Friday, October 22, 2010
The Lies and No’s of "Pinocchio"
Another disturbing factor in The Adventures of Pinocchio is that Bart had pretty much been correct. You may think Peter Pan is a horrid boy but at least he’s not throwing a hammer (and thus killing) an innocent talking cricket at his first encounter with one. Yes, he kills the (unnamed) cricket... sort of... the cricket comes back as a ghost and then at the end it appears as if (rather confusingly and ambiguously) that the cricket had only been pretending to be dead. But still, who would have thought that Pinocchio throws at hammer at the ‘beloved’ insect character because he doesn’t like that he’s told he’s a bad boy?
Pinocchio is bad from the start. As Geppetto is making him he kicks the old man. Oh... the blue fairy that comes to bring him to life? Forget about her for now. She doesn’t show up until halfway through the book, so no, she’s not the one who bestows life on him at Geppetto’s wish. (Geppetto never makes any such wish, actually - he creates him to make money performing with him. And furthermore, Pinocchio doesn't seem to care about being a real boy until three-quarters of the way through the story either.) When he makes the mouth, Pinocchio instantly laughs at and insults him...when told to stop, he pokes out his tongue. Perhaps you’re wondering Geppetto’s reaction to his creation being alive as he makes it? So am I. There really isn’t one except for him thinking he deserves it...but otherwise, inexplicably, he just accepts it as it happens. In fact, NO ONE in the story is wide-eyed at a living marionette. Not the townspeople, the police, nor the Fox and Cat, the (alleged) evil puppeteer, the kids at school nor the teacher, Lamp-Wick, the fisherman... no one. Furthermore, it just seems to be a fact of the story that marionettes are alive. Indeed, the other puppets in Fire Eater’s (yes, that’s his name) theatre are alive. With no strings. Folks, Disney added that concept! In another example of the horrific nature of the story, Fire Eater wants to cook his dinner so he’s about to throw Pinocchio on the flames. Our dubious hero’s ramblings about his poor old father that he wronged who will be left all alone (which seems to be not so much actual concern as clever manipulation since he otherwise appears to hate Geppetto) and whatnot cause Fire Eater to spare him, so Fire Eater decides to use the Harlequin marionette (as throwing living puppets on the fire is a routine occurrence with his troupe) but then in another example of out-of-the-blue absurdity Pinocchio protests that he should be used in place of his best friend. Best friend? He met the other puppet naught but a scene ago! What’s more, the other marionettes recognized Pinocchio by name without ever having encountered or hearing of him before.
Other notable “whoa” moments: Pinocchio’s feet are burned off. He is hanged. He’s jailed (for being a victim of robbery and released four months later for admitting he’s also a thief.) Laughing at Pinocchio tripping, a serpent bursts an artery and dies. Pinocchio is forced to be a watchdog, complete with a collar/leash and little doghouse. Unlike Disney portrays, Pinocchio fully becomes a donkey at the place of pleasure [translated here as the Land of Toys], is sold and made to perform in a circus - only to be become lame and thus re-sold, then drowned for the purpose of taking his skin to make a drum but the fishes eat off his donkey flesh and he’s a puppet boy again.
So there you have it, the story is filled with an unforgiving strangeness, all wrapped up in an overly heavy handed moral. It’s fine to have morals and lessons in a story but these are all too directly stated. And relentless. (As in every other chapter.)