erik both don the typical attire befitting one used to performing on stage in front of a formal gathering. They also have masks to hide their monstrous appearances. The only difference between the two is the colour of their attire. While Francœur dons white, Erik always dons black, their attire is used as tools to reflect their benevolent and dark natures respectively.
4. Ear for music and voice to match it
Both Francœur and Erik are musically gifted and passionate about singing-a trait that attracts Lucille and Christine to them respectively. Their gift of song is one they share with the female protagonists. Francœur & Lucile and Erik & Christine are musical soulmates.
5. Character names
Raoul and Carlotta are two names of characters that have been used both in A Monster in Paris and the Phantom of the Opera. The character of Raoul as well as his role of the female protagonist’s love interest is portrayed in both A Monster in Paris and The Phantom of the Opera.
6. Childhood lovers
Raoul and Lucille are childhood friends and future fated lovers in A Monster in Paris while Raoul and Christine are childhood friends turned lovers in The Phantom of the Opera. The only differences are the positions the character Raoul holds in society in either. Raoul as a Viscount in Phantom, seems better off than Raoul who plays an inventor and delivery driver in A Monster in Paris. However both Raoul’s are equally content in their respective stations.
7. Angel of Music
The title “Angel of Music” is given to the Phantom by Christine when she hears Erik singing to her. In A Monster in Paris, Lucille wears a white costume with Angel Wings. She is a more physical indicator of an “Angel of Music”.
8. Attraction between the “monster” and female lead
Lucille is attracted to Francœur and Christine is attracted to Erik/ Phantom when they hear them singing for the first time. In both cases, the lead female protagonists are captivated by the talent of the “monsters”. Both the Phantom and Flea have atleast one scene where they belt out a duet with their female protagonists. The only difference is Francœur and Lucille share a platonic relationship, while Erik is infatuated with Christine and resorts to murderous deeds to gain her affections.
Movie clip 1
Movie clip 2
Francœur and cookies (http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2011/306/a/4/au_chocolat_chaud_by_shy_light-d4ewaxn.jpg)
Francœur with kittens (http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2011/319/d/0/francoeur_by_arandadill-d4g0v9r.jpg)
Lucille and Francœur in the dressing room (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-OCfOATNIq-A/T8xxm2coGvI/AAAAAAAAHo4/k04uGsEKapo/s1600/a-monster-in-paris.jpg)
Lucille and Francœur in the rain (http://images6.fanpop.com/image/photos/34200000/A-Monster-in-Paris-Color-Keys-a-monster-in-paris-34268066-1466-967.jpg)
Francœur singing La Seine with Lucille (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Un-monstre-a-Paris-la-Seine-384686062)
Monster in Paris hot air balloon(http://thespoondraw.blogspot.com/2013/11/hot-air-balloon-rides-in-movies.html)
Monster in Paris Gang (http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2013/208/0/5/private_flea_party_by_swashbookler-d6ekhwb.jpg)
Phantom of the Opera (http://i1.bebo.com/044/14/large/2008/09/19/21/1078116422a8926962819l.jpg)
Monster in Paris Opera House (https://bittenbythefantasybug.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/30e77-monster-in-paris-concept-art-5b.jpg)
Phantom Opera House (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Why-So-Silent-108750594)
Erik Costume (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Phantom-of-the-Opera-131134290)
Lucille and Francœur singing (http://images6.fanpop.com/image/photos/34200000/Francoeur-and-Lucille-a-monster-in-paris-34246871-1000-563.jpg)
Erik & Christine singing (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Phantom-Of-The-Opera-48620175)
Raoul- Monster in Paris (http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131025221543/amonsterinparis/images/3/36/Raoul.jpg)
Raoul-Phantom of the Opera(http://www.deviantart.com/art/The-Viscount-454003083)
Carlotta –Monster in Paris (https://bittenbythefantasybug.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/0b7d7-carlotta.jpg)
Carlotta- Phantom of the Opera (http://www.deviantart.com/art/My-diva-commands-295640604)
Raoul & Lucille (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Raoul-s-Hammock-271265666)
Raoul & Christine (http://www.deviantart.com/art/8-Innocence-PotO-281393636)
Angel of Music Lucille (http://images6.fanpop.com/image/photos/34300000/Lucille-a-monster-in-paris-34360853-629-780.jpg)
Angel of Music Phantom (http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/236x/ba/6d/af/ba6dafbabf8ea5a214c0ac98904e119f.jpg)