Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cult Mentality and the Care Bears


Belle has recently discovered The Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation. Since I loved this movie when it first came out in 1986 (I babysat a lot ... yeah, that's my excuse ;)), I was pretty excited. However, I made a rather disturbing discovery while watching the film with Belle--there is a serious cult reference that really kind of bugs me.

Okay, I suppose a brief overview of the plotline (hey, it's got a plotline :)) is in order here. And I promise, there is a point to this post.

Basically, these two Adam and Eve-esque creatures, True Heart Bear and Noble Heart Horse, are given charge of the newborn Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins (a varied collection of animals). They float on an ark--ahem, a boat--into the clouds, where they raise the babies. Eventually, they break into two groups (for reasons I'm not exactly sure of)--the Care Bears live with True Heart in the cloud kingdom of Care-A-Lot while the Care Bear Cousins along with Noble Heart inhabit the Forest of Feelings.

Their nemesis is the wicked Dark Heart who exists as either a dark tornado shape with red eyes or a red-haired boy (and he is able to change into any animal he wants--as long as it's red).

Dark Heart for some reason lays siege on a summer camp, where several of the kids are suffering some bullying for always losing at camp activities. Two of the kids--blonde twins John and Dawn--are whisked off to the home of the Care Bears where they help take care of the baby cubs and gain a sense of responsibility, pride, and the realization that everyone is good at something.

Their friend Christy, however, is not so lucky. She encounters Dark Heart in the forest and strikes a dangerous deal with him, agreeing to do a favor for him if he gives her the magic power to be "Camp Champ". Anyway, Christy ends up helping Dark Heart trap the Care Bears while True Heart and Noble Heart are off on a wild goose chase for Dark Heart's shadow (it sounds weird, I know, but it makes sense if you see it). Christy becomes tormented by what she's done, but she is never really evil; she shows her true goodness by diving into the water to save Dark Heart after he falls out of a canoe they're in, hits his head, and nearly drowns. However, she is unwilling to give up the new status given her through Dark Heart's evil magic.

Before long, there are only a few Care Bears and Cousins left. They conspire with Dawn and John to get caught intentionally because they know that their magic is strongest when they're with the other Care Bears; the twins, meanwhile, are left to bring Christy to her senses.

Before the children can reach Dark Heart's lair, though, the evil whatever-he-is transforms each member of the Care Bear family into a piece of glass in a crystal chandalier. The kids argue with Dark Heart, and things come to a climax when Noble Heart and True Heart show up. Christy stands in front of the little furry guys, protecting them from Dark Heart's magic attack. Even when Dark Heart takes away the strength and skill he had given her, she holds firm. She is injured in the process but manages to free the others through shooting a marble (the one skill she'd always possessed on her own) at the chandalier, sending it crashing down and breaking the spell. Dark Heart goes nuts and sends magic bolts everywhere, and Christy is critically injured, much to the distress of everyone ... including Dark Heart.

And this is where the cult mentality comes in. As Dark Heart cradles Christy in his arms, True Heart instructs the others to get into a circle and focus on how much they care. They oblige, chanting, "We care! We care! We care!" in a frightening unison as True Heart struts around like a televangelist spouting off, "Say it! Shout it! We care!" I mean, I was half expecting her to shout, "Can I get an hallelujah? Could you give me an amen?" It was really horribly creepy, and it got me thinking about the religious undertones (and there are many) in this movie. Here's a YouTube clip of this ... what do you think?

Chanting animals in a circle, moving simultaneously with joined hands as a "leader" raises them to higher glory ... is it just me, or is that a little weird? Am I putting too much thought into a movie made for children? Or, perhaps most importantly, is it really a movie made for children?