Posted by: thealienist | February 9, 2010

A Man’s View of Romance in the Movies: “UP”

One of the beautiful themes portrayed in Disney’s UP is the growth of romantic love through a lifetime.  The movie provides a “man’s-eye” view of girls and women and reveals the fears and joys of romance.

The early scenes of the movie feature Carl, a shy and awkward boy whose hero is Charles Muntz, an adventurer.  Carl dreams of exploring distant lands, but before he can even venture beyond his neighborhood, he is lured off course by a siren’s song.

While walking home from the movies, Carl hears a young voice calling from an abandoned house.  The voice is barking commands to unseen subordinates urging them on in their imagined travels and explorations.  Carl timidly enters the house to find out who this kindred soul is.  He finds a young person dressed (like himself) in an aviator cap and goggles and surrounded by cleverly arranged ropes and pulleys used to turn the weather vane and “steer” the house.  On the walls were clippings from Charles Muntz’s expeditions and hand drawn signs with Muntz’s trademark slogan, “Adventure is out there!”  Clearly, Carl has found his kindred soul in this young adventurer.  They complemented one another perfectly.  Where Carl was quiet, shy, and inwardly imaginative, the new kid was loud, assertive, and outwardly creative.  This promised to be the beginning of a perfect friendship.

The Boy First Views The Monster

Then the new kid removed the cap and goggles and revealed herself to be — a monster!  Her hair and eyes were wild.  Her teeth were large and menacing.  In his moment of shock and panic, she leads him to where his lost balloon has gone and impulsively thrusts him straight into danger.  In the fall that inevitably follows, Carl breaks his arm.  It was a small price to pay for his first encounter with this strange beast, whose name is Ellie.

Later in his bed, Carl sits alone with his cast resting on a pillow.  A balloon floats through his window followed by the wild-haired beast from earlier in the day.  Now practically defenseless, Carl is understandably frightened as she pounced on his bed.  She says that she is sorry for his injury (the beast has human emotions!) and that she is going to show him something that she has never shown anyone else.  Confused by the mixture of familiar and foreign, Carl braces for the shock.  What could it possibly be?  Could he handle it?  Already today a probable friend had been stolen from him in that horrific transformation from “adventure kid” to girl.

Ellie showed him her Adventure Book.  Once again, they were adventuring friends and fans of Charles Muntz.  Ellie then gives Carl a “medal” as membership in her club, which seems to consist of only Carl and Ellie.  She leaves by the window, noting “You don’t talk much…I like you.”  Carl is left alone but knowing that despite their differences, he had found a friend.

The Monster Becomes a Mate

The remainder of the movie’s introduction consists of brief scenes from Carl and Ellie’s life.  Eventually, Ellie grew into her teeth and hair, but she never grew out of her spontaneity.  The differences that Carl saw in Ellie, once considered alien and fearsome, now became sources of beauty and attraction.  They married.  Ellie continued to push Carl into activities with others.  Carl taught Ellie to appreciate calm times alone.  They dreamed together.  They cried together.  Grew old together.  Loved, laughed, worked, and played.  They had become so much a single being, that when Ellie died, part of Carl died.


In the beautiful and heart-wrenching story of Carl and Ellie, we see that the handsome prince does not go out to slay the dragon and rescue the beautiful princess — the dragon IS the princess.  The otherness of the female is first a source of anxiety and aversion.  Young boys of a certain age often reject girls and seek the company of other boys.  They tease girls and view girlish appearance, behavior, and sentiments with distain.  Mothers are spared this treatment since most boys of this age find it hard to believe that their mother was ever a girl.  For boys of this age, the girl is the dragon — the monster.

As the boy matures, however, the otherness of females becomes a source of fascination even as it grows as a source of anxiety.  The fact that the young man now desires what continues to be a source of anxiety and aversion causes an approach-avoidance conflict.  He feels drawn to the young woman, but the closer he gets to her, the more anxious he gets.  Avoiding her is no help, though.  Alone, or in the company of only young men, he feels more strongly drawn to her.  In this way, the young man vacillates between isolation or the company of young men and the presence of young women.  For young men of this age, the young woman is both the dragon and the princess.

In order to claim the princess, the man must overcome the dragon.  In doing this, he realizes that the otherness that once caused anxiety and aversion is a complementary otherness.  It has value and is to be prized.  It is not ignored for the sake of a relationship; it is found to be the basis and bedrock of the relationship.  The dragon is vanquished because it is found to be an illusion.  The princess is discovered to be more than what the young man assumed her to be.  She does not only match the prince in his attractiveness, she matches him in strength, wisdom, and valor.  They are not the same (nor would they want to be), but they are equal.

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