Big Hero 6 Movie: How to Overcome Loss and Grief?
Big Hero 6 Poster
I was so amazed at how the movie “Big Hero 6” portrayed the very existential issues of loss and grief. The timing was so spot-on when on August 11 of this year, the world grieved over the death of a great actor/comedian in the name of Robin Williams, who, due to depression, committed suicide. Also, early this month, another controversial figure, Brittany Maynard, put an end to her life justifying her right to die after suffering greatly from a form of brain cancer. These are two different personalities with varying circumstances, ways of coping that ended tragically. Could we abhor the choices they made as they don’t comply to both moral and Christian standards? Could we, at least, give them the benefit of the doubt as to how they responded to their own sense of loss and grief?
I do believe that people from all walks of life grieve over something or someone in their lifetime. It could run from a simple loss of things which one is attached to: ex. play card collections accidentally ruined by water or flood, a lost or stolen smart phone/Ipad, etc. Or, grieve over something or someone more serious like the loss of a loved one (home, community/parish members, family members, relatives, or even a pet dog/cat). People go through a certain process and stages dealing with such loss. The dynamics could vary too. Some may recover faster while others take months or even years of coping. Regardless, however, loss and grief are two interconnected poles that oftentimes pose a threat to healthy living.
And so, the question we have to ask is: “How do we overcome loss and grief?” I am not a psychologist by profession as to provide you with psychoanalysis, but let me highlight the ones explicitly portrayed by the movie. Allow me to do this by using Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 Stages of normal grief in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying:”
Hiro avoiding treatment
1. Denial and Isolation. If you look more closely at the movie, you will find a series of loss and grief intertwined among characters. There was Hiro (Ryan Potter, Supah Ninjas) and Tadashi Hamada (Daniel Henney, X-men Origins: Wolverine) who lost their parents when Hiro was 3 years old, and eventually lost his brother Tadashi due to a fire accident. Also, there was Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell, Star Trek: First Contact) who lost her daughter or, at least, thought that he did.
Hiro acted out his loss by exhausting his own genius joining every possible “bot-fights” he could muster around the area while his brother Tadashi worked his way as a college student taking robotics at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology (SFIT). The former reacted to loss in a rebellious and arrogant manner while the latter faced his reality in a more mature way. Upon the death of Tadashi, Hiro’s reaction to loss intensified losing another loved one. He initially denied it by shunning words like “he will always be in our hearts” and hiding the facts that was linked to his brother’s death. We also saw Hiro isolating himself from friends even from his own aunt and guardian, Aunt Cass (Maya Rodulf, Bridesmaids) and backing his way out of SFIT. As the movie progressed, we become aware that it was his temporary response to grief as he went through the first wave of pain. As to Professor Callaghan his isolation transformed him into a vengeful supervillain, Yokai.
The movie portrayed two different poles of reactions: first, through denial and isolation (Hiro and Professor Callaghan); and second, through a more positive attitude (Tadashi). As viewers seeing two different scenarios, we were also given two opposing choices … choices which could either make or break us.
Should one necessarily act out facing loss and grief?
2. Anger. Moving on, Hiro’s as well as Professor Callaghan’s intense emotion was redirected and expressed instead as anger. With the help of Baymax (Scott Adsit, 30 Rock), Hiro was able to unfold the cause of his brother’s demise. Sensing something suspicious about it, his grief was redirected towards an unknown villain he was determined to unmask. On the other hand, Professor Callaghan (as Yokai, the unknown villain) busied himself devising a plan to avenge the “death” of her daughter, Abigail (actress name unknown).
Like any of us, we come to a point of trying to get to the very root of the matter. Who was responsible for the loss of a loved one? How did it happen? Why did it happen? Our attitude towards these questions could make all the difference in the face of loss and grief.
