Monsters Inc. vs Satire

Monsters Inc. is a buddy comedy about two monster friends, James P. “Sulley” Sullivan  and Mike Wazowski who work as partners scaring human children to gain electricity for their world.  In this world, electricity is gathered through the screams of young human children.  Monsters like Sulley travel through closet doors and scare the kids.  Mike then collects the screams and they are turned into electricity.  However, it is not only the humans that are afraid of monsters, the monsters are afraid of the humans.  Mike and Sulley discover a closet door that has been left out on the scare floor after hours, thus leading to a young human girl escaping into the monster world.   The two become responsible for the girl (Sulley names her Boo) and attempt to hide her from the authorities and a greedy monster Randall (who is trying a new way of gathering electricity from humans).  Eventually, Sulley and Mike learn that Boo’s laughter creates more electricity than screaming and they save the humans from the scream machine.

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Monsters Inc. is a film dripping in satire.  Satire is a “Literary/Mediated work that diminishes or derogates a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking toward it attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn, or indignation.  Usually witty, and often very funny, the purpose of satire is to criticize in order to shame someone or something into reform.” (Steele, 2016).  There are four satire techniques:

  • Exaggeration: To enlarge, increase, or represent something beyond normal bounds so that it becomes ridiculous and its faults can be seen
  • Incongruity:  To resent things that are out of place or are absurd in relation to their surroundings
  • Reversal: To present the opposite of the normal order (e.g., the order of events hierarchical order)
  • Parody: To imitate the techniques and / or style of some person, place or thing

In the film, we see many examples of reversal.  The monsters believe that humans will hurt them if they are touched by humans or human belongings.  In the film one of the monsters gets a sock stuck on his back.  The CDA (Child Detection Agency) strips him of his fur and blows up the offending sock.

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Parady is also a common technique used throughout the film.   We could consider screaming to gather energy a parody of using fossil fuels.  They both have negative side effects to the world.  However, Sulley and Mike discover that laughter provides more energy than screaming ever could.  The laughter could be seen as clean energy, which is better for the environment and the world as a whole.

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Monsters, Inc. By Peter. Docter and David Silverman. 2001.

Steele, C. K., Dr. “Satire, Journalism and Political Correctness.” CSU, Fort Collins, CO. 5  April. 2016. Lecture.

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