3. Bargaining. The stage of a series of “If only’s” … “If only I’ve chosen a better doctor” … “If only I was there to save him/her,” etc. At first, Hiro was hesitant to let his brother enter the building fearing his possible death. But, very determined to save Professor Callaghan, his brother went anyway. You could feel Hiro's intense sense of blame when what he feared the most happened. You could imagine him saying, “If only I’ve tried harder to keep my brother from getting into that building…” As for Professor Callaghan, the deepest regret was his inability to help his daughter when rightly so, he has all the power, skills and genius to avoid the tragedy in the first place.
We could think of a lot of possibilities, but the fact remains, it/he or she was already lost. No matter how we rationalize the whole thing, we could not turn back time and remake a different scenario. Clouded by loss and grief, the griever is unable to take this lightly.
4. Depression. According to Kübler-Ross, there are two types of depression that could take place in this stage: 1. It is the reaction relating to practical implications of the loss (worrying about the cost of the burial and other practical matters); and, 2. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell, which could be subtle and, at times, private.
By observation, both characters’ depression fall under the second category. It took a great toll on both their ends to let go of a beloved.
A very moving scenario in the movie took place when Baymax out of pity for Hiro repeatedly gave him words of reassurances, “Tadashi is here” … “Tadashi is here.” Seeing his brother on the screen, doing every possible ways to make his invention work, gave Hiro some sort of peace. He was enlightened by a new sense of purpose from his brother. The movie did not give any clue whatsoever regarding Professor Callaghan, but it was clear that he lost his sense of purpose and was blinded all throughout by his strong urge to avenge the death of his daughter. In an unfortunate scene, you can see regret in his face upon seeing his daughter alive as she was being taken to the hospital. He, on the one hand, had to pay for his crime as he was taken to jail.
5. Acceptance. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. It does not necessarily mean that since we accept the loss, we forget and no longer feel the pain. The pain could still come back from time to time, but with acceptance, there is already a sense of withdrawal and certain calmness that’s felt by the griever.
As Hiro reached a certain level of acceptance, he confronted Professor Callaghan in their final battle reminding him of his own strength saying, “You can be way more than what Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk, A Knight’s Tale) can do!” and “Is this what Abigail would have wanted?” But despite those words, Professor Callaghan remained clouded with anger and revenge.
To Refresh Your Memory
Hero Accepted for SFIT
Overcoming Loss and Grief: A Conclusion
As conclusion, let me enumerate some significant points that the movie clearly posits as solution to personal loss and grief:
- Seek help from friends and loved ones. You may have lost a beloved, but don’t shun away friends and loved ones that you still have. You can either lose them in the process too or you can care for a shoulder to lean on. Hiro was lucky enough to have a brother, who cared so much for him. But he was even luckier to have a team, who understands him in so many levels.
- Like Tadashi, keep a “someone-has-to-help” spirit or a more positive attitude towards loss and grief or be like Honey Lemon (Génesis Rodríguez, Days of Our Lives) who has a “glass-is-half-full” kind of personality.
Baymax asking Hiro's level of pain
- Find yourself a “healthcare companion” like Baymax. Seek professional help through a counselor or subject oneself to a facility as you see fit or as prescribed by a professional. There are problems we can’t solve by ourselves as we are not adept to address them.
A Big Hug from the Resurrected Baymax
- Our ways of coping vary from one person to the other. Let us not discourage those suffering from loss and grief by imposing our own standards of coping. Resistance is not the solution. It will only prolong, if not worsen the process.
Finally, be a GOOD FRIEND to anyone especially to someone whom you reassuringly promised to be. I remember someone telling me at some point, “Don’t you worry, I have your back!” As it turned out, it was meant to be understood literally and not figuratively. When things turned gray and problematic, it was just my “back” that that "friend" had and not my entire suffering and distraught person. Let us not, therefore, be fair-weathered friends. It is just a matter of time when we will desperately be in need of that one true friend. Remember, a simple word of reassurance can make a difference to a seemingly hopeless situation.
"I have your back!"
So are you satisfied with your care? Well, as it turned out, Hiro was greatly satisfied with Baymax’s care. As for us, let us go out into the world and find our own Baymax in life.
Fist-bump … falalala!